Recently I tweeted something about the Tour de France, having just finished watching highlights of the day’s stage and a friend responded, with “Still with the #TourdeFrance. Requesting the original thread about how you fell in love with it.”
In my early days on Twitter, I did a series of tweets – before threads were threads – on why I watch the Tour de France every year. It is the only cycling race I follow religiously. When I was writing my book Listen To Your Footsteps, I wrote a short essay on the same topic, but it didn’t make the final edit; it didn’t feel like it fit. But, in response to the tweet, I thought I would share it here:
After my leg operation and finishing June exams in my third year of university, I went home for a month-long holiday. I was still on crutches with a partially healed 30 centimetre cut in my leg. For the first three weeks of my holiday, I was homebound, stuck in the house while everyone else in the family went about their business. I would wake up to see everyone off, have a bath and plonk myself on the couch in front of the television.
In those days, television was limited, especially daytime viewing. First runs of soapie episodes has never been my thing so, despite my love for TV, I just couldn’t do reruns. The only thing that was on, that was different, was the Tour de France.
I grow up on my bicycle – a BMX – but road cycling had never appealed to me, but that’s all that there was, so I watched. And fell in love with it. Two things struck me when watching. Firstly, it is like a travelogue for France. As the race winds its way through the different regions and small towns and villages, the commentators share the history of the villages and the towns, the castles and the manors, and the people. Secondly, and more importantly, cycling is a team sport with each team riding for the team captain, who is basically the one cyclist who has the potential to win the race. There are also the sprinters, and the climbers, and the potential stage winners.
To watch a man put everything on the road just to ensure that his teammate is in the best position to succeed is a great lesson in selflessness and teamwork. I have tried to apply that to my life, whether professionally or personally. There have been times when I have led and had to be the figurehead, out in the world, speaking for the collective, and there have times when I am worker, a cog in the wheel.
It is an interesting space to be in and each comes with its own nuances. When you serve as the face for a collective, there is a responsibility in it, but you also have to be clear on what you stand for because when the proverbial shit hits the fan, the blame rests solely on your shoulders in the public domain.
And, when you are a faceless part of that team, every decision or act that is out there, represents you, even when you didn’t agree with it. I have found it is easier to accept this when I buy into the overall mission or objective. If I am clear on where we are going, it’s easier to be comfortable with the some of the paths being taken. It is also important be given the opportunity to share one’s perspectives. Every voice needs to be heard, even if, eventually, the path taken is not the one suggested.
Every year or so, I download my Twitter archive. I find it is good for looking back at my evolution (hopefully) over the years and is also sometimes useful as a source of inspiration for my writing. I spent some time scrolling when I was writing Listen To Your Footsteps. Anyway, I found the original tweets that were requested:
Next couple of tweets are story of why I watch #tourdefrance. Had couple of people request story. If you not interested, pls ignore. Lol
My dream, growing up, was to be a sprinter. I was decent at 100m and ran for Lesotho once, & was supposed to go to German nationals ….
…with 4×100 relay team. I started university in 1992 & also started my training programme to try to qualify for 1996 Olympics in Atlanta..
..by 1994, I was on track 6 days a week, in gym 4 days a week & playing basketball 3days/wk & was in great shape. Only problem I had …
..was recurring pain in a muscle on front of leg (used to pull foot up). 1 day, during basketball game, i strained muscle in right leg ..
..3 days & 3 drs later, i’m told, i burst blood vessel, muscle gangrenous, muscle or leg must go. 2 weeks in hospital, 3 ops, -1 muscle.
… i was on crutches, wrote exams (June) & returned home to Maseru with 30cm cut & insurance cheque for 30% permanent disability ….
.. I was confined to the house for the holidays. my surgeon said ‘you’ll never run again, take up cycling or swimming’. (i can’t swim) …
… i sit all day waiting for the fam to get home to keep me company, telly crap, except for ….. #tourdefrance. i watched every min of …
… 1994 Tour De France. It kept me company at my lowest. & now, every year, I try to watch as much of the #tourdefrance as i can. <The End>
Also why I love Mariah Carey’s Hero. Damn nurse wouldn’t give me morphine one night, Mariah came on telly & sang that song for me.
Oh. Walked with support for 2 years, had another op, muscle transfer, i limp, but i make it look ‘cool’. collect walking sticks for 1 day
And I still love Mariah Carey’s Hero. I was watching a movie one night in hospital and requested that they delay giving me sleeping pills and morphine until the movie was over – I wasn’t going anywhere and wanted to sleep later than 19:00. I was told that if I didn’t take them then, I wouldn’t get them. A few hours later, movie over, I was lying there struggling to fall asleep and feeling sorry for myself. Hero came on and, for the first time, I really heard it.