It is sometimes said that football is a game, whereas cycling is life. Certainly, yesterday’s stage winner Rein Taaramae rode with a rare sense of perspective after his team leader’s nasty crash on Saturday: “Zakarin didn’t stay in hospital yesterday. He ate with the team yesterday evening, and this may sound surprising but, despite a broken collarbone and shoulder blade, he ate well and was in excellent humour. But his crash yesterday scared me a lot. I was close to him. I saw everything. The thought crossed my mind that he might even have lost his life, but then I saw him sit up, which was a huge relieve. It was hard to go and race again after that but I also wanted to win this stage for him.”
It has been said that, in cycling, you can only win if you are prepared to lose, which was Vincenzo Nibali’s winning formula: “This last week was very hard, but I too said to myself, ‘If I win or lose, it changes nothing.’ So perhaps I was freer mentally.”
Life, like the Giro d’Italia, is too diffuse, too all-encompassing, for us to grasp as a coherent whole, especially when we are in the middle of it all, and every stable viewpoint, every value and perspective, is up for grabs. In order to approach its immensity, we need to break it up into stages and actors, contemplate the parts, evaluate the individual moments. Or see ourselves through metaphors. And what more magnificent metaphor, with its vast landscapes and all-encompassing flow, that a three-week bike race.
Esteban Chaves, after seeing his race lead dissolve under the pressure of Nibali’s accelerations, and possible victory collapse into certain defeat, shed tears with his parents and girlfriend, recently arrived from Colombia, but was smiling by the time of the post-race interview. “I’ve only lost a bicycle race,” he said. “There are more important things in life than this.”
Sometimes finishing second is the beginning of wisdom.