This past Sunday, I witnessed an incredible feat that proved the old mantra, “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
My hometown of Richmond, Virginia, just hosted the UCI World Championships. The “UCI Worlds” are the annual global competition of the best road cyclists in the world. These are the cyclists who race in the Olympics and the Tour de France. In the 94-year history of this event, this was only the second time it was held in the USA. We Richmonders considered it a privilege to host this global event and we took advantage of the opportunity to take in the thrill of elite cycling.
The final race was the men’s elite road circuit. It was nearly seven hours long and covered a total of 162.4 miles. And like many of the road circuit races, the eventual winner was never in the lead until the very end of the race.
The winner was a fellow named Peter Sagan of Slovakia. In the cycling world, he is well known and has plenty of accomplishments under his belt. During the race, the commentators would mention his name as a contender, but at one point, they couldn’t even find him in the peleton (the pack of riders) to point out where he was.
You see, he was conserving energy for the entirety of the race. When you ride in the peleton (which is like a swarm of bees flying in an artful formation), you can draft behind other riders and save much needed energy for the long haul race.
Sagan hid in the peleton for the entire race. Plenty of other riders jumped ahead of the peleton and had their moment of glory on international television as the race leader, but Sagan didn’t care about that. He knew that it is not how you start….it is how you finish.
With 2 miles left (after riding hard for 160 miles), Sagan made his move – a sudden burst of energy, known as an “attack,” while ascending the toughest hill towards the end of the circuit. Once he reached the top of the 23rd Street hill, he positioned his body into a fetal position and became a human torpedo on his bike as he descended the Broad Street hill. It was enough to pull ahead of the pack that he held his lead and glided across the finish line with his hands off the bars of his bike. He won by a mere three seconds. The race was over six hours long.
But that three second lead at the end was all that mattered. He won the gold medal. He did not seek any glory during the race. He was never a visible contender. But he surely had his eyes on the prize the whole time.
Congratulations to Peter Sagan of Slovakia. And thanks, Peter, for showing us that no matter what we do in life, it’s about how we finish and not how we start.
“12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:12-14, NIV