Alexi Grewal; In My Shoes… imagine you are a young man. You are racing in your first Tour De France. You do not know it will be your only one. You have climbed the ladder from the outside in, from day one.
You have won the Olympic Games, you have survived a season on your own in Belgium, you have survived all things Grewal.
Your entire life has been to win your father’s approval, to be seen in his eyes and hence in your own as a winner.
Nothing you have done to date has ever made that possible. Not even a Gold Medal.
Cycling is your life; it is your vehicle to prove yourself a man. You are now in the first mountain stage of the Tour De France. You have been slaughtered until now.
Now you are in the lead group, with cycling’s icons; Lemond, Hinault, Delgado, Herrera, Rooks, Patrocino.
They distance you on a category two climb with over one hundred kilometers to go. But you never say die and fight your way down a long valley headwind road chasing because your life does depend on it.
You close the gap down to almost nothing, from over a minute to less than ten seconds. But you are already in the first gradients of the next climb, a steep category one, steep, straight up and relentless.
But you have to close the final chasm, to find rest. Then CBS television sees your struggle.
The motorcycle hones in on you.
They do not know they are breaking your zone. They do not know they are impeding your line to that last wheel peeling back the left gutter.
You wave them off. They do not understand it is your life, to them it is the story they have waited for. He is coming back!
You do not care about the Television story or CBS or NBC. Your life is about to be made or broken.
The gap opens again, the camera is all over you, just alongside, so close you lose the sense of solitude that alone is a solace for pain. You wave them off again.
They look at you as if you are on another planet. You cannot speak to them to tell them that you are. You are on a bicycle. They are on a BMW.
The camera is staring you in the face, it does not smile, it does not know what it is to succeed or fail.
Finally the commissaire comes ripping up, waves the intruder off. You make it to the wheel.
The line hesitates, you move up along the line, your last effort to position yourself for the now arriving climb.
If you can make it to the top of this one you will finish in the first group, in the first mountain stage, of your first Tour De France.
A gap opens a wheel length in the line; you squeeze the Dutchman Steven Rooks, winner of Liege Bastogne Liege out of his place and plant yourself on Greg Lemond’s wheel.
The road turns up, Luis Herrera begins his pace up it and your legs incinerate.
Always living as if this is your last moment, never given the elements that let you look ahead, your life flashes in front of your eyes.
At that moment the CBS camera is back – looking you square in the face.
And you spit on it.
This article was first published by Alexi on his website, “Back in Among the Wheels“.