Lance Armstrong declared his retirement from professional cycling this morning.
Cycling may not appear on the top ten list of the most widely followed sports in India, but nonetheless, this sport found its way to my personal top-ten. It happened two years ago, when I was enjoying my own 'retirement' from Texas Instruments, before taking up studies again. It was a wet June, and I was detained in my room by unrelenting rains. While surfing the channels breathtaking scenery of France caught my attention, and so did the coulourful peloton, French for the main group of riders. The Yellow Jersey belonged to an American, called Lance Armstrong. I had read a story about this athelete sometime back : He was down with cancer, and fought the death to emerge a victor. Only this itself could be an inspiring story.
Le Tour involves about 22 days of extremely tough cycling : about 2100 kms!!! Out of 20 stages, five belong to the mountains. And Armstrong has always emerged a winner in such daunting stages. To win Le Tour once can be quoted as a lifetime achievement. Lance has done this for six times, that too on the trot. These facts make him great, but his past makes him the greatest: even the cancer could not stop Him.
In cycling, there is a great importance for team work. The team-mates set the speed and maintain it too. It is very difficult for an escaped-from-peloton rider to maintain his lead to the finish. It is always comfortable to follow the wheels of the rider in front of you, they say. Armstrong has always got a great support from his American Postal Services team-mates. But in the end, the champion has to perform on his own, which he did, not once or twice but six times. Tour de France 2005 will be his last race, and I am sure it will be as hard as ever for the fellow riders to beat Armstrong.
"Ultimately, athletes have to retire... the body doesn't just keep going and going," Armstrong said during his press conference when he declared his retirement.
There are no such bounds for the mind though. His example will continue to be a source of inspiration...