Companions in the race

by DanWolgemuth on April 2, 2010

The 2008 Leadville 100 was a painful disappointment to Lance Armstrong, the world famous cyclist. While Lance has never been known for his prowess on a mountain bike, he certainly is known as someone who hates to lose. And lose he did to the 43-year-old reigning champion. The grueling 100 miles through the mountains surrounding Leadville, Colorado create an unforgiving and pain-filled marathon. Some contend that it was this loss that propelled Lance back into the pro-cycling circuit.

So on August 15, 2009, on a cold, wet, and painfully uninviting morning, riders raced from the start at 6:30am. While this was no Tour de France (which Lance had completed a month before), it was a personal grudge match for Lance.

Through nearly all of the first half of the race, Lance relied on the steady and sacrificial support of his partners; his buddies, his teammates. In large part it was Matt Shriver who led the way. He set a blistering pace at his own expense that led to the early demise of many serious competitors. He carved the way with Lance tucked right in behind him.

Then, with the will and fortitude of others failing, Lance was ready. Shriver had been his cover, his windshield, his pacesetter… and now the timing was right for him to make his move.

And move he did. As though it was an Indianapolis race car against a showroom Ford. He disappeared.

Avenge he did. Beating the 2008 champion by over 30 minutes. But when Lance crossed the finish line after nearly 6 hours and 30 minutes, he did so with a flat tire. In fact, he had ridden on the underinflated rear tire for nearly 10 miles. He had stopped and re-inflated it several times, but without lasting success.

When asked about the race and the condition of his back tire when he finished, Lance gave the appropriate credit, and made the honest confession. He certainly knew that Matt Shriver had helped him accomplish his goal. He had sacrificed himself for his companion. And about the flat tire… Armstrong admitted that although he has traveled thousands and thousands of miles on a bicycle, he really doesn’t know how to change a tire.

In nearly every other situation Lance is surrounded by those who are committed to helping him complete his race. He has dedicated teams that have both equipment and expertise to help him compete and complete his course. At the end of the Leadville 100 Lance was alone. He had no answer to his flat tire.

“…since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” ~ Hebrews 12:1-2

How beautiful it is to be surrounded. When the tire is flat. When the oxygen is thin. When the mountains loom. When the pain and emptiness persist.

Setting the pace and fixing the flats… oh, how I’ve needed my companions.

On the cross so that I’m never alone on the course.

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