This month, I had the privilege to participate in my 11th Annual Etape du Tour—a crazy annual cycling event that covers the hardest stage of that year’s Tour De France route. This year’s edition had four mountain climbs planned, however an avalanche knocked out one of the roads and the race was reduced to the Col de Aravis, the Col de Colombiere, and finished with a beast of a climb up the Col du Joux Plane. We had a great group of people from Trek along with our good friends, Mason and Julie Farrell. The day usually produces some great stories ranging from climbing Mont Ventoux in 100+ degree heat, to helping out a fellow rider left for dead on the side of the road, to last year’s amazing drama of climbing 15,000 feet over 11 hours. Well….. no such luck this year. This was the most drama-free Etape in history. Instead of a grueling race report, I offer a few observations from an amazing ride in the Alps:
1. Don’t Judge the Rider by the Shoes. My good friends, Mason and Julie Farrell, came along with us. Julie does not like to clip in and refused to buy new cycling shoes. I thought this was a big mistake and instructed Julie and her husband to get comfortable with the idea. About a week into training, I asked how the clip-in progress was coming along and the response I received was “don’t go there.” I am not a “don’t go there guy” but with time I have grown wiser and I thought it best to shelve the conversation until we had a serious training ride. We met up with Julie in Santa Barbara a few weeks before the trip to France for a 70 miler rwith 8,000 feet of climbing. Julie showed up in white golf shoes to do the ride. No clipping in, no clips and straps. Golf shoes. Well Julie crushed it on the ride and she brought her golf shoes to France and crushed the Etape. Julie’s lesson is that when people don’t want to clip in, that is OK!!!
Julie and her golf shoes
2. It can be done. In April, Mason called me to ask if it would be a good idea if for their 25th anniversary he took Julie to the start of the Tour. I replied that it would be a good idea but…..a great idea would be for you to do the Etape du Tour. Mason replied, “No thanks.” I did not give up. “I promise you an incredible, life-long memory.” Good athletes, though not serious riders, they took the bait. In 60 days, they worked hard and got into shape and finished Etape with plenty left in the tank. Most importantly, they had an awesome time and it turned out to be a great lifetime memory. Beats the hell out of watching someone else ride! The lesson of the Farrell's is that you should do that which you are afraid to do. Apple CEO, Tim Cook was asked a few years ago what he thought Steve Jobs’ greatest lesson in life was. His answer was that people are capable of much more than they ever think and that you need to push them outside of their comfort zone.
3. Every Person has a Story. Years ago, I was in Washington DC for a meeting and was asked to participate in a birthday cake presentation. To be honest, I don’t find this tradition to be very special but I reluctantly agreed. This was one of the worst I had ever attended. People showed up to check the box and it was clear they were not that happy to be there. I decided to liven the event up so I asked the birthday girl to tell us her life story in 5 minutes. This particular birthday girl was thought to be a rather boring person. Then she started telling her life story. Her parents had arrived in America on a boat, she worked her way through school, was married at 18, had an affair at 25 (are you paying attention now?), she wrote a book in her 40’s, the list went on and at the end of five minutes everyone had a completely new appreciation for this person. Since that day, I have had people tell their life stories at birthday parties and other occasions. I have never heard a boring life story. Five minutes to tell your story. The clock stops when questions are asked. During the Etape trip, I had a number of people tell their life story including Matthew Lovely, Trek’s head Chef. He does an amazing job and I have always thought of Matthew as just the rock star Chef at Trek who rides his bike a lot. I asked Matthew to tell our group his life story and he nailed it! I now view Matthew in a completely different light now that I know his life story. The lesson is that everyone has a story, you just need to ask.