You Know People Remember How You Race, Right?

Storytime.

Something happened recently that none of you know about because you don’t follow obscure European sports on pirated foreign feeds using VPNs to avoid NBC’s atrocious domestic commentary.

No, not that obscure European sport, I mean cross country skiing!!

You know, the sport you think is this.. 👈🏻

...But is actually this 👉🏻

Anyway, they just finished the World Championships, which happens in cross country skiing every two years (so it’s significant).  The last and most important event is a 50-kilometer suffer-fest.

K DurianRider, here are some skis. I'll come back in 8 hours with Tofu and Kleenex.

So what happened that’s worth talking about? Some Norwegian mutant named Klæbo who won the sprint (yeah, Norwegians win everything because they are født med ski på beina) won the 50km ahead of a Russian God called Bolshunov, only to be disqualified because the Russian guy he came to the finish with tried to squeeze him into the barriers, lost his balance, and snapped his own pole.

The jury deliberated for what felt like hours, disqualified Klæbo, and awarded the gold to another Norwegian who passed the flailing Russian in the final meters. Bolshunov got a silver.

The incident was the most dramatic thing in cross country skiing since:

  1. Petter Northug beat Sweden in the 2011 team relay, pulled up short of the finish line, waited for the final Swedish skier to approach, and stepped across it.
  2. Or the time Peter Northug crashed his car into a guard rail drunk, tried to blame it on someone else, got caught, avoided jail time, and then used his demons to stage a miraculous comeback in the 2015 World Championships in Falun,  winning four gold medals.
  3. Or that time Peter Northug proved he learned NOTHING from 2015 and drove 200km down a freeway on…
Han er en gris

1."He is a pig"

2. That guard rail came out of nowhere.

3. Cocaine is a hell of a drug.

Man, I really miss Petter Northug. Without him, cross country skiing has all the drama of a slow leak.

So, the aftermath was predictably volcanic. Twitter exploded. Norway hired lawyers. The Russian, who has all the sportsmanship of a gang of cake-fueled two-year-olds, refused to wear his silver medal during the medal ceremony. Like democracy, no one was happy with the outcome.

In the week that followed, Norway put the full weight of its legal resources behind the effort to overturn the disqualification. While unlikely, there was a chance they’d overturn the decision and return the Gold Medal to the rightful Norwegian, only upsetting the Russians, who no one likes anyway.

Suddenly, the Norwegians dropped the lawsuit.

Nope - Klæbo dropped it. His statement was stunning:

Klæbo interview

Oh, you can't read Norwegian. Good thing I can. Here goes:

"I feel that it is wrong to continue this process. I wish to think positively, and put this behind me. I do not want to be perceived as a cry-baby skier."

Johannes Høsflot Klæbo

I know that’s not a big wow. He wanted to move forward. Then he said something that made me swallow my coffee down the wrong tube:

Oh, you still can't translate Norwegian. Good Lord, you could have completed a Duolingo lesson already. Do I have to do everything?

"Some days go your way, and some days don't. In the end, the most important thing is the feelings I am left with, and what kind of person I want to be. I'm not going to make an 'arch-enemy picture' (of the Russian) and put it on my bathroom window. If I'm going to put anything up, it will be a picture of myself - that's who I am competing against the most. I am going to compete against him until I'm in the grave."

Johannes Høsflot Klæbo

Holy Sh...Buckets!

If you’ve ever wondered what class looks like and what kind of attitude every coach dreams their athlete has, you just saw it.

I’m raising this story now because bike racing is no longer theoretical – it’s just around the corner. Many athletes will pin a bib soon, and many are going to race like scumbags because of a year of pent-up aggression and loss. They’ll chop you through the corners, swear at you, and maybe even try to crash you out. When they’re not on their bike, they’ll walk around with a ‘pimp-limp’ and won’t look you in the eye because they’re beyond cool.

Don’t be that racer. Remember, in the end, the way you train and race matters more than where your name ends up on the results sheet.

OK Lance, how is that working out for you?

Look, I didn’t think anything else but race results mattered either, but I got lucky. I’ve always approached bike racing with a vague aloofness, a sense of the sardonic, maybe because before I got into bike racing, I had spent years of my life in tight lycra cross country skiing and didn’t think I had any business pretending I was hot shit or that endurance sports, in general, was really that cool.

 

Matti Rowe skiing

Lulz.

Years after I began bike racing, I’d often become teammates with cyclists with whom I first raced. We never talked that much before, but as I’d get to know them, they’d say:

OK, so I had my moments, and I’m sure there are plenty of people who have made it through a few beers ripping me apart and calling me a clown. Welcome to life.

The takeaway is, sure, cycling is inherently a beautiful sport; even Hemingway thought so. But the real beauty in all the training in racing is the people you get to meet and the stories you build together. It’s hard to do that if you comport yourself like a jackwagon and no one wants to build anything with you.

Life is a series of iterated games.

The most important part about playing games is that other people want to keep playing with you. It starts early – I see it with my two-year-old – and continues until death. The real winners are the people everyone wants to keep playing with, not the person that throws the board on the floor.

Klæbo might be only 24, but he freaking nailed it. Maybe he would have won the legal challenge and get the Gold medal back, but he wouldn’t hang it up in his house because every time he walked past it and looked at it, it would evoke a feeling he didn’t want.

Before you pin that bib, consider what feeling you want when you cross the finish line.

You might think that’s the feeling of winning, and everyone else be damned.

not because no one will like you, but because the value of your accomplishments is equal only to your bone-deep feelings of how you did it, and you can't hide from yourself.

If you win like a jerk-off and still feel good about yourself, there’s a clinical term for that – psychopath.

Good luck with your races. I hope you kill it, and you do so with class, not because everyone else is watching (even though they are) but because you’re always watching yourself also.

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