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What Cycling can teach us about leadership

Imagine going down a hill at speeds of 100km/h, protected by nothing more than a layer of lycra.

Last summer, I was in Cauterets, in the French Pyrenees, to witness the 6th stage of the well-known Tour de France. The atmosphere was simply electric, filled with a mix of tension, excitement, and celebration. I was eager for my husband and children to experience this unique event firsthand.

Not only is the atmosphere unique, but the sport of cycling itself, along with the athletes who practice it, is truly exceptional. Cycling is rough, is tough, is excruciating. Enduring the challenges of cycling requires an indomitable mindset as the ability to overcome physical pain, mental fatigue, and emotional strain is a given in this sport.

The focus and concentration needed during high-speed descents are unimaginable. The slightest misstep and you are in bloodshed and broken bones. Yet, these athletes get back on their bikes and push through to the finish line.

Cyclists also need much focus for tactical moments in a race and be able to make split-second decisions. Imagine climbing the Tourmalet and one rider attacks. You have a fraction of a second to follow that rider, or you may have just missed your opportunity.

Contrary to people’s belief, cycling is a team sport. The team's primary goal is to support their leader and bring him as close to the finish line as possible while conserving his energy for the win. Often, these leaders have to collaborate with members of other teams to drop other cyclists and make space for their victory.

So, yes, cycling is synonym for collaboration, pressure, team effort, tension, fear, individual effort, mental toughness, humility, so much risk, excitement, tears, festivity, pride, sacrifice, humbleness… and so many emotions. As a Basque, cycling is very close to my heart. And this year, watching this Tour de France pass through my hometown and see them cycle the same hills I used to, my heart swelled with an overwhelming mix of nostalgia, pride, and pure joy.

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