Storms are frequent and many times unexpected in the western United States. The dark rolling clouds, with almost a menacing personality, stalk the prairies and farmlands and possess cloud to cloud lighting with low grumbles that reverberate from the sky through the ground. As the storms rolls over the ridges, dipping into bluffs and sliding over mountain ranges, the American buffalo lift their heavy heads from grazing. The storm can be sensed in the animals before it is seen, the barometric pressure dropping rapidly. Ropes of heavy rain grey the scene behind the clouds. The black mass is unavoidable.
The buffalo are magnificent creatures, strong and determined; and, as we now know from their almost complete extinction by humanity, they are resilient to the point of stubborn tenacity. One of the demonstrations of this strong will is during the approach of an oncoming storm. The buffalo will turn and charge directly into the storm. They run at the storm, moving straight through it, minimizing the amount of pain, time, and frustration they experience from that storm.
Chris Froome is currently running at the storm. These dark clouds are menacing. The rain is beating down on him and snaps of lighting with every flash of the camera. He is on a different team for the first time in years. He is battling back from an horrific injury. He is weighted with being a multiple grand tour winner and expectations that go along with it. He is hearing the talk. He feels the doubts. The demons in his head are in full assault mode: Is it even possible to return to where you were? You are approaching or maybe you have even beyond that peak age in professional cycling. You use to be one of the best climbers in the world. If you keep this up, you will leave cycling in disgrace. Look, Chris, you were just dropped by a sprinter! Pull over. Get in the car. Say you do not feel well.
In this year’s Volta Catalunya, Chris Froome did not look good, but then again, he always rides with his elbows out and head down. He lost contact on the ascent of Port de Santa Fe del Montseny, a category-one climb, and never regained his legs. The four-time Tour de France winner finished 97th in a one week stage race. To add insult to injury, Ineos swept the podium. Yes, Chris’s former team. This was a storm to endure! Chris stayed with it and raced straight into it. Bad news though, the storm is not over. Chris knows this. But like the American buffalo, he will shake the water from his back and prepare for the next one.
Battling my own demons this past year, I sympathized with Chris. The mental battle from injury is tremendous. No, I am NOT comparing myself to Chris Froome. The battle is the same for many, many people. Whether you are a secondrate cyclist or one of the best in the world, the demons will find you. Where you use to be compared to where you are now is hard to compute, to say the least. Sagan is having some of the same issues, but I believe that his laissez faire attitude toward life in general probably helps him tremendously. Although I bet in deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, it was eating him up to not be in the limelight at this year’s Tour. The demons do not discriminate. I wished I could have been at the finishing line when Chris crossed in 97th place. I would have been the first to congratulate him. Head down. Determined. Just like the mighty American buffalo.