We have got our bikes out of the barn, cleaned off all the dust, pumped up the tyres, found our cycling helmets, and I have even found the Tour de France T-Shirt that I bought a few years ago which even fits me still – if I breathe in! Now we have done all this, we might even go out for a bike ride!
We have been inspired, of course, by Bradley Wiggins wonderful victory in the 2012 Tour de France. Julia and I have become avid viewers this year and thoroughly enjoyed the Eurosport coverage on TV. Usually we are away in France on holiday at this time of the year so we miss seeing the Tour de France on TV, although a few years ago we actually managed to see one of the stages live as it passed through the place where we were staying. This year, however, we took an earlier holiday so we were actually back in the UK for the Tour.
We both love sport but actually like watching different things. I love football, and rugby, and cricket, and Julia loves tennis. Having commandeered the 40” high definition screen for the football season, I had to relinquish it to Julia for Wimbledon. The cycling, however, was something we both enjoyed watching together. We loved the excitement of the Tour de France, the amazing helicopter shots of the great French scenery, wonderful views of places we knew so well, and knowledgeable and amusing commentary by the Eurosport presenters.
Since we have been home from France we still find ourselves occasionally coming out with the odd French phrase, and watching Bradley Wiggins performance, indeed the performance of the whole Sky Team, the phrase ‘tour de force’ comes to mind. The dictionary defines this phrase as ‘an impressive performance or achievement that has been accomplished or managed with great skill’ or ‘a feat requiring great virtuosity or strength, often deliberately undertaken for its difficulty’. Bradley Wiggins ably demonstrated this virtue or strength not only by winning the coveted Yellow Jersey in the end, but by taking the lead and retaining it for so much of the Tour. But it isn’t just Bradley Wiggins who deserves the plaudits. He had a great team of riders with him – Chris Froome, Ritchie Porte, Michael Rogers, Mark Cavendish, Bernhard Eisel, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Christian Knees, and Kanstantsin Siutsou. He also had an amazing management team behind him including Dave Brailsford (a visionary leader), Sean Yates (a real encourager respected by the whole team of riders), and Shane Sutton (who is never afraid to speak the truth and tell the riders how it really is).
There are lessons to be learned here for us as a nation – lessons about developing character and resolve, about working together, about seeing a way through – which we need to take on board if we are to get out of the current crisis situation we are going through. There are similar lessons to be learned here particularly for those of us who are professing Christians – lessons about developing Christ like character, virtues, and values, lessons about pulling together as Church, lessons about recognising those amongst us who clearly demonstrate God-given vision, who are encouragers, who speak God’s ‘now word’! We are told in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles that the first Christians, and the New Testament Church, were a tour de force in their own right. They displayed these kind of characteristics and as a result they had a real influence on the community. We are told about them, that ‘People in general liked what they saw’ and as a result, ‘every day their number grew as God added those who were saved’ (Acts 2:47), they ‘filled the streets with their teaching’ (Acts 5:28) and ‘turned the world (of their day) upside down’ (Acts 17:6) … or ‘right side up’ as someone has more accurately suggested!
One of the noticeable parts of the team work was Wiggins, in the yellow jersey, leading out Mark Cavendish for the sprint finish not only on Champs Elysees but also on the anti penultimate stage when he had the time trial the next day. This reminds me of Jesus washing the disciples feet – doing the donkey work can be an integral part of leadership.