Not over until the Finishing Line is close.

Written by

Andrew Millar


July 24, 2011

I stayed awake last night to watch Cadel Evans stare down his first victory in the Tour De France. And I mean stare. His eyes as he sat in the starter’s gate were like laser guidance systems locked onto a target. You knew from that armor piercing look he was going to win regardless. The trivial pain of having just ridden half way around France was not going to get in his way.

And you could see from the moment he hit the bottom of the starter’s ramp he was 150%. He was ready to ride. If his Grandma got in the way, she would have become a speed hump under a 10mm tire. And speaking of speed humps, I’ll swear he became air born over a traffic calming device around Giéres… and this from the man who people thought Cadel was ‘unwilling to take risks’…

And so after 83 hours 45 minutes and 20 grueling, muscle burning, cartridge grinding, he cycled across the finishing line in Grenoble.

Ecstatic. Elated. Exhausted. He would have felt all of these emotions in a Damascus Road style revelation that he had fulfilled a dream he’s carried for the last 6 years. The two second places, crashes, injuries, physical pain and the mental anguish would have all dissolved away. Like the pain of birth leaves the memory cells of a new mother the second her child is born.

But sometimes in these moments of expected transformation another emotion kicks in. It is called ‘post-purchase depression’ in the retail world. It comes about when you realise that the fulfillment of your precious wish has not had the massive influence on your you that you thought it would.

Cadel Evans will be the same person he was today than he was a week ago. Yes, He can say he’s won a ‘major’. But that won’t make him taller, more handsome, more attractive, more charismatic etc… Post-purchase come down is a very real problem. And the Tour has an interesting way of dealing with it.

Cadel was declared the winner after the 20 stage was completed. Tonight’s stage, the last of 21, is conducted under an agreed, yet unofficial, rule. No one challenges the overall winner. Riders still fight for the stage win but the breakaway never lose sight of the peloton. It’s just a relaxed wind-down culminating it a celebration on the Champs-Elysées. He gets a chance just to enjoy the experience of being a winner far longer than any other sport person. When he crosses the line tonight, he has officially won… twice.

Think about it. This is a great concept that can be applied to other sports.

Imagine a Grand Final where the teams trade goals in the final quarter, the winner having been declared at the end of the third. Both teams get to play for a half an hour in front of the biggest crowd they’ll ever experience before the ritual beer bath. But they do it in a completely relaxed fashion.

Imagine a marathon ending at 38 kilometres, letting the runners jog the last bit as a fun ‘warm down’. Funny costumes could be distributed at this point for a bit of colour.

Imagine the Bathurst 1000 ending at 900 clicks. The last 100 would be calm and relaxed. Drivers could stop and pick up their family ready to beat the traffic home.

And the wider world…

Image an election being declared after 75% of the votes are counted. That… oh… hang on… that already happens.

Anyway. I stay to watch the final ride into Paris tonight. I’ll watch Cadel ride with a glass of champagne. (…which sometimes happens) He’s earned it.