Gerald Ciolek won Milan San Remo on Sunday. What you can’t see in the photograph is how his eyes teared up when he stepped onto the podium, and the look of stunned disbelief before the smile. Ciolek is a rider who wasn’t named as a contender – from an almost unheard of team invited to San Remo as a wildcard: MTN-Qhubeka, of South Africa. But there he stands on the top step of the podium. He beat Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan to the line after 5 1/2 hours of riding through abysmal conditions that included driving wet snow and temps in the mid 30’s. Some riders dropped out after they could no longer close their hands around their bars.
Ciolek found something special on Sunday, and it took him to a new place.
I want to come back to the tears because I think I saw something familiar. After all the hard work, and the days that don’t seem to amount to anything, there comes a day when we find something special and step onto our own podium. Sometimes it’s an event we’ve trained for. Sometimes the special comes unexpectedly in the midst of otherwise trying conditions. It is always an effort that demands more than we thought we had to give, and we roll to a stop in that potent mix of relief, disbelief and triumph.
Something special is forged in the will to press on when the outcome is uncertain. The ride and our reason for being there have value in their own right.