“Comparison is the thief of joy,” said Theodore Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth American president back in the early twentieth century, before defiantly deleting his profile from an early (beta) version of Strava, relinquishing his hard earned kudos and KOM’s, and going for a nice bike ride.
He was a wise man, you see. He was anti-Instagram in the age of the telegram. He resisted opening a Twitter account until 2010 – a full ninety-one years after his death.
Old Theo would definitely have warned me off comparing myself with Egan Bernal the Team Sky wonder-kid, Paris-Nice winner of 2019, potential serial winner for the next dozen years.
But I got drawn in.
In an ideal world my consumption of pro cycling would revolve around the likes of Gilbert and Valverde, but these guys are seriously knocking on. They’ll be gone soon. If I don’t learn the younger generation then I’ll miss the moment and find myself scouring the peloton for faces, body language, and old friends.
I knew I had to take the plunge, get my head around Egan Bernal, figure out who this kid is and what makes him tick.
When a new cyclist pops up on the radar of our local roads, what do we do? Where do we look?
Strava, of course. We scour their stats, check out their pics, and judge them. We decide whether we feel threatened by them. We see who they’re friends with and place them in the Venn diagram of our mind.
And because it’s 2019, and we’ve unleashed the terror/miracle of technology on ourselves, we can do the same with Bernal. And, reassuringly, he pretty much looks like the rest of us.
Gnarly post-ride helmet hair pic? Check.
Sweaty-floored pain cave pic? Check.
Array of random nonsensical ‘trophies?’ Check.
‘Morning ride…lunch ride…afternoon ride?’ Check.
Yep…he’s just one of us. Borderline narcissistic, too much to prove. Obsessive logger of data. Casually perpetuating the idea that offering someone ‘kudos’ is the most normal thing in the world.
No harm done.
And then before I realised what I was doing I was comparing myself. Or, rather, Strava was comparing me. With Bernal. It didn’t stack up well. I didn’t stack up well. Whichever way that data was sliced, or indeed diced, I was coming out on the thick end of things.
Of course I was. He, a twenty-two year old world class cyclist. Me, a forty-two year old mediocre…
Well…fill in the blanks.
Please tell me you haven’t just printed this off and literally filled in the blanks. By hand. That’s harsh. And also a lot of effort to go to. There goes my joy. Roosevelt was right; comparison was offered, and my joy was thieved.
I shall console myself with the fact that I could definitely beat the tiny Colombian cyclist in an arm wrestle, and leave it there. On a high note. Clearly outperforming Egan Bernal. As soon as Strava starts logging arm-wrestle stats Bernal will surely stumble across the comparison and feel the theft of his joy as I felt mine.
And we’ll be even.
(Image: Ray Rogers [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D)