Stories allow us to learn from the experiences of others and that helps us shape and strengthen our opinions. For this blog, we draw a story from the cycling world.
This week marked the 109th edition of the Tour de France, which concluded in Paris. It is a multi-stage bicycle race that takes place primarily in France but also occasionally in neighbouring countries.
While there is one winner at the end of the Tour de France, it is largely a team sport. Individual riders form the teams, which produce winners. Cycling teams, known as a peloton, strategically align themselves for position and pace to give their leaders a winning advantage.
One rider in such a peloton is Michael Schär who started riding in Tour de France in 2011. Much has changed in the last 11 years, but he believes the essence of cycling remains the same – “Cycling is more than just pedalling. The goal of the sport is to make people happy.”
POWER OF A STORY
As a peloton rider, Michael Schär isn’t used to hitting the headlines. Last year, however, he was in the news for violating a ban on tossing his bottle on the ground. He was disqualified from the Tour of Flanders for throwing a bottle outside the designated zone. This sparked quite a stir, and many fans rallied to his defence.
But it was a story Michael shared on social media that ultimately convinced the board to relax its restrictions.
Dear UCI: WHY KIDS START CYCLING
I remember it as it was yesterday. My parents drove my sister and me to the 1997 Tour de France in the Jura. We drove to the parcours and waited there for hours in the middle of the crowds. Finally the publicity caravan arrived and we all catched some treats.
Later the first police motos arrived and the helicopter was hovering aboth us. Exactly this electrifying athmosphere of the bunch approaching us was for me life changing. I was endlessly impressed by the speed and ease these riders could ride their bikes. I wanted nothing else in my life anymore than becoming a pro cyclist myself. From this moment on I was driven by a dream.
On top of that impression I received a bottle from a Pro. This little plastic piece made my cycling addiction complete. Back home that bottle was reminding me everyday of what my dream was. I rode my yellow Team Polti bottle everyday in full pride. Everyday.
Now I am one of these Pros who race through all of the happy spectators. During calm moments of the race I always keep my empty bottle until I see some kids next to the road. Then I throw them gently right where they can catch it safely. Two years ago I gave a bottle to a girl next to the road. Her parents told me the girl wasn’t only happy about this bottle for a day. No, she still talks about this bottle. And maybe one day she becomes a cyclist as well.
These are moments why I love our sport. Nobody ever can take that away from us. We are the most approachable sport who gives bottles along the way. Simple as that. Simple is Cycling
This triggered a chain reaction in which many riders shared their experiences with getting or giving a bottle.
Michael shared, “I’m quite proud of what happens now that the rule has changed. I believe I was the first and last person to be disqualified. It was nice to see the reaction to what I wrote about my life story, and now we’re allowed to throw the bottle in a more common-sense way.”
“The bottles from us belong to the spectators, and it fulfils so many children’s dreams and makes so many children happy.” “That’s what drew me to this sport, and I believe it drew a lot of people to it as well,” he continues, “if we lose the connectivity to be close to the spectators, we lose the last little thing we have.”
Stories have the ability to inspire change. It binds us together and highlights our common traditions, beliefs, and values. If we want to engage people deeply and motivate them to act, the ability to tell stories is more important than ever.
Vinod Krishna is a brand storytelling trainer and consultant at DustyPaths.
He brings 3 decades of experience in leading people, projects, and businesses
to forge new paths in storytelling, communication and leadership development.
He is an avid barefoot runner, trekker, theater artist, and photographer.
Connect with him on LinkedIn