I just recently read "Three Cups of Tea", the story of an American who dedicated his life to building schools in the remotest regions of central Asia (think Baltistan and Northern Afghanistan). Of the many amazing qualities exhibited by Mr. Greg Mortenson, the most striking was his singular focus and dedication to the integrity of his mission. In a place where an American infidel invariably brought suspicion, the purity of Greg's actions brought him favor with nearly everyone he met, and made him a hero among tens of thousands.
I have to confess that I sometimes have a hard time taking Eric seriously when he expounds upon the profundity of what we do (cycling). After all it's just a sport, and of the sort that's largely inaccessible to most of the world's inhabitants due to the whole part about needing a bike. At the same time, as I read Greg's story, I couldn't help drawing parallel between his focus and integrity, and that of a disciplined athlete. In sport, you are the sum of the work you pour into your own success. There are no shortcuts (lest you bring shame to yourself or your sport), no pretending you are what you are not, and everything you are is laid out on stage (or bikereg) for the world to see. Embracing the realization that you can hide nothing and that everything you receive is by the strength of your own back builds an increasingly rare type of character not unlike Greg's--a character with the strength to move mountains. As athletes we are all lucky to possess even a little of this strength. In our long hours alone on the road, when a ribbon of white line steers the direction of our thoughts, we would all do well to ponder what mountains we should be moving after we get home.