The media has it all wrong.
In talking about the women’s bicycle road race (which happened Sunday), they’ve been talking about the medalists and blah, blah, blah. Presumably all the blah, blah, blah happened (to be fair, it did happen—I was watching), but the important women didn’t make the medal ceremony.
First of all, we have to talk about Annemiek van Vleuten. She’s the Dutch athlete who was part of the break away and was leading the race on the great big zillion-mile-an-hour downhill before she crashed horribly. Many of the men crashed on the course the day before, but this is one instance in which women would do well not to match the men step for step. Last I heard, Annemiek was in intensive care with a massive concussion and several “minor” fractures in her spine.
For years, I have said that the hardest position in all sport is Mother of the Goalie. I am considering revising my opinion to say that the hardest position in all sport is Mother of the International Cyclist. Yikes.
Perhaps more importantly, we need to talk about Mara Abbott (@cosunshinemka). Let’s be clear: She. Is. Amazing.
Mara led the race for 8 or 9 years during the race. She smashed through the mountain climb (who accelerates going uphill???). She endured the mild derision of the TV commentators (who she couldn’t hear) who suggested she was being too cautious on the aforementioned treacherous downhill (excuse me, but she knew that a kid on a tricycle won the men’s race the previous day because all the men crashed). She passed Annemiek who was doing an impression of a broken rag doll just moments after her crash.
And then Mara set out on her own.
You probably know that biking is a team sport. Which makes no sense, because you’d think they’d all ride the same bike if they were a team (like rowing). But it turns out that bikers working together save energy. And they often work together even if they’re not on the same team. Perhaps especially if they aren’t. Very odd.
So Mara being on her own was not only lonely, it was expensive (in terms of energy).
As we watched, little by little, meter by meter, the three little mice chased her down. With about a nanometer left, the three turned on the afterburners and blew by her. Mara had absolutely nothing left to hold them off. No matter how hard we yelled (and everyone watching was yelling) or how much we tried to help push her across the line (and everyone watching sent a lot energy in her direction) or how many fingernails got bitten (I understand there was a great deal of nail biting), it just wasn’t enough. Mara, who deserved to win, who was clearly the best biker of the day, came in fourth. Hearts broke for her all across America.
And then Mara did the impossible.
She was classy.
And that, as much as her crazy incredible ride, makes her A-Maz-Ing. Mara, you are solid gold.
Talk about Olympic heroes. Mara Abbott is at the top of the list.