For those trying to win the general classification (the overall tour victory for the rider with the lowest total accumulated time), every stage counts. There can be no bad days, no lazy days trailing the stage winner home by many minutes. Every stage, every second counts.
And yet, it seems, some stages count more than others. Right now the tour is in one of its transition phases – three days in a row of what are identified as flat stages, with no high mountains or particularly difficult climbs.
For the GC (general classification) riders these days are about staying in the peleton, not crashing, not having mechanical failure and, mostly, about not making mistakes. On these flat days there is nothing to be gained, and everything to be lost.
In a couple of days the tour will reach the French Alps, and in terms of the battle for the GC win, the competition will explode. Steep, unrelenting climbs are the stage on which the fight for the overall win will play out. The flat stages will at that point mean nothing. It is the performance of the riders on the high mountains, and at the times of most difficulty, facing the biggest challenges, that count for the most.
I wonder, is the same true for the rest of us? Is it our performance, our behaviour, when faced with extreme difficulty that defines us as people? As the church?
Or is it who we are when it doesn’t count, when nobody is looking that matters?
Is it how we go about caring for each other, staying safe in the transitional periods that demonstrate our true character? Is it the flat stages that reveal something of who we are?
I suspect both matter. I suspect that who we are in times of transition sets us up to be at our best in the moments of challenge.