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Tadej Pogacar’s words speak as loud as his actions

Tadej Pogacar (right) leads Primoz Roglic (left) in the Tour de France

Article copyright 2020 by Bob Rogers.

Tadej Pogacar is a young man whose name may be hard to pronounce*, but his is a name worth knowing– not only for what he did, but also for what he said.

Cycling fans were astounded in September 2020 as the young Pogacar won the three-week, 2,164-mile Tour de France by surpassing the leader on the last day of racing. Personally, I was amazed by what he said after he won.

In the first week of the race, the 21-year-old made mistakes and fell behind, but slowly he began to close the gap. Going into the last day, he was in second place overall (out of about 150 riders), but still 57 seconds behind fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic of Team Jumbo-Visma. That seemed too big of a gap to close in just one day, as the best riders often can ride 100 miles with only a few seconds between their finish times. Roglic had a great team of fellow cyclists helping him along the way, leading him on mountain climbs, etc. Cyclists compete on teams that work together, because following the wheel of another cyclist is about 25% easier than riding alone against the wind. A pro cycling team also includes radio operators telling riders what is happening, and a support system of cars riding along the race, carrying spare bicycles, food to hand to riders, mechanics to fix problems, etc. In contrast to Roglic’s team, Pogacar of UAE Team was unable to get help from fellow riders on his team, as they were dropping out or falling behind him.

Despite overwhelming odds, on the final day of racing, Pogacar finished 1 minute, 56 seconds ahead of Roglic, more than enough to make up for his 57-second deficit! This allowed Pogacar to wear the famed yellow victor’s jersey for the final processional into Paris.

To put his victory in perspective, here is a bullet list of how amazing this win was:

*He won it by coming from way behind, on the last day, which only happened once before.

*He was the youngest winner since 1904.

*He was the first winner from his country, Slovenia.

*He’s a rookie—it was his first time in the Tour de France.

*He won three of the four main prizes. Only one other cyclist to win three of the four competitions in the Tour de France was the great Eddie Merckx in 1969. Pogacar won the yellow jersey for overall winner, polka dot jersey for best rider in the mountains, and white jersey for the best young rider. (Appropriately, an Irishman named Sam Bennett won the green jersey for most points.)

Tadej Pogcar had every reason to be proud, but instead he was humble. Take a minute to read this transcript of his interview after the race, courtesy of NBC Sports:

Interviewer: Now you know it’s not a dream. You have won the Tour de France!

Pogacar: Yeah, I don’t know what to say—I’m really proud of the team. They gave such a big effort, just a dream, we achieved it, and it’s just amazing.

Interviewer: But Tadej, it was you! You were on the bike, and you were amazing! Did you have the time gap? Could you believe it?

Pogacar: No, it was not just me, it was all the team, because I knew every corner, I knew every pothole on the road, I knew where to accelerate, because it was the road that you need to know, and it was all the team—congrats to all my team, especially to my radio operators and my mechanics. Today, I just pushed finally in the end, and yeah, I made it.

Interviewer: You had 57 seconds of a deficit on Primoz. Did you believe it? You clearly believed you could beat him, no?

Pogacar: No, I was listening to my radio just on the flat parts but then on the climb I didn’t hear any from the radio because the fans were so loud, so I didn’t hear anything—no time gaps, nothing. I just went deep. I knew the climb very well, so I just went full gas from the bottom to the top.

Interviewer: Is this a childhood dream?

Pogacar: Actually, my dream was just to be in the Tour de France. And now the dream is—[pause] I’m here and I won, this is unbelievable.

It was unbelievable for his victory, and inspiring for his humble spirit. In this year of anger, anguish and arrogance, such people are badly needed.

(*Tadej Pogcar is pronounced TAH-day Poe-GOTCHA)

Three strategies for victory, learned from Roman history

Roman-Soldier

Copyright by Bob Rogers, Th.D.

The Romans were a powerful people for over a thousand years. However, it was a slow process for Rome to become a powerful nation. They won a 70-year off and on battle against the walled Etruscan city of Veii, only ten miles to the north, finally capturing it in 396 B.C. Here are three lessons for battle that they learned, that would make them a victorious military power for centuries. Many of these lessons are useful today:

Lesson 1: Learn from defeat.

The Gallic Sack of Rome about 387 B.C. shocked them, when wild warriors from Gaul swept down from the Po Valley, burned and looted the city. After paying the Gallic army to leave, they copied the walls of Veii, and built a wall around Rome.

They fought three wars with the Samnites, who inhabited the Apennines Mountains in central Italy, and lost major battles to them because the phalanx didn’t work well in the mountains, but they learned how to fight different ways in the mountains.

What defeats have you suffered in life? How can you learn from them?

Lesson 2: Divide and conquer.

Although strategically located, the Romans were not the largest or most powerful people in Italy in their early years. But Romans were well organized and united, able to slowly “divide and conquer” the rest of Italy, mainly because the other people groups were not united. For example, the Etruscan cities were totally independent of one another, so the other cities didn’t help Veii, allowing Rome to capture them. They often played one group against another, as when they made a peace treaty with Carthage and allowed them to oppose the Greeks in Sicily, then after Rome defeated the Greeks, Rome turned against Carthage.

This strategy is manipulative and unethical when done with allies and friends. However, the “divide and conquer” strategy has its usefulness with opponents and enemies. If you have multiple opponents or problems, instead of taking all of them on, which ones could you defeat first, and then move on to the next? What ways can you let them work against each other?

Lesson 3: Make your enemies your friends.

When they defeated the Latins, Rome made them their allies, eventually merging with them. They later did the same with other groups in Italy that they conquered, including Etruscans and Samnites and Gauls. As each became an ally, Rome became stronger and stronger. At last, they were strong enough to take on the Greek colonies in the south of Italy, and slowly they united all of Italy.

This strategy is much more ethical, and has many benefits. What common ground can you find with opponents, turning them into allies and friends?

(Dr. Rogers is an adjunct history professor for The Baptist College of Florida, where he has taught Roman History numerous times.)

You can get into spiritual shape

muscles

Article Copyright 2017 by Bob Rogers

Once I met a guy in the gym who had muscles of steel. I was amazed when he told me that he used to be fat, until he decided to get into shape.
First Timothy 4:7-8 says, “Train yourself in godliness, for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Many of us are spiritually fat. But just as my friend got physically fit, you can get into spiritual shape. Here’s how:

I. Put your heart into it.

Dotsie Bausch was riding a mountain bike one day when a group of competitive road cyclists flew past her. Dotsie chased them and stayed on their heels for two miles. That night, she told a friend, “This cycling thing, I’m actually pretty decent at it.” Four years later she was on the U.S. national cycling team. Her heart was all in. (Evan Miller, “Dotsie Bausch: Cycling,” Guideposts, July 2012, p. 47-49.)
Ezekiel 18:31. “Throw off all the transgressions you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.” You must put your heart into it.

II. Remove hindrances.

In football, the offense has a big obstacle. It’s called the defense.
In the spiritual life, sinful obstacles block us, too.
Hebrews 12:1: “… let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us.”
Choose to remove the hindrances to your spiritual life, especially sinful lifestyles that have been dragging you down. Do it!

III. Exercise your spirit daily.

There are two major types of exercise: cardiovascular exercise, also known as aerobic exercise, and strength training, which is usually by lifting weights. Healthy athletes have a balance of both. Likewise, you need a balance of spiritual exercises, often called the “spiritual disciplines.” These include Bible reading and prayer, but they also include meditation and memorization of scripture, service and stewardship, worship and witness. A healthy spiritual life develops from regular practice of these spiritual disciplines.
As the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:26-27: “Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

IV. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Hebrews 12:2 says, “Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith…”
In 2008, I was about 35 pounds overweight. I was breathing hard just walking to the second floor. My pants were too tight. I didn’t like how I looked. I made a decision to change, and put my heart into it. It was a lifestyle change, as I got serious about exercise, eating right, and sticking with it. Over a year, I took off the weight. Today, nine years later, I have maintained my lower weight and healthier lifestyle.
I had tried fad diets before, but I finally had success when I kept my focus on a goal and stuck with it.
In a much greater way, the same principle applies to your spiritual life.
How about you? Are you getting into spiritual shape? It’s got to start with a change of heart. Are you ready to begin the journey?