By Sal Ruibal
Watching the 17th stage of the Tour de France on Thursday made me think about the difference between sport and play. To me, sport is about clearly defined results based on a set of rules with the "winner" being the person who most closely achieved the designated optimum result: higher, faster, stronger.
There were not a lot of people having fun riding their bikes on those steep narrow roads in the Pyrenees, but there were some moments of happy relief when Team Sky's 1-2 duo of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome realized that – barring something horrible – Wiggins would be on the top of the podium in Paris on Sunday and Froome most-likely would be standing next to him.
But relief is not the point of play. Relief is not happiness. Relief is scratching the itch. In a few days, the Olympic itch will start up again, seeking golden relief.
I love to ride my mountain bike. It gets me to some truly wonderful places in the world where I can share my love of riding with my friends on flowing trails in beautiful mountain meadows or even Enduro-crashing down a dry ski slope with a hundred of our closest new buddies. That's play.
For pro Enduro racers, I'm sure the feeling is more like work, with the fun parts now in the service of making money. When you play, failure is something to be laughed at and with. If your truck payment depends on first place, winning is just itch-relief.
I really enjoyed watching the Les Deux Alpes Enduro that was posted on the BIKE website this week. Crazy, dangerous fun on bikes, lots of different skill sets bouncing off each other, laughing and yelling.
I'm sure money was involved and there were some sponsors to impress but the major vibe was happiness. If I were a sponsor, I'd want the public to think of my product as a huge honking happiness generator.
I hope that all of the London Olympics bike athletes have fun in their sports competitions and that my mountain bike and BMX brothers and sisters have tremendous competitions and achieve their goals. Show all those billions of TV viewers that riding and racing a bike is fun.
But most of all, play your asses off in the biggest playground in the world. Be a happiness generator. Go for the giggles.