rather be lucky than suffer to win, but unfortunately you mostly have to suffer to win-- mentally and physically.
racing at any level is highly competitive and never easy. What makes one racer succeed over
another is not always talent, fitness or long training days with specific
coaching or training plans. That’s
not to say a training plan or a coach’s guidance doesn’t prepare a bike racer
for the rigors of racing and eventual success. Of course it does and many a racer has proved it. But when a
bike racer approaches the line of a mass race start, with up a 100 racers or
more, the mental strength, the heart and determination to win can make all the
difference in a race’s outcome.
2011 race year, for myself and many other Studio Velo racers in cross, road,
mountain & triathlon, is highlighted by many examples of these moments of
personal greatness and victory.
Many of you may recall my article from 2010, titled “The Legs to Race,
The Passion to Win” in which I described my personal achievements on the race
course fueled by the passion and enthusiasm for the sport and the support of
all of clients. In 2011, I not
only experienced more of these mystical moments on the bike, but witnessed
several other Studio Velo racers do the same.
I line up to the start line, surrounded by dozens of fit, leg-shaven
competitors, my very first feeling is inevitably fear and doubt; rarely do I
exude tremendous confidence or optimism about the potential outcome. You literally feel like the numbers are
against you. There are 100 competitors who are racing the same race and you
tell yourself, “What are the chances of winning today.” Yet, on rare occasions,
moments before the gun sounds, a certain confidence or vision of victory
overcomes me. I begin to tell myself, “ I can win; I can do this,” and I
realize that ever rider, all abilities relatively equal, has a shot at winning.
That confidence that so lightly graced your body now transforms into pure drive
and determination, fueling an absolute desire to win, to suffer more than
anyone else, to stand above the rest of the field in the final moments of the
mental advantage is what it takes to win. It’s what separates first from
second, second from third, and third from fourth at the end
of the race. It’s why the first place racer explodes on the last lap or wins
the finishing sprint with no teammates to lead him out. It’s how a racer
distinguishes his entire racing career when he crosses the finishing line in
first – perhaps for the first time—by using his mental fortitude to give it his
past October, I not only experienced this moment of emotional transformation,
from doubt to confidence, to win a hard-fought battled in the Masters ‘A’
cyclocross race at Stafford Lake; I also witnessed another well-deserved Studio
Velo racer, Eamonn Tucker, win his first ever bike race. I will never forget
the look in his eyes as I yelled to him, “it’s your day Eamonn,” and he
exploded off the start line with that perfect combination of heart and
determination to take the race all the way to the line. And that he did. Without grace or
style, Eamonn literally outran the second-place finisher in the final meters of
the race. Eamonn fell to the ground in exhaustion and a bit of disbelief.
Unknown to his competitors around him
at the start line, Eamonn was literally preparing himself mentally for the
greatest finish of his racing career to date. One could see it in his eyes.
that is precisely the difference between winning and losing on race day. It’s a
racer’s ability to turn fear into desire, doubt into confidence, and fiction
into reality – sometimes all in the seconds or moments before the whistle
all of you racers out there, on and off the race circuit, from group ride
challenges to virtual challenges, take a leap of faith. Tell yourself you can
win and you will. It won’t be easy. It won’t come without work, but it will
come. And when it does, relish in the moment. Because as many of you know,
crossing the finish line in first is unlike any feeling in the world—at least
it is for me.