This is the time of year when we should be reveling in the spring classics. Nothing beats these races for pure spectacle, with its 'there's no tomorrow' ethos of all-out racing. One of the best examples of great racing tactics and sport psych was Luca Paolini's masterclass at Gent-Wevelgem in 2015.
While it is true that fitness is fitness, the best path to success in racing is to match your training and fitness to the requirements of the event. Let’s take a look at some of the gravel races I’ve done in 2018 to see what’s specific about gravel competitions.
In the movie “Breaking Away,” there is a scene in which the hero competes in a bike race where we realize that nobody in the race has a clue about tactics. Peter Cossins' excellent book, “How the Race Was Won: Cycling's Top Minds Reveal the Road to Victory,” presents the story of tactics from a historical standpoint and also through interviews with those involved in the sport.
Toolbox: Self-talk has been used very successfully by both scientists and athletes to improve their performance. However, does it matter HOW you talk to yourself? Is it better to keep your talk in the first person tense or distance yourself to the second person tense?
Toolbox: A breakaway in a cycling race is a hotbed of intrigue, with ‘friends’ working together for the common good while also plotting their betrayal of the group as a whole. What are the factors that actually enhance the odds that the early breakaway takes it all the way to the line?
Toolbox: Ask a coach about “winning” and he might cite threshold power, great tactical acumen, or the importance of a strong team; each an important element without question, but what else goes into the equation? In the end it often comes down to mental focus and the ability to sort out the irrelevant.