Become A Competitor: Part II
We received so much positive response to the article “Racing to Win: Becoming a Competitor”, that we’re keeping the drive alive in Part II by looking at more benefits from addressing the mental aspects of the sport. Elite pros Mike Sayers, Chris Horner, and Trent Klasna provide great examples of successful aggressive racers, and some strategies to help you and your team become more aggressive – and win.
Let’s start by trying these strategies on for size:
1. Aggressiveness produces confidence – Be aggressive in races and you will want to come back for more. You will immediately start looking forward to the next race!
2. Aggressiveness makes you more fit. Sometimes we forget the obvious fact that bike races are also workouts and need to be considered as one aspect of a complete training program. Bike racing, however, is different from other sports in that it takes race intensity to race well. Being aggressive in races will pay off in the long run.
If the phrase “Aggressive bike racer” was in the dictionary, there’s no doubt you would see the name Mike Sayers (former Mercury, currently Health Net). Look under “tenacious” and I am sure that Mike would be listed there too. There is a good reason why Chris Horner mentioned in his interview with PezCycling News that he would want Mike on his team. Mike is an exemplary bike racer because he just lays it down and doesn’t leave anything on the road. He will not accept anything short of 100% effort, all the time. His mind is solely focused on what it takes for him and his team to be successful.
Another rider who loves competition and whose attitude is completely geared towards race success, is Trent Klasna (Saturn). Trent approaches competition and his focus on winning is something that is very serious, but fun to him. He has a great and positive attitude; you can literally feel the energy he directs towards focusing his mind on winning and figuring out what it takes to win during the course of a race. Trent typifies what was mentioned previously that winning breeds winners. You can’t help but be motivated by being around him.
If you were to talk with Mike or Trent, here are a few strategies you’d learn:
• Practice being aggressive in training. Cycling is one of those sports where athletes don’t “drill” enough. While you must engage in racing to race well in cycling, we can take a lesson from a sport like golf, where hours are spent on different parts of the game off the course. For example, at my AthletiCamps training camps we demonstrate workouts that are extremely difficult to learn on your own. The reason is to allow the athletes to get familiar with “suffering” in practice, so suffering in races is actually familiar and becomes tolerable.
• During a race, attack when it’s hard. Let’s face it, when you feel it’s easy because you feel good, so do most of the other riders. When you’re suffering – you think those other guys aren’t suffering too? Attacking when it hurts increases the chances that it may stick or because it forces a reaction that is positive for your team.
• After the race get together to talk about what happened during the race. A lot of teams get together before a race and talk about what they think they should do. Although I think it is important to have a pre-race plan, debriefing after the race can be even more important. This is where you can reinforce what was done positively and review what needs to be improved. These great discussions can then carry over to the next race and as a team you learn to “just do it”. Transferring the discussions to actual race improvement takes a long time. How many times have you gotten together and said the same things: “We want to attack all the time”, “We want a rider in every break”. Well, those things are obvious, as every team is saying the same thing. It’s how you handle those situations as a team that makes the difference between winning and losing. Discussing them after the race will lead to improvement when a similar situation arises next time.
Again, as I mentioned before, this is process that takes time, patience and a great deal of effort. Make it just as important a priority as you do the physical side of the sport. Talk to winners, discuss tactics, bring it out in the open, and over time, the races you enter will be more successful – and dare I say – more fun!
Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com.