Here at EPiCCuk, we constantly exercise the practice of getting our athletes to think about ‘the bigger picture’. Success is a long term goal, whether thats winning races, or simply hitting personal best’s; athletes are encouraged to regard the process that leads to the ‘end’ goal.
“Cycling is a process, and in order to achieve a specific target, you always have to be thinking about what you need to do in order to reach that target.” – Coach Tom Baylis (ONE Pro Cycling) explains. “I will always remember one of the first lessons Mark [Dolan] taught me. He always referred to my future as a ‘three-year plan’, the main bulk of training we did was never about a major goal that year, it was always way out in the future. Any target races we had in-between were simply part of the process to get me to where I am today. I have long-term goals every-year, and each year I add to them. Although I’m no longer coached by Mark, I always refer back to my three-year plan, it’s still ongoing.”
Whether it’s cutting your daily gluten intake, or practicing bike handling skills; everything that you do in the run-up to a long-term goal has to have a positive impact on you reaching it. Ultimately, eating a slice of cake seven days a week isn’t going to ruin your chances of success; but it could potentially be replacing something healthier that could benefit your performance. It’s definitely true that the small things make a big difference.
Coping With Pressure
So what happens when the deadline arrives for you to reach a long-term goal? In terms of racing, pressure is possibly the biggest obstacle a rider will face. Pressure can come in many forms; whether it’s expectation, doubt, or fears, learning how to manage pressure is one of the key ingredients to succeeding in a long term goal.
“When competing in a race which is a long term goal I try and go into the event relaxed, knowing that I have done everything I could have possibly done to put me in the best form so I can race at my best. To do this having a structured training plan tailored to me which I trust is vital for me to go into the event with enough confidence to be calm and ready to perform at my best and to achieve my goals. Without this structure and confidence in my form, last year I wouldn’t have been able to go into the Junior Track Championships (my main goal of 2015) with the correct mindset to just focus on the job of racing well and intelligently, which ultimately led to me winning a gold and a silver medal.” – Lucy Shaw (DROPS Cycling Team)
Having confidence in your coach is a huge contributor to success. Trusting every training plan, and hitting every session with one-hundred percent commitment because of this – is vital to getting the most out of yourself. Happy athletes are always the best performing athletes. Cycling is as much mental as physical, and knowing that when the chips are down that you have prepared yourself as best you can for your goal, you can’t ask any more from yourself, and thus you should be able to manage the pressure better.
Sometimes forgotten, this skill is often regarded as the most important trait to reaching a long-term goal. In cycling, as in any other professional sport, you have to be prepared to lose. Failure is always part of the pathway to success, and managing that failure, shows an athletes true capability to succeed. The world championships aren’t won tomorrow, and getting riders to understand this mentality is vital.
As long as riders can come away from failure having learnt lessons never to be repeated, ultimately, it’s been a success. Even the riders with the brightest futures must learn to lose, as Louie Priddle (under 16 rider) explains:
“I don’t look back at it and dwell over it, I look at it as almost going and learning a lesson. In my mind, when I come over the line in an bad position I say to myself, ‘that was a good effort but next time you can push that little bit harder.’ and that also apply’s to when I train. I never look back and get angry with myself though, as I think that is a lot worse for you than the loosing itself.”
One of the main things for our riders to keep in mind, is that goals change. Whether it’s forced by illness and misfortune, or a change in direction; it’s ok to take a step back and review where you want to take your focus. A long-term goal should always been obtainable, no matter how ambitious. Usually, the bigger the goal set, the more ‘little things’ you must improve on in order to get there.
Above all else, success is never a quick fix. Just because we hear about World Tour riders being ‘wildcards’ and winning races unexpectedly, for them, the success is the end result of many years of hard graft.