This past Monday, I worked with the Rio Strada Women's cycling team providing race tactics session for the upcoming Victory Velo circuit race at Sierra de Montserrat. (What an exciting, Euro-style course, lots of opportunities to for tactical racing, not too mention a series of short taxing power climbs for the added-attrition factor.)
Tactics make cycling exhilarating. As cyclists we definitely need a deep base of fitness - and racing provides the fine tuning to training fitness. Once we have attained that polish we are ready to be players in the game - let the fun begin.
When I began racing, I did not have a team and raced as an individual. During this time, I raced on intuition - when that small voice said go - and I went - it was magical and results followed. When I hesitated and did not act - I regretted it.
When I joined professional teams - Saturn, Timex, Autotrader and the US National team - the plan was much more contrived - and it was hard to reconcile the individual intuition in a split second to insure it was in line with the team plan. Race radios made riders even more minion-like puppets, with strings pulled by team directors remotely located in caravans - paralyzing that creative intuitive tactical racing.
When I was out this past week with the Rio Strada women - the technical course and limitless tactical possibilities - evoked the thrill of racing - going with that intuition with no regard to doubt, question or hesitation. For sure, we want to be very clever in our tactics - and make every move count, not to make a move for the sake of a move. But we also want to see races as opportunities and not accept that self-imposed performance pressure - lets face it in most cases we are not getting paid to race our bikes.
In my opinion, the first step in successful bike racing is to learn and train to stay at the front, consistently through a race - this is where opportunities are made. Not too mention - once riders become efficient at maintaining position - it provides energy savings and is safe. Did I mention it was safe!
I also advise my riders to settle in - let attrition take its toll - and then unleash the intuitive tactics. I encourage them to try, try and try again. Every time we try - we learn and gain fitness. Nothing ventured nothing gained. And no pressure of loosing a multi-million dollar contract, right?
Another key element to racing is visualization and determination and persistence to make it happen. This mental aspect is supported by our ability to control thoughts versus feeling subjected to them. Then all we need for that break-out performance is a leap of faith, to shut out what the body is telling us and act purely on intuition. Performance and results follow, igniting confidence and momentum.