Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Living and riding in the Pacific Northwest wet winter weather, my family sets up trainers in the sun room to start indoor spin season. I catch up on watching race coverage while turning the cranks. While watching professional road races, I noticed these things…

Eat

Pros begin eating early in races. I watched women’s races where the riders were digging into their pockets before 10 km into a 140 km road race. Less than 20 minutes in, they are already working on keeping their fuel up. Eat to fuel your performance like the pros. if you are unsure about about what, how much and when to eat, be sure to consult with a coach.

Drink

Drinking is constant, with domestiques dropping to the back of the pack when the pace slows and the road is wide enough, calling up the team cars for replenishment, then working their way back in to distribute to the team. Even team leader Peter Sagan has been filmed taking his turn supporting teammates with bottle exchanges. Make sure you drink enough fluids to keep hydrated like the pros.

And Be Merry!

Be happy, have fun on your bike. Fun on the bike is an essential part of racing as a pro.

One race I especially enjoyed watching was the 2019 Australian National Championship, Elite Women. It was won by 18 year-old Sarah Gigante. There were commentator questions about whether she would be given the title or just that of the under-23 age group. She won both. She was up against Olympian and multi world champion medalist Amanda Spratt, Commonwealth Games Champion Chloe Hosking, and idols Sarah Roy, Shara Gillow, and Lucy Kennedy. They remarked about how experienced she was, having won the Junior National title the year before. But that race was half the distance and she wasn’t racing against seasoned pros. The truly amazing thing was her post race interview, where she said “This is more than a dream. I wouldn’t even dream this big.”

Say what??? Doesn’t that go against all sport psychology training? Wasn’t she supposed to have visualized the course and winning? Didn’t she prepare for this day? Without being able to question her further, we could surmise that:

  • Yes, she had to have been physically prepared for that distance, terrain, and pace.
  • She was racing in the moment, saw the opportunity to capitalize on a gap created in a corner she lead through, and took it.

Sarah had the confidence to keep pedalling hard with 15 km to go. She said it was fun! As the race analysts agreed that, yes, winning is fun. Perhaps in being young, having low expectations and not worrying about the outcome, Sarah Gigante was just plain having fun. She recognized an opening and gave it a go. What if we let go of outcome based thinking, and just played bikes? For some, this light-hearted approach could free them to respond more spontaneously to race action. Without worrying about energy levels (and because we already did the Eat and Drink parts) or about blowing up, we could freely commit to the effort at hand.

Here is another example: Annamiek Van Vleuten’s 105 km solo breakaway World Championship Road Race win. How many teams would plan a rider attack 55 km into a 160 km road race? Solo. 

Again, van Vleuten saw an opportunity and took it. She is quoted as saying “I really enjoyed doing a crazy thing today.” She was also:

  • Physically prepared for the distance, terrain, and pace.
  • Raced “in the moment” and took an opportunity regardless that there were over 100 km left in the race.

Both riders clearly LOVE racing their bikes. Love is the most powerful emotion. Applying it to cycling opens up opportunities and energy.

Perhaps then, this is the winning formula. So, Eat, Drink, and be Merry! all year long. 

Wishing you the Best of the Season.

Associate Coach Peg Maass Labiuk has been advising international champions for over 20 years, and still loves riding her bike. She is the author of Sports Psychology for Cyclists, a guide for cyclists and other endurance athletes to up their mental game. Learn more about working with Peg >>>>>

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