We are often tricked into thinking our result depends on one factor such as training, nonetheless there are a number of factors that determine your result. One of the tricks to continuous improvement analyzing every race or event in many different dimensions and seeing where you can improve. Then you can set out a plan to attack these points and next time you will go better.
The training you do (or lack there of) in the six months prior to an event is of utmost importance. One of the biggest indicators I use to see if a rider had prepared well for an event is their recovery afterwards. Could they have done Taupo again the next day? Or were they smashed for a month? This is the difference between enough, and not enough preparation. Did they achieve their goal? Was their training accurate enough compared to the event they were training for, and their goal? All of these questions are vital for improving your performance in your next event. Many of us can get caught up thinking this is the most important facet, alas we also know that how you ride an event can have great bearing on your result, or your strategy, and technique.
2. Strategy and Technique
Unfortunately cycling is one of those sports where the strongest rider does not always win. A smart rider can out last a stronger rider simply by having good technique, and good event/race strategy. When we talk about good strategy, we mean drafting well, positioning smartly in the bunch, and not using up excess energy chasing down dummy attacks or sitting on the front of the bunch for the whole race. Learning to ride the cross winds to your advantage, or how you place yourself in the bunch on the hills. A lot of energy can be lost through bad strategy!
When we talk of technique, we are talking about the way you ride your bike, as opposed to the resulting actions of your strategic decisions. Good technique is broken down to posture on your bike, your upper body movement, or is it doing too much work? Are you pedalling efficiently? Good technique will greatly affect your fatigue levels day to day in training, and hour to hour in an event. The effectiveness of your technique, training, and sharpness of your strategic decision making can be influenced by your life in the days beforehand, or in the minutes just prior to the race.
3. Prior contributors
Perfect training and technique can be completely neutralized with poor nutrition, no warm up or a stressful week going into an event or race. When you think of your potential on any given day your ability to ride is the sum of the days prior to it. An accumulation on a balance sheet where stress takes energy or potential away, and rest and happiness are positive contributors to success on the bike. One of the most important lessons I have learnt as a coach is that a happy rider is a performing rider no matter their level.
It is a fact that we have limited reserves to store fuel that helps us turn the pedals. Are you eating enough in training, or in an event/race to optimize your performance?
Warming up is essential to get your metabolism going at a sufficient level to handle the event pace. We often get caught out from warming up at an easy pace then having to go at maximum at the start when our bodies are not ready for it. Our bodies work in a way where it takes time to run efficiently, and if we gradually work up through harder intensities with short easy breaks in between we will be better able to handle hard efforts at the start of a race. If you don't warm up in this way you will not be able to sustain hard efforts for long and in a race or event the only let up is when you get dropped off the back!
Effective warm up not only affects your engines ability to work properly but also your confidence going into a race.
- Emotional "stuff"
Whether we like it or not it is impossible to avoid having emotions about our riding. In our brain we have finely connected systems that link our emotional centre to our pain centre. This means every time we turn the pedals and it hurts or even when it doesn't hurt we have an opinion about it, about ourselves and our ability compared to others. So even if the previous three dimensions above are perfectly tailored then our performance can be demolished if we think we suck! That is how powerful our emotions are, highlighting the need to have awareness of what you are thinking in events, and even in training. Do you think you will drop off before you are even on the hill? In difficult situations figure out what you are thinking, is it always the same? Is it positive and helpful for your performance, or is it detrimental? These thoughts are an enormous key to your progression.
Remember every result is a combination of the above so take a holistic view of your results. Each time you do an event or race identify your strengths and look to what you can improve in the four dimensions above. Then identify the path to improving those facets and then each successive event you will fine tune your performance and get closer to riding at your full potential.
Amy Taylor is an Auckland based Exercise Physiologist and Cycling Coach. The founder of Kinetic Edge Cycling Coaching, she is Cycling New Zealand's Personal Coach and Overall Coach of the Year for Cycling. Amy coaches beginner through to elite cyclists, including several World Champions, and can be contacted on 09 368 7819 or firstname.lastname@example.org