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The first crit of the season – Epic Gran Canaria

As I mentioned in my recent post, my trip to sunny Gran Canaria was a pretty last minute surprise. I hadn’t been expecting to kick off the road-racing season untill at least March and even then just with a local circuit race; getting stuck into an international criterium in February had not been the plan at all.

Working with Epic Coaching this winter, as you’d expect we’ve been slowly building towards peak fitness, refining and adjusting workouts as we move towards the spring and my favourite time of all – fixed gear crit season, which traditionally kicks off with Red Hook Crit Brooklyn at the end of April. So I prefaced my reply to Epic Gran Canaria’s invite with ‘this race is early season for me so I’m just coming for fun,’ just to cover my back in case I totally sucked!

 

 

I didn’t really know what to expect, this being the inaugural event and all, but I’d been told I’d be racing some strong women at both the nighttime criterium and the Gran Fondo the following day. As I tend to favour short races I hoped that I could do well enough in the criterium to satisfy my pride and competitive nature figuring I’d finish further down the field in the 130km Gran Fondo as I just don’t as frequently ride those kind of events. Despite telling the organisers that I was racing for kicks rather than results, realistically I wanted to do well, because hey, I’m a bike racer!

 

 

Having spent the previous day trying to find a replacement bike for the one I couldn’t use (due to a broken gear shifter) and that very morning in the Emergency Room trying to get Dave some help with his shoulder/spinal problem I arrived at the race just grateful to even be there – it had been touch and go whether I’d even make it as I’d thought we might have to fly Dave home. I didn’t even know what bike I’d be riding, just that Free Motion would lend me one for the race but stressing about that kind of thing seemed pretty pointless – if you spend any amount of time helping someone experiencing chronic pain all your little worries pale in significance.

 

 

As it happened, riding a different bike made barely any difference – sure, the geometry was different and it weighed a bit more but when it came to the race, I could have been on anything – I got caught sleeping as I slid back into the line after a pull on the front and the Canarian Road Race champion sprinted away without me even noticing for the first few seconds. After that, I decided to race for second – it seemed like the smart move at the time for the reasons I list in the video but I’m kind of kicking myself for it now as in the cold light of day it seems defeatist.

Since the race, I’ve been thinking hard about my attitude in races and realised that my mind game is something I need to focus on more this season. I spend a lot of time training my body to perform well but in the heat of the race, when my brain is working overtime I feel like sometimes I make the wrong choice, taking the easy option and deciding that I’m happy to be somewhere on the podium rather than finishing first.

When I think of the woman that I most admire, they are tenacious to the max and never, ever settle or give up (I’m thinking here of Ash Duban who bridged a huge gap all the way over to Ainara Elbusto at Red Hook Crit Barcelona last year, eventually overtaking her and winning the race) and I feel that sometimes I need to ask more of myself or raise my goals and expectations. I guess I ride like that because I’m protecting myself from potential disappointment but now that I’ve noticed it, it’s got to stop!

If you’d like to see what happened on crit day check out the video below. Unfortunately it doesn’t show the moment when the eventual winner broke away from us whilst I was not paying attention (told you I need to work on my mind-game!) because it was very dark and all my GoPro footage was unusable. But you’ll get the gist of the day!

 

 

Have you ever decided to focus on developing your inner strength as an athlete as opposed to just working on your body? If you’ve got any tips for me leave them in the comments below, I love hearing from you guys.

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Comments (2)
  1. Oli March 3, 2018 at 11:12 pm

    I think training the inner strength should be part of any athlete’s training program. It makes a huge difference on how fast you can recover from defeat, and how you handle the little things that don’t go quite as planned during a race! (let’s face it, it never goes exactly as plan does it..?)
    A sports psychologist would be the best way to get really good in a reasonable amount of time but it’s not a requirement. There are a lot of tips and trick on the internet to get you started! In the best case scenario, you would practice as you race. Meaning practicing taking your place in a pack, simulation the little things that can go wrong, and learning to adapt on the fly; never giving up.
    There is a bit of a difference in the state of mind between wanting to perform well, and wanting to win. That state of mind can affect your day to day approach to training and racing. But if you keep reflecting on your strengths/weakness, you keep setting goals, and you accept that sh**t can go wrong, what is there to stop you..?

  2. Richard March 7, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    Hi Juliet. Some further interesting musings from you.

    When I was racing a lot in the ’90s (in your part of the world – SW England) and got to First Cat I read a sports psychology book. I can’t tell you the title or author as someone ‘borrowed’ it and I haven’t seen it for 20 years, but I retained the important information and I reckon you could use a mantra!

    Don’t use negative words or images even to express a positive outcome, so for example, “I won’t let myself down” is no good. Equally, don’t express definitive results, so “I’m going to win” is just as bad (probably worse, in fact).

    Applying my own words to examples in the book I came up with two – the first is solely for on the bike and the second can be used on the bike or when travelling to an event or whilst warming up, for example. I think mantras work in two ways, firstly to potentially make yourself believe the statement is true (so it’s important that the statement actually is true, otherwise you won’t get very far) and secondly as a means of distracting your mind from your maxed-out heart rate and the pain in your legs. So these were mine:

    1) I like this race, my body is light and strong.
    2) I have the ability and I’m going to use it.

    How much this contributes or not, I simply don’t know, but it’s an intriguing concept. I have to say, based on my experience, that it’s best to keep it just for racing (unlike new equipment or nutrition). I did try it out on training rides and I do still remember that the first time I did was one of those days when the bike was floating – coincidence, who knows? But with hindsight, wouldn’t it have been better to have saved that for a race?

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