Notes from the Grup­petto

Tak­ing a close look at what holds you back and what keeps you going

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Bart En­gal

Why race, re­ally?

Ijust fin­ished Phil Gai­mon’s lat­est book, Draftan­i­mals: Liv­ing the pro cy­cling dream( once in awhile ). Gai­mon rose from col­le­giate am­a­teur to U.S. do­mes­tic pro to Worldtour racer for Garmin-sharp. The book chron­i­cles his first year with Garmin, his rel­e­ga­tion to a do­mes­tic team, and his re­turn to Garmin, which lasted only a year. From the out­side, it seemed Gai­mon had it all – rid­ing for a top in­ter­na­tional squad, com­pet­ing at the high­est level of the sport and be­ing paid to ride his bike. Yet he be­came de­pressed, dis­il­lu­sioned and frus­trated with rac­ing his bike for a liv­ing. When Garmin de­clined to re­new his con­tract, he gave up rac­ing for other pur­suits.

As Gai­mon learned, it takes men­tal mo­ti­va­tion and com­mit­ment to race. Even as am­a­teurs, we spend many hours train­ing and es­chew so­cial and fam­ily time, all for the priv­i­lege of rid­ing in a cir­cle with a bunch of other shaven-legged peo­ple. Be­fore races, we face stress. Dur­ing, we face pres­sure and must take risks to win or com­pete. Af­ter, we ques­tion our per­for­mance. Could we have gone deeper? Should we have at­tacked? Did we play it too safe? And why in God’s name are we do­ing this, when we could be on a nice group ride with a cof­fee stop?

I have come to see that my per­for­mance in races has been gov­erned by too much of a con­ser­va­tive mind­set. In a few years, I’ve gone from be­ing a rider who could barely fin­ish races to one who can con­tend. Dur­ing that time, I’ve re­al­ized, I wasn’t be­liev­ing in my abil­ity to go for it and win. The re­sult was a lack of ag­gres­sion and risk tak­ing, and con­se­quently sub­par re­sults, es­pe­cially in the 2017 season.

Be­cause I’ll be in the Worldtour next season – OK, that’s not ac­cu­rate, al­though I have been up­graded to On­tario’s sec­ond tier of masters rac­ing – and be­cause I love the process of im­prov­ing at rac­ing, I have en­gaged Ted Huang, a per­for­mance coach, to help me over­come my men­tal blocks. Af­ter going to the Olympics for wind­surf­ing, Huang has worked with Cana­dian Olympians and helps ath­letes with han­dling dis­trac­tions, anx­i­ety and mo­ti­va­tion.

While we’ve just be­gun work­ing to­gether, he has al­ready chal­lenged me to think about what drives me to com­pete and what holds me back. What ex­actly am I af­ter? What will I de­fine as suc­cess (not just re­sults)? How do I mea­sure my per­for­mance on its own and how do I com­pare it with oth­ers? These ques­tions have al­ready got me think­ing about my mo­ti­va­tions. Huang tells me we’ll be in­cor­po­rat­ing breath­ing and almost med­i­ta­tion into the work we do. He likens it to build­ing a house that will be able to with­stand the storms that a season of rac­ing brings.

You don’t need to hire Ted Huang to pur­sue a lit­tle in­tro­spec­tion. If you race, how­ever, maybe it’s worth tak­ing the time this off-season to ask your­self why you do it. What drives you? What will suc­cess be? In cy­cling, the wins are few and far be­tween and the season is long. I hope with this process that I’ll get more in­sight into how I can achieve my goals in the years ahead. Oh, and raise my arms at the fin­ish line.

Now, I need to go med­i­tate on my post-race cel­e­bra­tion.

“He likens it to build­ing a house that will be able to with­stand the storms a season of rac­ing brings.”

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