No matter what type of sporting discipline you participate in, it is always important to review your season once you have stopped racing.
For those of you who read my beginners’ guide to racing earlier this year, you may remember that I talked about the importance of having goals to aim for during the season (and also beyond), in order to achieve what you want to achieve – it is incredibly difficult to feel satisfied and contented if you don’t know what you want out of the season.
So for those of you who set goals this season, whether those were distance related, time related, or just getting on your bike more, it is important to revisit the aims that you set yourself at the beginning of the season and to compare them to what you did actually achieve.
Original Goals – Realistic or Unattainable?
At the start of the season, you would have had an idea, whether you wrote it down or not, as to what you wanted to achieve. Nobody can tell what the future holds and nobody can tell you that you can’t achieve what you want to achieve, as everybody has to have a dream, but it is important to be true to yourself. This means that you have to be honest with yourself too. For example, there is nothing wrong with wanting to win a Premier Calendar or a National Series event this season, but if you only started racing this season and were a fourth category rider at the start of the season, the likelihood is that you will struggle to get a ride in a National Series event, and if you are a male fourth category rider, then you can’t even enter a Premier Calendar. Don’t get me wrong, being honest with yourself is not easy – everybody wants to feel that they are better than they are, it’s only natural, but you have to have a reality check at some point, if only for your own sanity. Otherwise you will spend your spare time dwelling on the fact that you have failed in your mission, wondering where you went wrong and basically mentally beating yourself up.
If you achieved your targets, congratulations! And, if so, the next port of call for you is to ask yourself how you can build on what you have achieved this season, and whether you feel that you pushed yourself in achieving those goals, so that you set some more SMART goals for next season.
Missing Targets Is Not The End of the World
Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes you get ill. For the majority of people (and that will include most readers of this article), cycling (or any sport in actual fact) is a hobby that you do in your spare time. It is important that you remember that fact. Cycling is fun, a way of keeping healthy and fit and making friends. Even if you are competing, you still should always remember that you are doing it because you enjoy it, not because your life depends on it. And if you feel that it is the latter, and your whole sense of being in life is dependent on the results you get, then you need to have a word with yourself, my friend, because getting depressed about what you haven’t achieved is not healthy. And if your “team mates” are not supportive enough, you do not have to stay with that team or club. Your mental well-being is paramount – without that basis you cannot prepare yourself mentally for the challenges that life throws at you.
Evaluating the Season
If you haven’t achieved what you thought were reasonable goals, ask yourself why that might be. Maybe you have had a stressful time at work, or a member of your family has been ill, or you just haven’t had the spare time to dedicate to training. Some things are out of our control and as an adult you just have to accept that fact and move on. Instead, look at what you have achieved this season in spite of all the other issues you have had to deal with and take those achievements as a positive. Don’t beat yourself up about not getting the results that you thought you were capable of, but use them as a stepping stone for what you want to achieve next season. Don’t underestimate the British weather either – if you wanted to go under the hour on a 25 mile time trial but every single time you rode an event it was horrendously windy, that is something out of your control, so just deal with it and move on.
If you have missed some of your targets this season, do yourself a favour and list the goals that you wanted to achieve at the beginning of the season in one column, then in a second column list how you did in reality – you will probably find that you were not too far wide of the target, and if there were things that appear to be out of reach, think about why that might be and how you might be able to change things to achieve those goals next season. If you use a training diary, or an on-line tool such as Garmin Connect or Strava, have a look back at all of that data you will have created and try and evaluate it to see whether you might have done too much leading up to the event where you didn’t hit the target, or you might have not done enough.
In the grand scheme of things, life is incredibly short. This isn’t a dress rehearsal and you have to take the best out of the challenges that life throws at you. Be honest with yourself, think about what you could have done to make things better and then you can start thinking about what you might want to achieve next season!
So until next time, enjoy riding and keep safe!
I thought I’d bring you a little training video, here are some core exercises for cyclists.
Beth does a great demo of the Performance Cycle Coaching core workout while I crack the whip – this circuit is repeated after 2-5mins rest.
Last year, Huw Williams initiated a number of race training sessions for women at Cyclopark in the South, with a view to providing specific training for women who were either complete novices or were third or fourth category riders. They proved extremely popular and many women wanted to attend a similar set up in other places around the country.
For women riders who are able to get to the Tameside circuit in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, Frances Newstead, a level 3 British Cycling Road and Time Trial coach has worked with Huw to deliver a number of similar sessions up North on 18 & 25 August 2013 followed by a race (restricted to 3rd & 4th category women riders) on 8 September 2013. Places will be limited, so if you are new to racing or are maybe thinking of racing for the first time next year, get involved with Frances’ session. She will be covering a variety of skills and topics, including what type of training to do over winter. Further details can be found in the flyer below:
The Unexpected Randonneur
I quite often like to jump on my bike after work and pootle about town. Working in a bike shop, there’s not much time to actually ride the damn things. So on a nice day I’ll take my road bike into work, make sure she’s good to go and head straight out after locking up the shop. Head east, maybe do a few laps of Regent’s Park, an unspecified number of ascents up Swain’s Lane (aka the Alp d’Highgate), a ride south into Soho for a coffee and cake.
It’s the times when I think to myself that ‘I should head north’ that the world becomes more interesting and infinity more painful.
Cycling is an odd hobby. Some rides will be utterly unmemorable, others will burn themselves into ones neurons for life. The sights, the smells! See the magnificent Ikea, the glorious Tottenham substation, the enormous Matalan at Brimsdown! Experience the heady aromas of Hackney municipal dump!
Sometimes, this is all I see: London in all its disgusting, but very beautifully human, glory.
But there are times, the odd time, when a small alley or lane catches ones eye and I am pulled towards it, intrigued by the promise of the unknown. Without warning, I find myself tumbling down the rabbit hole and being sucked into the magnificent world of *le rouleur*.
I took one such turn earlier, and as the busy main road fell away, the landscape melted almost instantly into the kind of scene that would make Nigel Farage shed a single tear and salute a pint of warm bitter.
The willows formed an arch across the road, a single track that wound it’s way west from Enfield. The few houses are collecting moss and fallen twigs on their roofs. the owner carrying in firewood for the evening.
I push on, finding my legs in this novel summer evening sun. Short hedges enclose the road, half concealing the miles of rolling fields on either side. A line of electricity pylons snakes across the landscape, disappearing far into the distance on my right.
That such sights can be found within the m25 astounds me, it leads me to explore and discover more and more. It draws me in, pushes me to ride further and further.
Before I know it, it’s 9pm, the sun is setting and, most disturbingly, my ipod is showing signs that it’s not been charged in a while. My front light cuts a path in the badly potholed near-dirt tracks, the rising full moon, almost orange in the sky, casts a warm glow over the rollings fields either side of the road.
The thrill of discovery is beginning to be offset by a cold wind.
I roll into Potters Bar with numb fingers. I should eat something, I’ve not had anything since lunch. A BLT and a packet of fruit pastilles from the Co-Op, and a lucozade to refill my energy bottle – having consulted the gps, I’m ready to go again.
Now this is a race. The cold is setting in, I’m in short bibs and short sleeve jersey. My feet are numbing from the wind. I need to move fast, to build heat and to get home before the worst of the night takes hold. Cadence must be high, speed must be high, effort must be high. I smack up a few gears and start working my quads. Knees out, sweeping through arcing turns, illuminated by the light of the moon my legs pump in time with the symphony in my ears (Elgar’s Planets, for the interested). A fork in the road. Stop, check Google maps. Go.
Cut through little hamlets, houses solitary with wood fires burning, visible through the front windows as I power past, a red and white streak in the night.
It’s hard to explain why or when I started to panic. I knew where I was going, but the cold and the tiredness and the fact that I’m 20 miles minimum from home took its toll. While I was skirting the m25, this village world around me felt like I was riding hundreds of miles from home with nowhere to stay and no way to get back. Stop, check gps. No, I took a wrong turn a while back there. Turn around or find another route?
When I finally find myself in Radlett, which while far from home, is at least on an old training route of mine, and therefore familiar, it’s the boost I needed. Turning south, I know I’m on the home straight. I can ride to Stanmore and jump the tube back to Kilburn from there.
Hills that used to have me panting in the granny ring are now stomped at 21mph. I have conquered, and everything will be ok. Then, without warning, my front light turns off. The cold has shorted the switch and it’s now flicking through the settings, cycling between 100 and 500 lumens. I power onwards into the night.
The transformation from gentle rise to powerful sprint is not something I resent (especially now I’ve had a chance to warm up!). There are many sides to cycling. Relaxing in the warm evening sun and belting through the freezing night air are two completely different angles on an activity that seems to have as many faces as it does riders.
Riding fixed, single speed, town riding, commuting, randonneuring, audax, touring, sportive, racing, polo, 4 cross, downhill, bmx – hundreds of ways of enjoying the simple sensations of riding a bike.
Needless to say I got home. My light switching off on the final descent into Stanmore was interesting. I was travelling at 40mph with no helmet, no goggles and now, no light. But it switched on at the bottom. The stop start all the way home (do you really think I’d have caught the tube?) was offset by the warm London air (heated by 7 million people’s bodily emissions). My iPod held on to the bitter end, finally running out as I rolled into my estate. Front light was on and off, but I survived with my 10 lumen backup. All in, 59 miles or 95 kilometres in 3 and a half hours. Not too shabby for a quick ride after work.
While great training for the long rides I have planned this year, something more profound hit me. The beauty of riding is dulled by working the shop, selling people the idea of what I’ve just done. The freedom, the sunshine, the exploration of nature’s wonder.
Unlike other professions where romanticised ideals are used to sell, in cycling I have a hobby that can take me out of my front door and show me that ideal – and make me fall in love with it all over again. For that, I am truly grateful!
CJ takes another – Bidon practice – Image ©Paul Harris / Cycling Shorts
When you’re growing up, everyone wants to be the hero –PM, astronaut, fighter pilot, racing driver – but nothing achieved in any of those roles ever happens without a vast latticework of support. Cycling is not immune; indeed, when Wiggo thrust cycling into the faces of an otherwise unknowing public last July, the nuances of the support network around him must have been hard to spot for the casual viewer. Sir Bradley had his nine-man squad on the road, of course, and everything that Team Sky could think of in the way of shiny kit and qualified personnel. And on the road, out of the spotlight but orchestrating every aspect of every race in their beautiful black and blue Jaguars were the Sports Directors.
In the never-ending pursuit of the aggregation of marginal gains, for 2013 Team Sky took the opportunity to despatch two of their Sports Directors to the MIRA proving ground at Nuneaton to learn more about handling the Jaguar XF Sportbrake. Marcus Ljungqvist and Dan Hunt both have experience from within the car during races, but neither had previously received specific driver training – under the auspices of Nigel, one of MIRA’s exceedingly capable instructors, Team Sky’s DS’s put themselves to the sword in one of their 2013 cars, merrily sliding and spinning their way around MIRA’s watered, variable grip circuits with some chap called Martin Brundle also on hand to offer the occasional word of advice.
[flagallery gid=19 name=Gallery]
Click SL (slideshow) or FS (fullscreen)
All Images ©Paul Harris / CyclingShorts.
“So what does the pedal on the right do, again?” Martin Brundle one of the finest racing drivers on earth – maybe the only thing he does better is present programmes about it. ©Paul Harris / Cycling Shorts
The point was not to train Marcus and Dan how to drive like racing drivers, Martin explained as Nigel sped us around to demonstrate, it’s about teaching them how the car reacts so they know what to do if a situation occurs during a race that pushes the car over the limit. “You might think that, as racing drivers, we throw the car around wildly,” explains the former Le Mans winner and World Sportscar Champion, arguably the best Formula One driver not to win a Grand Prix. “In reality it’s all about being smooth and gentle with the car.” The limiting factor is the tyre –it transmits inputs from acceleration, braking and steering, but if you try and throw too many things at it at once, that’s when things go pear-shaped. Being smooth with the inputs not only allows you to run closer to the ultimate limit, it also means that you’re less likely to go skating wildly over it and the car will be more easily controlled.
For Marcus and Dan, the day was about learning to recognise and respond when that limit is approached, and if Nigel’s teaching is anything like his driving, the roads of ProTour cycle races will be the safer for the improvements in their competence – the Sportbrake proved itself amazingly capable, with eyeball-popping go, stop-on-a-dime brakes and a taut agility that’s just wrong in a car that size. In Nigel’s hands, it happily ran sideways on the low-grip track, then flung us around the capacious rear with gay abandon on the dry handling circuit – if the demonstration was anything to go by, it doesn’t seem likely that Marcus and Dan will often be called upon to push the big cat to the limit!
What’s clear throughout the whole process is that Jaguar and Team Sky have an exceedingly warm and productive relationship. With an engineer on hand with a view to improving the car still further for the peculiar needs of bike racing, it’s obvious that, while the cars look like a standard Sportbrake with livery and a bespoke rack, they have already been modified to suit the job (to cite one example, the rear windows in the Sportbrake didn’t quite go all the way down– now they do), and the process is ongoing with discussions taking place on improved information technology and amended wing mirrors. When it comes to marginal gains, nothing is off limits – Team Sky even went to the lengths of putting a rider on hand to practice the interactions between rider and car, Chris Sutton setting what just might be a record for the number of bidons stowed on a single rider.
Marcus Ljungqvist and Dan Hunt – better drivers. – Images ©Paul Harris / Cycling Shorts
So – a useful day? Dan is positive. “It’s great to be able to test the car in a safe environment and being allowed to fail without the risk of consequences.”
“We went on three different surfaces,” adds Marcus. “ Slippery, super slippery, and super-super-slippery! – and we took the car to the limit to learn how it would react. The good thing here is we can do it over and over again, in a really relaxed environment, so we can remember what we did – in a race maybe something happens but you don’t remember actually how you managed to control it.”
“It’s a core component of what we do, we SHOULD be good at it.” says Dan. “At Sky, we always want to be better at everything we do, and driving’s a critical part – getting guys like Martin and Nigel from MIRA, it’s fantastic for us.”
Marcus nods. “A lot of times it’s former bike riders, you’re supposed to be a good sport director but you have no driving experience at all – you think you’re (just) driving thirty K’s an hour behind the peloton but sometimes it’s really crazy back there.”
“Marginal gains doesn’t stop with the riders, every member of staff has a responsibility to do their job better tomorrow than they did today,” says Dan emphatically. “That’s what marginal gains is about, doing things a little bit better, all of the time –for us today it’s about improving our driving skills, tomorrow it might be involve better tactical skills. For the riders it’s about fitness, about improving their race times. Marginal gains isn’t just equipment or an empty philosophy, it’s about getting better at what you do every day, trying to be the best in the world at what we do.”
This day, as with every other day, Team Sky just got that little bit better.