Most riders are obsessed with numbers in this Strava crazy world! We are always checking the data, the power, heart rate, time or speed for a session and obviously physical training is vitally important to becoming a successful road racer, but what about the other elements of racing that are often neglected?
Can you manage your emotions, your thoughts, your pre race nerves, your confidence levels?
Professor Steve Peters rose to fame with his Chimp Paradox Mind Model and is credited with much of the success of British riders in the past few years. Mental skills, like physical skills need time and effort to develop, how much time do you spend on them?
Simple things such as positive self talk to increase confidence and maintain focus, focused breathing techniques to control nerves and using imagery to visualise successful performances can make a significant difference.
Confidence also comes from setting SMARTER goals that include process goals. It is wonderful to have a goal of winning a specific race or completing a certain TT in a set time (an outcome goal), but often other factors outside your control influence these goals i.e. who else turns up for the race, how hard they have trained and the weather. You therefore need to set other goals or milestones that contribute to your overall goals for the season, or year. Ones that you are in control of, that will contribute to your long term goals and that you can be proud of achieving i.e. to have increased average cadence by X amount by X date, to have developed an effective warm up protocol by Spring or to have increased threshold power by X watts by X date, to have learnt to corner effectively in a bunch by Summer or to increase speed over a known course by X%. Achieving these milestones will bring confidence as you see your progress.
Pre race I recommend all my riders follow a set routine that works for them, I even ask them to write it down and plan it out along with a list of kit they need. This ensures there are no last minute panics. Using a set pre race routine and set warm up enables a rider to control their anxiety. Always following the same process allows an athlete to get into the racing mindset. The British Cycling 20 minute warm is perfect for most events.
During a race the mental skill most required is concentration and the ability to remain focussed at all times, a lapse in concentration could result in disaster. Post race it is vital to identify not just the areas for improvement, but all the things that went well. Try identifying 10 things that you did well each race i.e. did you complete a successful warm up, did you start in a good position, did you maintain a good position in the bunch, where you aware of the attacks, did you find a safe wheel to follow, did you hydrate well etc etc. Look for the positives; this is where confidence comes from!
Racing Skills Session for 700cc at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit
Last year the Surrey League took the decision to make it compulsory for riders to attend two accredited race training sessions if they were planning to race in the league as a novice/Cat 4 racer. This year the South East Road Race League has done the same and it seems likely that other race organisers will follow suit.
These sessions cover a variety of technical skills for racing before progressing to some tactical skills including mock racing which is followed by a classroom session to discuss racing and training.
Having run a few of these sessions now, including some women’s only sessions, I truly believe riders at all levels can benefit from them. In the outside session we build the confidence to ride in close proximity to other riders, leaning on other riders, touching other riders, being in a bunch and moving through a bunch of riders.
Cornering in a bunch is very different to being cornering solo and being able to choose your line. Sessions like this give the opportunity to practise at speed in a safe environment. British Cycling has a great series of videos called Race Smart including one on Cornering in a Bunch which are well worth a look.
Women Only Session at Redbridge Cycle Circuit
Technique for mass starts and sprint finishes are covered and practised; in a race you only get to do each of these once and they are not the sort of things you should be practising with your mates on the open road! Often the main area for improvement on the mass starts is being able to clip your second foot in quickly without looking down, this is simple to practise on every ride and can make a huge difference to both your confidence on the start line and to the start itself.
All riders enjoy working on their strengths, the things they naturally excel at, but identifying and dedicating time to our weaknesses will pay dividends come race day!
The Sprint for the Line!
Knowledge really is power; do you know the demands of the races you are targeting? What is the circuit like? Is it a narrow circuit with tight corners, a wide circuit, an open road, is it hilly, where is the start/finish. If you are unable to ride the course or circuit pre race can you look at You Tube footage from previous races, look at Google Earth to get an idea of the layout, ask team mates or club mates what the circuit is like or even ask on social media. This will help you decide what skills you need to focus on most i.e. cornering or starts for town centre crits!
The excellent Race Smart videos cover everything from packing your bag to racing in high winds, but of course there is no substitute for getting out and practising so riders of all levels can benefit from this type of session.
Tactical skills are developed with experience, in your first few races really focus on observing the race, who did what, when and why? Where were the attacks? Was this a good place to attack? Did it work? Why? What happened in the race? How did you respond? How did others respond?
Watch other races live or on TV and see if you can work out what riders are doing and why? Observe how different tactics are used by individuals versus teams?
Then try some out! It is difficult to plan precisely, but have a strategy for the race or the course. Will you sit in the bunch and conserve energy as you know your strength is sprinting? Will you attack over the crest of a hill when other riders are easing off? Which attacks will you respond too? Where do attacks commonly happen on this circuit or course?
Early season races that are not your top priority for the year are good place to be brave and try out some tactics and see what might just work for you or your team.
So in 2016 will you develop your mental skills, your technical skills and your tactical skills alongside your physical training? You can bet the winners will be…….
Tom ‘Minty” Murray – Image ©Copyright www.johnsteelphotography.com
July 2014, the month the wheels stopped turning on my full time cycling career. A near 10 year trip was complete. 3 National medals, round after round of Tour Series, full winters spent at the Revolution track events, several trips around the Tour of Britain and a whole load of experiences across the world stopped, crossing one last circuit race finish line!
So that was the easy bit, stopping. The hard bit… What to do? Who to become? Remembering what they told me back at Uni. How to start all over after 10 years sat in the saddle each day, not to mention who was going to make up the wet bag and food box each day.
But in truth I’d been looking forward to this day, I was lucky enough through cycling to live outside of the “rider bubble” a little, I came to enjoy working with sponsors, developing products, speaking with the media/press and passing on a “pro” insight to amateur riders through my job as full time rider. Early on I perhaps didn’t realise fully what a full time sponsored rider was responsible for other than turning the pedals, but I had enjoyed growing into that role more and more through the years. The years had also sent me on a journey through team roles, from aspiring youngster, through domestique (team helper), on to team leader and finally on to the “experienced head” of the team. Passing on experience and knowledge to the new aspiring youngsters on the team was perhaps one of the most satisfying seasons out of the lot, so much so that during that final season I came to enjoy this role so much it motivated me to keep pushing myself on and perhaps was responsible for sending me off in this new direction in some ways.
Tom Murray Tour of Britain – Stage 7 – 2010 – © Mike Morley
All that meant that come July 2014 I was more than ready to embark on a new challenge within the sport and setup Tom Murray Cycling. There have been early challenges, remembering to pack the suit instead of the Lycra, taking up a spot on the spectator side of the railings instead of the start line and remembering that I no longer have to listen to the five same songs on repeat for each hour during the summer circuit race months… FREEDOM! But the competition and the drive to be successful remains the same. The challenge now is to help others achieve their best, be it amateur cyclist, sportive master or elite racer, with the benefit of 10 years of full time cycling and a knowledge of coaching practices gained from working with those within the cycling world together with the latest coaching theories, I’m loving it!
I have discovered this whole world of cycling away from competition. A completely new direction has been a breath of fresh air, the appetite for cycling in this country at the moment is unbelievable, school kids, HGV drivers, you name it, people want to cycle and develop, through cycling packages, events and professional training days, I have spent the past year helping them do that. Changing perceptions with haulage companies, inspiring kids to take up a bike or just helping people to get going again after many years away is hugely rewarding, this whole community side to cycling alongside its competitive famous brother is developing too.
So 12 months or so on, stepping away from cycling has in fact given me a chance to become even more involved within it. The wheels are turning again, in fact there going more than ever and best of all it’s like being right back at the start all over, ready to go along for the ride again, new experiences, new challenges, new motivation!
Take a moment or two over your next coffee and head over to www.tommurraycycling.co.uk to keep up to date with the Tom Murray Cycling team and follow us @TMCyclePackages on twitter to be part of the journey!
Tom “Minty” Murray
11:30 U12 (Mixed) 15mins
11:55 U14 Boys 30mins
12:35 U16/U14 Girls 25mins
13:20 U16 Boys 40mins
14:10 Cats. 3/4 Women 50mins
15:10 Cats. 3/4 Men 50mins
16:25 E/1/2 Women 1hr
17:35 E/1/2 Men 1hr
For more information visit: www.tickhillgp.com
It’s Yesss Tickhill GP time! With just over an hour to go to today’s event where we will see over 450 riders take to the streets of the small South Yorkshire town of Tickhill the atmosphere is hotting up.
Tickhill GP organiser Rich Stoodley has worked his socks off to make sure this event brings equality to the men and women riding providing them with the equal status and value of prizes, the largest prize fund awarded on the UK racing calendar. With the race day in it’s third year; this is the second year the women have been given this status, and the quality of riders attending proves Tickhill GP is an outstanding success.
The racing kicks off with the youth and junior riders leading up to the elite category of riders including Team WIGGINS in the mens race, the women are represented by teams like Les Filles RT and our very own Racing Chance Foundation and Team Jadan amongst others. It’s unusual for such a large event to give riders of all levels a chance to race the same circuit and mingle with their rivals and cycling stars.
The whole village and surrounding area get into the spirit of the day with local pubs serving the official Tickhill Grand Prix Ale, you can pick up a race programme with all the information you need; riders, teams, sponsors, food and attractions. Riders will be available to sign autographs and there is a merchandise village and you can test yourself against the clock or other spectators and riders at the Rollapaluza stand. The whole event is shown on large screens around the circuit with a full commentary of the action. This year Anna Glowinski will join Matt Stephens for commentary.
The racing starts at 11.30am on the closed race circuit, get yourself down to Tickhill for a great family day of street food and top notch cycling if you can’t make it down then don’t fret, Cycling Shorts.cc are proud to be official sponsors of Tickhill GP and you can watch it live all day here on CyclingShorts.cc! Just pull up a chair, click on the link and tuck in to your Sunday lunch while you watch the action unfold.
You can find more details at: www.tickhillgp.com
11:30 U12 (Mixed) 15mins
11:55 U14 Boys 30mins
12:35 U16/U14 Girls 25mins
13:20 U16 Boys 40mins
14:10 Cats. 3/4 Women 50mins
15:10 Cats. 3/4 Men 50mins
16:25 E/1/2 Women 1hr
17:35 E/1/2 Men 1hr
Now that the Women’s National Road Series is over for another year, many people will be thinking about what team they want to be riding for next season, so given that the better teams tend to be sorted by August, I thought it would be helpful to give those of you who might not have gone through the process before some guidance.
Where do I start?
Firstly, a good starting point is to think about what you actually want to achieve next season and whether you have all the “tools” available to you to be able to do so. For example, it might be something relatively simple like a need to improve on your base fitness over winter to help you be more competitive in the higher level races, or it might be something more difficult, like a lack of time and/or money.
Many people (male and female) make the mistake of applying a scatter gun approach to racing at the start of the season (a large factor being a plethora of races, on the most part circuit races, at the beginning of the season, which peter out later in the year), which doesn’t necessarily help with your fitness or your bank balance!
BC National Road Race Championships 2015 – Image ©www.chrismaher.co.uk / CyclingShorts.cc
So, what do you need to think about?
Time you have available
If you are at school, college, work or have kids, you will have other commitments other than riding your bike. That also means that you are likely to have a finite number of holidays available too – so think about what you intend to do in those holidays, and how many you are prepared to spend at bike races (everybody needs a break from work otherwise you get burn out).
You also need to think about how many hours a week you can dedicate to riding a bike – if you have a training plan that involves 20 hours a week on the bike, is it reasonable to think that you can achieve that? Or is 6 hours a week more likely? You can still achieve results on the latter, you just have to make sure that you are doing quality training.
Matrix Fitness GP 2015 | Motherwell – Round 2 – Image ©www.chrismaher.co.uk / CyclingShorts.cc
Cost of racing
Every time you race, you pay an entry fee. If you are keen to do more road races than anything else, these tend to be more expensive due to the nature of the infrastructure required for the race to go ahead. If you are likely to be tight on cash (which most people are), and you have to cover the costs of your own entry fee, decide in advance which races you intend to target (the cost of races disappears once the event has happened but if you earmark £30 for each National Series event, and £20 – £25 for every other event, you won’t be far off), how much you will need to spend to get there (including travelling, accommodation and food) and make those events your “target events”, you will go some way to making sure you budget for them accordingly.
Once you’ve earmarked how much it is going to cost you to get to the most important events in your calendar, then work backwards based on how much cash you think you are going to have available and look at local events first, then further afield. Remember, you don’t have to enter all women’s races if there isn’t one available. You can enter men’s events, but you have to be pretty quick because they fill up rather fast.
Women’s Tour De Yorkshire 2015 – ©www.chrismaher.co.uk / CyclingShorts.cc
If you live in a region where there isn’t much racing available for women, you have two choices: you either do something about it (by persuading organisers of men’s events to host a women’s race at the same time) or you have to travel. Most people have to travel at some point because races tend to be in the middle of nowhere. If you don’t have access to a car, the likelihood is that you will struggle to get to races unless you team up with someone else to get there or you get there using public transport, which might involve a stay over. If you’re not overly keen on those two options, you will need to look at the racing on offer in your locality and amend your season’s objectives accordingly.
Cheshire Classic 2015 – BC Women’s Road Series Rnd2 – Image ©www.chrismaher.co.uk / CyclingShorts.cc
Do you need to be on a team?
The short answer is “no”. However, some riders prefer to be on a team, so it’s each to their own. But, having said that, if you do want to be on a sponsored team, and you are considering applying to teams, make sure that you are honest with yourself about what you can give. Being on a team is a privileged position to be in, especially those where it includes the provision of clothing and equipment. You need to ensure that you can do justice to yourself and your potential sponsors before applying. You also need to think about the commitment level (see above) as if you’re limited on the number of holidays that you have, only you will know whether riding every Tour Series or driving the length of the country for National Series races is the best use of your time.
Notwithstanding the above, Tanya Griffiths wrote an article for us last year about applying for a team place, which you can access here.
Alexandra Women’s Tour Of The Reservoir 2015 – Image ©www.ChrisMaher.co.uk / CyclingShorts.cc
Perspective is important
Ultimately, the majority of racing cyclists in this country participate because it’s their hobby. That means it’s supposed to be fun and enjoyable (although it is hard work too). Focus on what you want to achieve, make sure your objectives or goals are SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) and just enjoy riding your bike.
If you do decide to go ahead with applying to sponsored teams next season, we wish you the very best of luck and hope that everything works out for you.
Check out Heathers previous guides:
Race Tactics – It’s More Than Just A Lead Out
Click below to read:
Part One – Where Do I Start?
Part Two – What Do I Enter?
Part Three – What training should I do?
Part Four – Practice! Practice! Practice!
Part Five – Are You Ready To Race?
Part Six – Race Day
Part Seven – Circuit Racing