I didn’t know whether to write this blog because I didn’t want to sound negative, however the more I thought about it the more I actually felt like it was important people had an insight into what being a performance-based athlete can feel like sometimes and an insight into my busy mind.
Cycling is something I have always dreamed of doing full time and still aspire to improve in – but it’s not plain sailing. On Instagram it’s easy to see that training camp sunset shot and think ‘blimey, these pro athletes are having us on’ but it’s not always smiles and sunshine. In fact, it requires a lot of mental resilience.
This season has been amazing so far. The opportunities I’ve had with my team have been immense – a personal highlight being the opportunity to race Tour de Yorkshire with the best riders in the world. As content as I am by this, I’m still hunting that major personal race result. I’ve never actually won a road race and I can’t help but feel unfulfilled until I achieve this…
*And here’s where it sort of goes a little bit wrong*. My solution: go to as many races as possible in order to achieve this. I don’t know whether this is a good/ bad trait but I always try to fix everything, ‘going with the flow’ just doesn’t come naturally to me. For example, ‘I haven’t won a bike race before’ = ‘I am going to go spend all my savings on travelling to Belgium and cram in 3 Kermesses to prove to myself I can win a bike race’… hmmm sounds logical right (Nope) ?! Who am I kidding. On reflection this wasn’t the BEST idea in the world, especially when I go into detail about how the trip panned out…
For those of you that don’t know what a Kermesse is – it’s a 85 -95km race around a short circuit of maybe 7 – 15 km… it’s fast. I drove myself and a teammate I had managed to persuade to join me out to Zottegem, Belgium (on the hottest day of the year in my 16 year old car with NO AIRCON may I add). Ready for 3 races, full gas – let’s go.
Here’s a summary of how my week panned out: Race 1 was always going to be tricky, everyone warned me my first Kermesse would be about finding my feet and it was. I rolled in for the sprint poorly positioned and ended up well back. But it’s ok, I still had 2 more chances. The next day I woke up with a stonking head cold. Brilliant. I smashed the ginger/ echinacea and zinc and by the next race I was on the up again but not at my best. Again, I just rolled in for the sprint in 10th, 5 up the road. Another average result. 1 more chance. The last race was different. The others had been 40 degrees sunshine, today was pouring with rain and 20 degrees. Right up my street, get me that British weather! I was having a good race until I heard a hissing noise – haha, a puncture. Great.
So that was 3 races in Belgium, but no result and a hell of a lot of money and time spent. I didn’t get that win I was looking for or even close. I by no means expected to win but of course I wanted to believe it was possible. On reflection I can see why it wasn’t going to happen, instead of racing like I normally would I put so much pressure on myself to ‘get that result’. Pointless when I think about it, because I know I perform best when I am in a good head space.
The lesson from all this (and the actual point of this ramble…)? I’ve come to realise that when you put emphasis on getting ‘that result’ it tends to not happen. It’s not a case of lowering expectations, but just not thinking about it. What will come will come and it’s a case of accepting that. Why am I writing this down in a blog you ask? I’m not sure, maybe by writing it down it will make me reflect and will help me understand what I should do in the future. Hindsight's a funny thing. Would I do that trip again? No. But now I know what to expect of a trip in Belgium and how to be prepared if I went again… for example, it probably would be a good idea to come out with a form of support crew with me next time, or even stay out for longer so the racing block was less intense etc. etc. Lot’s of learning points so not a wasted experience, I guess.
I’m heading into my last few races of the season now having learnt from my lessons. 2 UCI races in France with a family holiday sandwiched in the middle. I am going to race my hardest and try not to overthink (that’s the plan anyway!) and hope a result follows closely behind. Wish me luck.
So that’s that. My not-so-happy blog-but-realistic blog. Here’s to the last part of the season. Cheers to going with the flow.
Thanks for reading.