A hot Sunday afternoon in May. Today, the Giro d’Italia arrives in Rome after three ecstatic weeks. This has brought an end to the enjoyment of one of the most exciting cycling spectacles since a long time. But today we skip the final stage. The need to watch the applause for the winner has dropped to zero yesterday. (We are a little bit chauvinistic) The Giro has ended and fortunately the other riders are proud of themselves.
Today, our rider Melle takes a day of rest. He gives his trained body a relaxing day at the beach. No buttocks on the saddle and no handlebars, but a book on a beach towel. With so little fat on your body a cooling dip in the ocean is not an option. Too cold (and bad for your muscle-tone, according to a so-called expert). And it remains a startling appearance, a body of a cyclist in swimming trunks. The sun has marked the contours of the cycling outfit sharply on the slender body.
Melle rests, reads, muses and thinks. “Why do you actually love to ride?”
Well, why? He searches for words in his head. He thinks in silence for thirty seconds. “I do not know,” he says, still thinking about the answer. “It’s not because of the pain on the bike”,it finally sounds. Followed by an explanation that it’s such a nice feeling to ride easy when you train a lot. When it doesn’t matter whether there’s headwind or tailwind. Then he turns back into his book. Or rather, back in his own thoughts.
The answer is hidden between the Strava segments, cycling holidays, childhood memories, shiny racebikes and the stylish looks of cycling heroes.
Fascinated by high end material, the beauty of a cycling frame, the lines of the ideal ratio between the front fork and the seatpost, all made of carbon and the cables hidden in the frame. Beauty through simplicity, power through technology, the high wheels for the sound-effect to support the cadence. And handlebars are seamlessly wrapped with fresh handlebar tape at all times.
Why do you love to ride? Because a bike gives direction to life. With hands on top of the handlebars, smoothly kicking on his matte white De Rosa King xs. Just a moment of rest in your head.
Until he is overtaken by another cyclist, and the inner battle has started: “I planned a leisurely ride in a relaxed way, don’t be fooled!”. “But this guy really can not kick as much power as I do … Who does he think he is?!” Without being aware of it himself, he has moved his hands at the bottom of the handlebars and shifted his gear. His cadence is suddenly a lot higher. He sees on his monitor that his heartbeat has increased and feels that someone is in his wheel. Hey, that’s that guy who just passed him by? Melle has therefore been tempted to catch up with him again… But now he has to shake off this guy. “I don’t want him to take advantage of my lee… Down there is another group of amateur riders… Nice point of focus, ride towards them and go straight on again! Then they all know who is in charge here! Just push trough, stamp on the pedals, and leave this peloton behind me.
Half an hour later the job has already been done. The most beautiful part starts at home. Cleaning his bike. Carefully, with the tenderness of a newborn baby, he gently sprays his bike. To clean all parts one after the other. He thinks about the ride for a moment. Failed to dose again. He would like to turn it around. That he doesn’t feel the compulsion to overtake everyone, but has self-control to focus on his own plan Do not be distracted. Stick to the plan. Holding that focus is so difficult.
Stick to the plan. It is like a mantra..With cycling the first hours are always a prelude and you have to save the best for last. You need focus and mental hardness.
Like Ruben Plaza Molina during the 18th stage in the Giro to Prato Navoso. Time after time other riders rode away from him. But the 38-year-old Spanish rider knows how to deal with this. Focus, close yourself for stimuli around you, dividing power and dare to give it all in the final. His toiling was rewarded with a 2nd place!
A wonderful example, this rider from Isreal Cycling Academy. We list his most important lessons for you, and especially for Melle;)
Know yourself. Not just your physical ability. The most important is to know yourself in the deepest core of your soul. Know your why. Understand why you do what you do. Know the answer to the question why you love to ride. It will help you further.
3. Control yourself
Dare to open yourself to temporarily undergo the physical pain. Know how to entice your brain to suffer and turn to a mental state of inviolability. Don’t be distracted by outside forces. It helps to close your eyes for just a moment.
3. Connect the pain with a positive emotion
Experience during your training sessions that pain is temporary. Focus on immediate, even extremely short-term goals. Get through the next minute, to a certain mile marker, or to the top of a hill, and don’t let yourself feel overwhelmed by thinking of the whole event at once. You can do it! Try to stay in the present. During your race you can remind yourself that you did it during training and that you can repeat the process in competition.
4. Repeat a mantra
We think while Ruben was suffering at the climb of the Prato Navoso during a race, he was repeating phrases to overcome the pain: “Come on, you can do this, a little longer, don’t stop”—anything to keep him going. A mantra brings you into another state of consciousness, where the physical torment is suppressed by a buzzing in your head.
5. Face your fears
You will not reach this mental power without overcoming your fears. But this fears are probably not as erratic as the mountain you are climbing. And not as deep as the abyss of the hill. Hold on tight to your handlebar, don’t forget they will guide you a long the way.
And last but not least: Embrace your effort!
Practice makes perfect and in the end it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It’s another learning experience you can reflect on. Learn from it. But above all: celebrate! Because that is why you love to ride!