What Are You Thinking?

A cyclist rolls up to the start line. The racer looks at the other competitors and starts thinking, “These folks are much better than I am” or “I am not good enough to race with these competitors”. Jens Voigt may say, “Shut up legs,” but this racer needs to say “Shut up head and stop the negative thinking!” Are you that racer? What are you thinking that can prevent you from being successful?

I have a client so committed to his training and his power numbers reflect his efforts. When this rider is training with a group he out-sprints and out-rides the pack. You put this rider in a race though and before it has even started he has lost due to his negative thoughts. Why do we sometimes have these negative thoughts maybe it is due to?


Fear of failing is a big one. You can set yourself up to disappoint yourself, your teammates, even your family, and friends. (Especially if they are standing on the sidelines!)


While you are waiting for a race you may become nervous and negative thoughts pop in your head or you might even arrive at the race being nervous. Thoughts of “did I train hard enough?” “Did I train correctly?” “Am I strong enough?” and the list goes on and on. Just remember to calm your nerves down and use the energy to your advantage. When you are a little nervous you will pay more attention to who is around you, where you are in the pack and who is moving up or back.

Lack of Confidence

The negative thoughts could also be coming from a lack of confidence. Ask yourself, “Where is the lack of confidence coming from?” Is it because you are not doing your prescribed training or cheating on the number of intervals? Maybe you are not confident with your skills – does riding too close to others make you nervous? Are you breaking before a corner? Are you thinking too much and second-guessing yourself during a race, “Should I go now or should I wait?”

Here are some solutions for Fear, Nerves and the Lack of Confidence:

1. Record all your workouts
On TrainingPeaks your daily workout will be “green” when completed. Have a goal for the month of all green. Review your results starting from last month. Look at the number of intervals you can do now in your power range compared to how many you could do 4 weeks ago – a definite confidence builder!

2. Accomplish small goals
Working towards a big goal is always made up of meeting little goals. Every accomplishment you make along the way gives you more confidence.

3. Self-talk
Every motivational book I have ever read or listened to stresses the importance of confirming what you will accomplish. Use positive self-talk at the starting line like reaffirming how you put in the work and completed all your training, that you gave each workout 100%. Remind yourself that you feel good, you are excited and that this will be fun. Why else would you be doing this if it wasn’t fun!


Important for both racers and recreational riders

4. Practice your skills
Get your teammates or friends together to practice going around corners, riding in a pack, even basic paceline skills. Practice and practice some more – what do you think training is? Training is Practice!  Check out Confidence – Lose to Learn.

5. Race more and ride more Charity, Grand Fondo or group rides
The more you race and ride, the more you learn and the more confident you will be for the next one.

6. Write a race report
I request my clients write a report after each race. A race report helps athletes learn – it reinforces how they raced, what tactics they saw used and what they can do better next time. Race reports can build an athlete’s confidence and is a tangible record of their racing history plus.

The Biggy!

7. Know the course
If at all possible ride the course before your event! There is nothing worse than the “unknown”. If you are riding a century or a double century, do your training rides on the course. Break up the course into sections and tackle a different section each weekend. If this is a race and you cannot pre-ride the route because of traffic issues or other reasons, then at least drive the course. Drive the course at the speed you feel the race will maintain.


Confidence – Lose to Learn


When I was coaching at the track I had two favorite stories I would tell the juniors. I don’t know if they actually got it, but both stories are about building your confidence and learning what you can do in a race.

Red Booties

Back in my newbie days of being a racer parent we were in Indianapolis at Junior Nationals. The 10/12 girls were racing. There was one little girl I called “Red Booties” because she wore red booties. She probably did not weigh more than 35 pounds and kept attacking off the front. I, with my 2nd National Championship wisdom, kept asking why is she doing that? That is not the way girls race. Traditionally, girl packs stay together till the last lap and then they sprint – but not Red Booties. Red Booties would jump and get caught, always jumping out of turn 3 and getting caught by turn 1. She did this the entire race! We would say, “Here she goes again! What is she doing? She will lose the race!”, but Red Booties was learning. She learned with all that practice, how to jump and stay away. Although I have never talked with Red Booties, I believe she also learned to how to lose before she learned how to win. Red Booties is none other than Coryn Rivera who went on to win more National Championships than any other junior – male or female!

I wished I had known back then what I know now. I would have told my kids “Go lose”. Lose because you were trying to make something happen. Lose to learn what you can do.

Red Booties Example

I followed Red Bootie’s example and had one of my crit racers practice jumping off the front over and over again at a local training crit series. I would tell him to go off the front and see how long before they catch you, and to keep repeating. This kid listened to me and every week at the crit race he would go off the front several times. Finally, after several weeks of practice, the racer used his new knowledge at a big state-level criterium race and soared through the finish line to the top of the podium. It was a good day, but it took lots of getting caught and breaking away before he gained the confidence and knowledge to win.

The moral of these stories is you too must practice your racing skills, like jumping off the front. The more you practice the better equipped you will be when it is time to use them. Once it works, your confidence will soar!