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March is often a time of year when the excitement of racing is at its highest and the anticipation of winter training and its fruits against your peers arrives. But, this can also be a time of broken dreams and disillusion when the early season perhaps doesn’t go quite to plan. How you deal with this will determine the rest of your race season.
I believe that early season ‘form’ is more productive regardless of the objective. Don’t get me wrong when I say this. I don’t mean everyone needs to line up fighting fit, but it's important to have enough of a fitness level that you can personally see an improvement against how you were lining up this time last year.
Why should this be the case? The reason is simple. CONFIDENCE.
This does not come easily to a lot of people. Any small improvements on previous races or seasons will mean a heightened awareness of your abilities, which kept you focused during cold winter training. Don’t forget, all of the hard work you put in for many months can be wasted with a loss of confidence in decisive parts of a race when the ‘killer’ edge is needed to make that one last attack or to squeeze that last sprint coming to the line. Confidence is the key here.
For riders to maximise their ability, inner confidence is the final part of the equation if they want to gain results or make that final jump onto the podium. I would often find myself having internal struggles with my own confidence early season: ‘Did I train enough?’ ‘Has my ability to attack gone?’ ‘When am I going to get that lucky break?’ These thoughts played around in my head often until that one result came; perhaps not even a result, but a small showing of a powerful performance that indicated my training was working and the results would follow. To get through those difficult times, I had to keep returning to my knowledge of training and taking the confidence I had trained to get the results I craved. Confidence is the key.
So, for all you riders out there who have started the season in good form, perhaps feeling a little knocked in confidence, let this help you build back up with the realisation that you still have it all going on. All the training is still in the legs. You now need to believe you can achieve anything you want to...with confidence. Take more risks. See where your current ability can take you. What have you got to lose? Riding around in the bunch race after race, giving the obligatory race analysis at the end, saying you should have or could have done this, that or the other. You have trained to race. Go out with confidence in your training and in yourself. You won’t know until you try. Push the boat out. Unless you take the ‘odd’ risk, then you will never truly realise how far your ability can take you.
For those who have been disappointed with their initial races and performances, don’t let this ruin the rest of your season. Take a look at what has worked and what hasn’t and turn all of this into information that will help you gain a better level come the summer time. It is a long year and plenty of racing and miles to be covered.
Confidence is not an easy ability to acquire for a lot of people, including myself over the years, but take all the positives you can to help turn your performances into successes. Keep the faith.