Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What I’ve Learned in 45 Years of Bike Racing

By PCG Elite Coach Bill Brunner

What I’ve learned in 45 years of bike racing is everything, or at least everything important.  Certainly, I learned how to ride a bike, train properly, and eat well…all the obvious things that come from being around the sport for so long.  What about the things we can’t measure with a power meter or heart rate monitor?  There is no function in WKO4 to calculate the willingness to suffer, the perseverance not to quit, the accountability to oneself and one’s teammates, or the balance of risk and reward.

How many times have you seen the strongest or fastest rider not perform the way you had expected?  Something prevents them from taking their right to win.  Many would say that these traits are inherent in the individual.  I would argue that these characteristics can be acquired though “smart work.”  I have made nearly every mistake that can be made, some many times over.  Although I had some wonderful mentors and coaches over the years, most of what I learned was from trial and error.  Today, athletes have the opportunity to interact directly with professional coaches, and avoid many of the time-consuming setbacks of approaching training and racing by the “chamois of their bibs.”

My bike displays an orange dragon on the head tube to encourage me to persevere.  A dragon never quits.  There is a balance as to whether you quit a race after being dropped, or continue somewhat aimlessly to get lapped and pulled.  Leaving a race early is not quitting.  Giving up on the last 10 seconds of suffering to keep you in touch with the field, and in the race for one more lap, that’s quitting.  Success in this sport is built on small successes.  Finishing the group ride with the front group, and not getting dropped in the local race and all the way up, you will reach your personal goals.

Here are the top nine items that, in my experience, will make you a better bike rider:
·         Thank everyone. You never know when you will need some food or a replacement tube.
·         Plan everything. Plan your year, your month, your ride, your race.  Write it down, post to Training Peaks, whatever works for you.
·         Stay clean. Inside and out. Have the cleanest bike.
·         No excuses.
·         Eat, drink, and be faster. This is often overlooked by athletes.  What and when you eat on and off the bike can make a huge difference in your performance.
·         Be smarter than you are stronger.
·         You worked for it, you deserve it, take it.
·         Training starts 9 months ago.
·         Seek help.  Find a team member, or local rider, who will help you avoid mistakes.  Join a team that focuses on development.  Work with a coach.

As the director of the Montclair Bikery Development team, I ask prospective athletes, “Are you sure you want to be a bike racer?  We play in the rain.  We fall sometimes.  It hurts most of the time.  And even the best rarely win.  This I will tell you. You will be a better rider, student, and person for your efforts.”