How do you win a bike race?

How do you win a bike race?

Just win. It is that simple. The jersey says it all.

This seems to be quite a simple question for quite a complex answer.  If it was that simple, everyone would be able to do it, right?  I will not claim to know the art of winning, but I have won a race or two in my career.  That being said, I have also lost far more than I have won, yet through each loss, I continue to learn.  Learn from my mistakes, and start winning more.  Or, it may be more fun to make your own mistakes along the way.  Something about feeling the burn of a loss makes you never forget.  If you were always winning, you wouldn’t learn.  But since I like to win, I try to limit the losing and maximize the winning.  Don’t we all?

Take Risk. Don’t be afraid to lose. Photo by PodiumInisight

So, how exactly do you win a bike race?

  • Be realistic.  There is nothing I hate more than someone telling me to be “realistic” with my goals.  If I want to shoot for the moon, then I will shoot for the moon.  If I fail, at least I had a lofty goal.  If I succeed, I will take pride in that fact and then look for the next unconquerable goal that you tell me that I can achieve.  Yet, realism does seem to be a handy tool to have at your disposal.  Know what you are capable of.  Know what your competition is capable of.  Aim for higher than you could ever imagine, but give yourself a place to land if you fall short.  There is no failure if you are giving it your best effort and you made an attainable goal.  Your performance should not be measured by your result, but by the realistic assessment of your performance.  Yet sometimes, throw realism to the wind and race outside of your mind.  Surprise everyone, but mostly importantly, surprise yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to lose.  In order to win, you have to be willing to lose it all.  You have to take a gamble.  You have to call your opponent’s bluff.  You have to call your own bluff.  You have to attack too soon.  You have to take a flyer.  You have to be willing to finish dead last just in case you can finish first.  You have to put your head down and leave nothing in the tank.  You have to solo 100k. This is your move, and you will live and die by it.  You will either win spectacularly or you will lose epically.  Show no fear.  Only show raw determination and calculated resolve.  Take risk.  Do not be afraid to lose.
  • Don’t take risk. I am not very good at this, but I am told in order to win races you must be smart as well.  You must conserve your energy.  Take no risks.  Wait for that moment to deliver the check-mate move.  Be calm and collected and wait.  Don’t take risk until it is time.  Then win.  Be smart.
  • Know yourself. Imagine yourself as a superhero.  You have your strengths and weaknesses.  You know your kryptonite, and you know your super powers.  Protect your weaknesses, and capitalize on your strengths.  Know how you can win the race.  If you aren’t a sprinter, then why try to get top 15 in a sprint finish?  Is it satisfying to be pack fodder?  Protect your inner superhero and use that jet propulsion power when you need it.  Know yourself.
  • Know someone else.  You have heard the term that it is helpful knowing people in high places?  The same thing occurs in bike racing, work, and life.  If you have friends in the peloton, it helps.  If you are always respectful of your opponents and purely race your bike, you will have friends to back you.  You will have people that are eager to work with you because you are fair, you are motivated, you are strong, and you are determined.  Respect your fellow racers, even if it is looking for a parking spot before the race, or staging for a crowded crit.  Race your bike hard.  Enjoy the sport for the camaraderie, the competition, and the RACE.  What goes around comes around.  You will win some, they will win some, but at the end of the day, you are friends with a common passion and love for the sport of cycling.
  • Practice your salute.  Practice winning.  I have several victory salutes I would like to do.  I practice them.  I imagine myself crossing the line with plenty of room for a victorious salute.  These are in my arsenal for that moment of the perfect win.  These victory salutes are secret for the time being.  Lady GaGa? Visualize your win.  Visualize the defeat in your competition.  Visualize your burning legs and that finish line that is approaching in slow motion.  Visualize doing the best victory salute across the line.  Practice your salute, then when it happens, you have been there before.
  • Win. Sometimes it really is that simple.  Be the first across the line with the fastest time, and you will win.  It is just that simple.

Know yourself. Be realistic. Photo by Larry Rosa.

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