How focused are you? Before every race I take time out to focus on my goals, my strategy and my mental strength.
This photograph was taken just a couple of hours before the start of Milano-Sanremo. It was a big goal for me. I’d won Tirreno-Adriatico and I was team leader at Liquigas-Cannondale. Everyone was looking to me to go on the attack on the Poggio and win.
That put pressure on me but I’m used to pressure and responsibility. It’s part of being a professional rider. I stay focused. I knew I’d done everything right to be ready to race. I’ve done the training and racing. My bike and equipment was ready. The team tactics had been decided and I knew my teammates would be there to help me. We were all focused on success.
You probably all understand what I mean. You train hard to be at your best and look after your bike for your own events. Your goal might be a gran fondo, sportive or new best time for your favourite ride.
We are all cyclists. We are all focused. But how focused are you?
Tell us what keeps you focused.
This year I focused on the Giro d’Italia and I won it! It feels good and I’ve made history: I’m the first ever Canadian to win the maglia rosa. The pink jersey represents one of the highest accolades of sporting success and identifies you as one of the greatest riders in cycling. For me it’s a dream come true. I couldn’t be happier. This is the result of a life of hard work, focus and dedication. I’ve worked on my weakness and developed my strengths. I’ve been dedicated to achieving my goals and now it’s all been worth it.
The Giro d’Italia was my first big objective of the season, my main aim, the goal I’d agreed with my Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda team. I was considered an outsider for overall victory but I loved the challenge of racing. I stayed focused day after day. I wasn’t scared to attack and then fought hard to defend my chances before securing victory in the final time trial in Milan. That was one of the most emotional days of my life but was also a day of celebration that I was able to share with my wife, my family and my friends.
Winning is never easy in cycling but the challenge makes success extra special. That’s why we do all this work and make so many personal sacrifices. Then you have to seize the moment when they’re there. That’s cycling. That’s what I love about our sport.
What’s your goal in cycling? What do you love about cycling? What are you focused on?
I am thirty five years old, I’ve been a professional cyclist since I was nineteen. It seems, and in many ways is, a lifetime ago that I turned pro. I’ve seen the sport grow and change in so many ways, almost all of them for the better.
I live in Girona, Catalunya, the home of modern professional cycling. We are dozens who have chosen to make this our home from home, the place we come to train and rest while we wait to race.
We live by the seasons: winter is for the long coffee stop rides where stories are told and listened to over and over again. For one month in spring all we think about is cobblestones and weather and every single one of us seems to be flying before a few break bones. Summer sees us testing on the local mountain Rocacorba and riding into the Pyrenees for pre-TdF training camps worrying about weight and thinking about power. Autumn see’s us winding down, many heading back to their home countries while other’s train furiously for the Worlds before the annual holiday begins and it all starts again.
Even after so many years of this cycle of seasons I am not tired. I think this is because I’ve grown to love cycling more, the young me wouldn’t stop for a coffee, he wouldn’t have cared about a view. It was all about numbers. Now it’s more than that, I find my focus in the bigger picture. That’s why I love cycling, it’s taught me where my focus truly is.
The night before a race requires dedicated time to prepare my gear for the next day. The last thing I’d want to do is disrupt my mental focus during the race simply because I forgot something. All the hard work is done; all that’s left is organizing my gear and a good night’s sleep. I arrive in Kona two weeks early to acclimate, and even though I’m doing short runs, morning swims, and some easy spins on the bike, I’m in rest mode and I’m preparing myself mentally. Mental preparation for an Ironman is huge. You have to have an edge, the mental strength for the rough patches.
There are so many things you think about out there. Am I fueling adequately? Have I had too many carbs? Do I need salt? Do I have enough electrolytes? And my competitors - where are they? How far back are they? How far ahead? It’s easy for your mind to wander throughout the 140.6 miles but you’ve got to bring it back to what you’re doing, why you’re there and try to remember to stay positive. Pushing through the pain is always when I’m most focused. We train every day for this. We get used to being in that uncomfortably comfortable state. But if you want to win – not just finish but win – you’ve got to be willing to go the next level. That’s when I’m truly focused.
2010 Ford Ironman World Champion Clearwater Ironman 70.3 World Champion