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.
I’m Manuel Belletti. I’m 28 years old and I’ve been a professional cyclist for six years. Racing is my life, and racing keeps me focused. I want to win, so this focus follows me everywhere.
The life of a professional cyclist is inherently unstructured – for much of the year I am my own master, in control of my own destiny. My days follow the same pattern, I train at 9am and when I leave my house I know what I need to achieve on the bike.
When the racing season starts I lose the element of personal freedom to a certain extent. I am on the road for weeks at a time, bound by race start times and hotel meals. But at times like this my focus is even sharperand there is nothing to break it.
A love of cycling is not enough to succeed as a professional – focus is, in my opinion, one of the foundation stones of making it at the top level. The focus must be there in training so that when I race I am confidentthat I can perform at the best of my ability and be in control.
This photo is from the 2013 Milan-Sanremo, and races like this don’t come along very often. The temperature was hovering around freezing and it snowed and rained non-stop. I seem to have faced with these conditions on many occasions this Spring.
You might wonder how cyclists survive against these odds? It comes down to days, weeks and months spent preparing our bodies for a level of punishment that is as abnormal as it is enjoyable.
The preparation comes down to focus. I am nothing without it.