Before I share with you my thoughts on the above, let me put a disclaimer in … my thoughts are based on my observations and experience of working with young people who all aspire to be the next Tour de France star for close to 20 years and is not necessarily based on any science.
With that out of the way, let me get into it.
The Oxford dictionary define talent as “a natural aptitude or skill”.
Scientists use test like Vo2Max, etc. to determine the genetic make-up of individuals and according to this they can say if an individual will do well in endurance sport or not. In our world, by the time a person approach us, they have already shown some aptitude for cycling and can we comfortably say that they are “in the room” and with the necessary hard work and dedication they might achieve their goals.
Many people have done research on the whole issue of talent and the findings have been very consistent. Once someone has shown an aptitude for something and they have been offered opportunity to get involve with the activity at a young age and they then practice for many, many hours (read 10 000), they succeed and we see them as talented.
Yes, stars are made, not born!!
Have a look at the short video from Matt Syed on this subject for more insight:
So, the bottom-line is that when people cross our path, they have a possibility to become “talented”.
So, now we have determined that if you have an aptitude for cycling you stand a chance … if you do the work.
All really successful elite cyclists have practiced for more than 10 000 hours. In our country, we don’t have that many young people racing bikes and this often leads to a young person who has shown great aptitude for cycling being able to win races at a young age without doing the hard work. Sometimes they are also physically bigger and stronger than their peers and winning comes easy. Then, when they get to age 19 or so, their friends who were smaller than them when they were younger and who had to work so much harder to keep them in sight, start beating them because the physical differences are smaller at 19 and they are doing the work.
Many of these “talented” youngsters then loose interest and they leave the sport … purely because they never got used to do the actual hard work and now cannot handle losing.
This is even more relevant between young girls who cycle in SA. Their competition is even less and for some of them winning is as easy as getting on a bike.
In Europe children start riding bikes from a very young age and they ride a lot. It is part of their culture. By the time they start competing they have done 1000’s of hours of riding and this, together with the fact that they have a lot of competition because there are so many youngsters racing, push them to work even harder.
If you have the “talent” you then need to do the work.
Wikipedia describe discipline as follows: Discipline is the suppression of base desires, and is usually understood to be synonymous with self-control restraint and control. Discipline is when one uses reason to determine the best course of action regardless of one’s desires, which may be the opposite of excited. Virtuous behavior can be described as when one’s values are aligned with one’s aims: to do what one knows is best and to do it gladly.
I get numerous comments from people who ask me why so-and-so is not doing better because they work so hard and train such long hours.
Hard work does not only involve the hours you spend on your bike … it also includes all the other “not-so-nice” things that will make one a cycling star, like nutrition, conditioning, stretching, sleep, stress management, equipment knowledge, etc. etc.
It amazes me how many people will do the hours on the bike and then they will indulge in eating lots of sugary sweets, processed foods, alcohol, etc. It is like washing your sports car and then filling it with dirty fuel and think it will go as fast as you expect. It will never happen.
Another aspect that is often not fun, is conditioning and stretching. Men are especially bad when it comes to this. Being effective on a bike, especially a MTB, requires control and with a weak core the stress one put on your body creates unnecessary fatigue, stress and a loss in power.
It is very, very unlikely that a sport star was the hit at parties on the way to the top. More than likely they walked a very lonely and not so glamorous road.
Yes, exercising the necessary discipline to become a cycling star is not fun in the traditional sense of the word and require many sacrifices.
You have shown the aptitude to race a bike fast, you have done the hard work over time (more than 10,000 hours) and have lived a very disciplined life, but still the results don’t come … why?
At some point most of the people on the start line will be equally fit, strong and prepared. Then it comes down to if you want it more than the guy or girl next to you and how much you are prepared to suffer in the race to make your dream come true.
If you have ticked all the boxes and you are still not getting those results, it will most likely boil down to your mental strength. Mental toughness is the ability to keep seeing the positives & possibilities under adverse & difficult situations.
Your mind is a muscle that you need to train as much as the rest of your body and if you go into the red every now and again it will stop being so defensive and will allow you to explore the outer limits of your capability and will … and then the results will come.
I know I speak on behalf of all the coached in our team, the journey of being involve in the lives of people of all ages through our coaching service is a huge privilege for us and something we never take for granted.
Thank you for entrusting your cycling journey to us.