Whether igniting a burning desire for glory or overcoming a debilitating fear, the mind’s ‘hidden motor’ is a force to be reckoned with — as examples from the pro peloton prove. Words by Martikn Veltkamp
If I said you could improve your cycling performance within 15 minutes, what would you think? I suspect you’d be sceptical, especially if I added that we wouldn’t need to alter your physical fitness at all.
But it’s true: instant performance breakthroughs can be made by turning a switch in a cyclist’s mind.
Too often in cycling, coaching focuses solely on optimising training schedules, monitoring physical parameters (heart rate, watts, etc), improving your position, eating properly, and of course buying better tech — in short: body and bike.
Naturally, ensuring these components are as good as they can be is important, but true winners go a step further: they upgrade their brain.
Consider how former time trial world champion Tony Martin reflected on his victory in 2016: “I was strong in the head, I had no pressure. I just had fun on the road.”
Similarly, it’s no coincidence that both Team Sky and British Cycling riders are supported by renowned psychologists who help them to reach peak performance at the moments when it really matters.
Let’s have a closer look at some of the prime examples from pro cycling where mental elements have made a crucial difference.