When Chris Froome crashed on Mont Ventoux on stage 12 of this year’s Tour and immediately switched from churning out 6w/kg on the bike to running as fast as his legs would carry him, it proved more than just his physiological calibre. Froome’s fitness is honed, his power to weight ratio optimised and his endurance phenomenal. But to compete at the highest level, physical fitness isn’t enough. To be a truly great cyclist like Froome, having a strong body is just half the challenge; you must be mentally unbreakable too – when you get knocked down, you get back up and do whatever it takes to win.
So where does that mental toughness come from ? What allows a cyclist enduring long hours of training in every type of weather and terrain maintain the motivation, dedication and consistency to perform at their best ? And what can you learn from those who have that mental toughness to increase your own ?
Mental toughness can be subdivided into three distinctive elements. The first element, familiar to anyone that competes, is robust, unwavering confidence; the belief that you can succeed in whatever you set your mind to do. Research has found this confidence not only makes a competitor more comfortable and relaxed but also allows them to work harder in a race, persist longer in endurance events and be less likely to make tactical mistakes – all vital to being a great cyclist.
The second element is constancy; your willingness to set and follow training and competition goals, hold a resolute attitude and maintain a strong determination to meet the demands of your race. Again, this is vital to becoming a great cyclist.
Finally you need a high level of control over both your life and your sporting performances to ensure you can cope with adversity. You need the feeling that you can bring about your desired outcome in whatever you do. Those without this level of control get injured more easily and find it harder to stay resilient following setbacks.
Cyclists with all three elements of high mental toughness are best able to use energy positively during challenging and demanding situations, and have a mental stress buffer helping them rebound or adapt after a setback.
Adapted from Cycling Weekly