Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The mental edge - crucial to perform maximum

"We have raced every race on it its own merit" - Brailsford

The difference in Team Sky this year compared to last year is quite big. A couple of days ago we had Millar pointing out in the media that "Sky didn't give us the proper respect", he rants on giving Wiggo an elbow while he's at it, saying that Wiggo should be happy with top ten in le Tour. This could be described as a turf war, some guys saying "bad" things about their opponents, much like football, really. Millar is said to be a gentleman on the bike, not as much as Sky's Barry, but still.
Gilbert making the Schlecks work for their salary

Downloaded here.

Funny thing is, Wiggo lashed out like every other athlete on his way out would do, or perhaps the more correct word is could instead of would. This is partly what irritated many cycling fans last year, including many Brits. Some might say it was unprofessional saying so. Like I've written before, I'm so happy cycling is not like football, but some temperature is fine by me. However, I see that Team Sky did made some choices last year which they failed to live up to, this year the tone is more relaxed and humble, something  that suit them way better.

Many factors can influence a result. Andy Schleck has been criticised for not having enough mental strength. Brailsford's comment on the top says a lot. Brailsford made that comment when he was interviewed by cyclingnews, and he referred to last year as "... looking at the tour de France and everthing in reference to the tour".
This, of course, sets the direction of focus, of attention, of every factor that should have been given the appropriate attention needed during every race before the tour. Not that every rider didn't gave their everything, Flecha had a great classics victory, EBH won a stage at Dauphiné, but I believe generally that when the focus is not 100% there, it's easy to avoid pushing every muscle to the limit. After all, Team Sky success was measured in July, not April. 

Another side effect was pushing a lot weight on Wiggo's shoulders, which proved not to be the best way of doing things. So far Team Sky has 16 victories, about the same as last year. So one could argue that the shift hasn't had any impact on the number of wins. However, people have said their wins are more valuable this year compared to last year, Wiggo showed that with his great win in the Dauphiné. 
Take the pain...

From Chasing Wheels blog.

Cyclists monitor their physical training from day to day, at least most of the pros do so, downloading their SRM data. Many don't train their mental strength the same way. When physical training is much the same, most riders have access to the latest technology, the psychological aspect becomes more important.

We will see if we are able to spot who have done their homework in July. 


  1. Mental strength is what distinguishes the great from the good. And that mental strength has to be augmented by strategic and tactical understanding. I believe it will be a few years before Sky become a truly top class team, but they are on the way. They have some excellent young talent but need the older heads to act as Road Captains and instill in the impetuous young that extra dimension that experience brings. It is not Wiggins that we should be watching but the likes of EBH, Geraint, Swift and Peter K...and following their development

  2. Ash, very good comment, totally agree with you! Strategic and tactical understanding is very important. Combine these two with mental strength and talent, you've got a winner.