Entering and competing in an amateur cycling race is vulnerable. It’s the exposure many feel, or avoid, on group rides where they aren’t sure if they match up. For some of us we love the challenge and that exposure drives us to win. Others try to prepare so they don’t look the fool in a race.
But the very nature of a race is that only one person is going to win no matter how good, committed, smart and prepared everyone is. You are going to lose more then you win, a real fact of racing. So, what do you do when you lose, when you don’t make the podium (even four times in a row like I did this spring)? What happens when the fitness, tactics and team are there and it doesn’t work out?
People take it different ways. Some might think the race was a waste, or the training leading up to it for naught. Some create excuses for themselves, everything from legs not feeling well to they partied to hard the night previous, all sorts of things to not deal with the loss. Some just get down on themselves like their worth has changed because of that result. And I’m sure there are plenty of other responses.
I have a mantra that I’ve adopted that I think is really healthy as you race. That every race is a lesson - whether you win or lose. That every race you complete is another advantage in your arsenal of what you bring to a competition. That only what you can learn is valuable to hold onto, and then you move forward your “worthiness” fully intact - is the goal.
The nature of our racing system has gaps when you upgrade to a new category and you are going to get your butt kicked for a while (from 3 months to 3 years) before your fitness and tactics get to the point you can find results again. But you’ve got to race yourself to that point, you can just stop or downgrade and expect to keep moving forward.
Our views on competition have us walk around as more valuable if we win, and instantly as less valuable when we don’t - which neither is true. When each competitor toes a start line they are equal all with a chance to win and take home a victory. And at the finish line we have a winner who gets to celebrate the victory, and a line of competitors that come across with no shame because they put it out there.