I took up road biking and racing a little over a year and half ago and it’s been a great journey learning something totally new to me. Road bike racing, whether at the club or circuit level, is a chess game and it tests your mental fortitude, physical endurance and your ability to position yourself in the best spot throughout the race to give you the best shot to win.
I use the time on the bike to think about the start-up Zeuss that I am working on with my co-founders. I’ve had great insights during the time on the bike, once you get into a zone (of what I call “absolute focus”) you have a clarity that I would suggest is not possible with emails coming in, phones ringing, texts coming in, IM’s popping up and all the other continuous inbound messaging in our work environments. On a recent ride I started to think about what I learned about cycling over the last year and realized there were a lot of similarities to what it is like to do a start-up. I am on start-up number five, I’ve experienced failure, going sideways and success. I have some scars to prove the failure and a good smile to show for the success. Even if you are not into cycling I think you’ll find something in the insights below that will help you as you forge the long road ahead in your start-up journey.
1) You generally can always count a head wind. The key is to keep peddling and set small goals. Take one mile at a time, don’t think about the fifty you have left to go.
2) When you get a tail wind keep peddling! The tendency will be to take a break and rest, the key is to take advantage of the tail wind and keep your peddling cadence up, this way you get further for the same amount of energy you would have exerted anyway.
3) The weather man is wrong most of the time. The forecast will be one thing and when you walk out the door you can find weather that was not in the forecast at all or the weather will quickly change in the middle of your ride. Keep your eye on the radar, expect surprises and dress appropriately.
4) Draft when you can. When you draft you use up to 30% less energy. If you can draft, do it, the lead person will wear out eventually, but make sure you have a plan of attack to bury that lead when you see he/she/it starts to crack. People can recover, make sure they can not catch you once you pass.
5) You can be great, but it takes dedication and a lot of hard work. You will read articles about the winner that make it look easy. Rarely is anyone or thing an overnight success. It takes hard work to be great, be willing to commit to greatness.
6) Learn how to change your flat tire quickly and keep a tool kit handy. You will get a flat at some point. The key is to know how to change a flat quickly, get back on the bike and quickly develop a plan on how to catch up.
7) Keep hydrated during the race. If you do not take care of yourself and make sure your teammates are doing the same, you will be setting up a weakness that someone will see and it leaves you vulnerable to an attack.
8 ) Eat Right, what you put in creates what you are made of. The race does not just happen when you are on the bike, it happens when you are off of it as well.
9) Learn to relax. Even when things get tough like climbing 15% grade hills learn to relax and set a pace that is sustainable. If you are tense you are wasting energy that could be going directly into the peddles. Gripping the handlebars tight does not make you go faster.
10) Mind games are part of the game. It’s a chess match, learn to think ahead, set traps and continually be doing experiments. This does not mean you should be evil, but you are in it to win. Second place is first place loser, of who no one remembers.
11) It takes team work to be a great bike racer. Winning takes true team work, each person knowing and accepting his/her job on the team. Make sure that is defined and all agree to the roles that have been assigned to them.
12) Be a leader, but realize as a leader you will use more energy. Be prepared and think about that as you train each day.
13) The best bike does not always win, the rider who rides the bike they have the best wins.
14) It’s about winning the tour, not every single race. The tour is long. Sometimes it pays to draft and sometimes it’s OK someone else is in front. While someone in front is basking in the glory and taking the attention of the press etc…, it gives you time to recoup and build. Use the time wisely. When you do pull away from the pack, truly commit to pulling away and to not letting the pack catch you….ever again.
15) Let members of your team be winners too. They helped get you to the top.
16) At times you will experience extreme pain and suffering and think you can not go any further. You can go further, in fact, you can get through the first three signs of pain and suffering that your mind and body will alert you too and try and slow you down. Once you hit the fourth wave of pain, be careful it can kill you, but know you can live through the first three. Too often you are so close success that you do not even realize how close you really are.
17) If you are behind and are going to bridge the gap to the lead group, make sure you are committed and do not stop until you grab the wheel of the group ahead. When you get to the lead group, rest and then start to quickly move up, once they realize you are in the pack, you are a player.
18) Always smile, even when you are hurting, it keeps everyone guessing. But, when you regroup with your team, tell the truth so you can improve.
19) No one remembers the guy who almost won, they remember who won. Trophies of past winners only list first place, but you can make a lot of money in second and third place. Anything after that you better hope to merge with one of the top three teams.
20) Always wear your helmet, you will wreck. It’s not about whether you wreck or not, it about how fast you get back on the bike.
21) Pace yourself. The race is a long one, take time to be in the moment and enjoy the ride.