Pressure & Expectations
There has been a tremendous amount of research in the world of sports into the “why” of performances. Why do athletes win? Why do they lose? Why do they “choke?”
One of the more interesting questions to ponder, and to research, is why certain athletes perform way beyond expectations, and why some always fail to meet expectations.
Let’s take a look at two riders who factored in the finish of today’s stage: Thomas Voeckler, and Tom Danielson. Danielson, who rides for Garmin, was heir-apparent to Lance Armstrong as America’s next great rider, and signed with the Discovery Channel Team in 2005. Now, 6 years later, he is riding in his first ever Tour de France! Danielson never performed up to expectations.
Voeckler was a relatively unknown figure in 2004. He won the French National Championships in June, which may have given him a boost of confidence going into the Tour that year. He gained enough time in a break on stage 5 to take the yellow jersey. Critics thought he might hold onto it for a day or two, but against all odds he hung on for 10 days! In the 2004 Tour, and ever since, Voeckler has always exceeded expectations, and he’s doing it again this year.
Without knowing either rider, I still have a pretty good idea as to why that is, based on my experiences as an athlete and a coach, and from the research literature. Danielson has always had tremendous pressure to meet high expectations. Voeckler, meanwhile, has been free of those pressures, and consequently free to perform.
How can you apply this to your riding? Free yourself of expectations! Putting stress on yourself to meet a certain goal will have you riding physically and mentally tight. Relax! We do this for fun and for fitness, but the same principles apply to you and the pros – so be like Voeckler, free to ride great and have fun, AND, free to have a bad day without consequence.
Steen A. Rose is an elite cycling and triathlon coach. He started coaching in 2003, and has been an Elite Coach with Training Bible Coaching since 2009. Steen is also captain of the Sun & Ski/Subaru Cycling and Triathlon teams. He has been racing since 1997, holds a Category 1 license, and has 13 state championships, 3 national medals, and 4 international podiums to his credit. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org