Taken from my blog at www.morvelo.com
Despite being different from the norm in a lot of ways, the career of a cyclist is no different from any other career in what factors determine success, status, and positions on the social or professional ladder.
On a physical level, there is not really much arguing with how to progress. You train hard, you rest easy, you eat well, you go to bed on time, you stretch, you get massage…yada yada yada. If there is a gain to be made, the chances are any full time athlete is and doing that and all they can to make sure their body is in the best condition possible. It’s the easy part.
Upstairs, between the ears, it’s a whole different ball game. The mental side of competing, as everyone knows, is where the real gains are to be made, because it’s so subjective and uncontrollable to some extent.
Tactics, will power, focus…the mental side of competing is a sea that one could get very lost in numerous books that have been written on the subject, so I won’t go there. From a personal point of view though, I think you’ve either got it or you haven’t. (I am still unsure as to which side of the fence I lie).
The other major player in factors which determine success is one that often gets forgotten, but which plays an ever increasingly important role. The romantic days of sport, when the strongest man won and that was that, are long gone, and although what the spectator sees are athletes competing mano-a-mano, it is just the final product in a long line of widely diverging events that have ended with a sports contest.
As the years have gone by, I have found that it is the same story of WHO I know, that has helped me as much as my performances. Mingling at the start or finish of races, following up on contacts, emailing, general networking skills and the assessing of every situation have all contributed to where I am today, and will certainly contribute to wherever I end up.
Ones status within an organisation (or team) is based largely on interpersonal relationships that every member has with each other. Whether it be for a promotion or a race start, it’s the same game. It is a fact of life that I dislike, but it’s the nature of the beast so I do my best to keep my head above water in this web of gossip and backhanders.
Everything from team selection, to race invites, to sponsorship deals are subject to politics. Even racing itself. Riders forming alliances against others to gain the upper hand, blackmail and bribery are all as common in the last 10km of a race as they are in the wider world.
Being a successful bike rider is a lot more complicated than it often appears, but this is just another reason why I love it so much (and sometimes hate). I am not incredibly gifted physically so it’s probably a good thing that it’s just one part of the puzzle.
Anyway, if it doesn’t work out I’m sure I could pull the right strings at a job in PR or something.