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The Mental Game Of Cycling

Four Mental Success Strategies


Bill Cole, MS, MA
The Mental Game Coach™
Silicon Valley, California


I've been the mental game coach to cyclists in many forms of the sport, ranging from BMX, downhill, road racing and time trialling. I coached a member of the United States National Cycling Team to change her pre-competition mental readiness rituals, resulting in her winning the Gold Medal at the Pan American Championships in downhill bicycling.

How about you? How's your mental game of cycling? Do you have mental toughness? Can you maintain focus? Do you love cycling?

Here are four mental approaches with cyclists I've used with great success.

  1. Use The GIGO Principal To Succeed: Many cyclists tell their coach, "Don't worry coach. I know I'm slacking off in practice, but on race day, you watch. I'll really come alive and do great!". The coach thinks, "Yeah, right!" That's because the coach knows all about GIGO. That's Garbage In, Garbage Out. That's called negative GIGO. It's based on WYSIWYG—what you see is what you get. If you slack off and think your lousy training will suddenly, miraculously turn into a good performance on race day, you're just fooling yourself. On the other hand, if you're doing positive GIGO, that's Good In, Good Out. Now you're talking! This positive GIGO system lets your body do in the race what it trained to do in practice. What's that old saying? Practice makes perfect? Nope--only perfect practice makes perfect. So get out there and let's see some positive GIGO!

Winning is important to me, but what brings me real joy is the experience of being fully engaged in whatever I’m doing.
Phil Jackson, Famous NBA Basketball Coach

  1. Get Out Of Your Head And Into Your Body: Many cyclists over-think. They're very smart and they believe that deep thinking will help them win. Not so. Strategy and tactics only take you so far. Positive thinking is only so good. When you ride, the excessive thinking has got to stop and you need to get out of your head and into your body. That means stop analyzing, reflecting, reviewing, remembering and mulling things over. Stop all that and just let your body do what it already knows how to do. Get out of your own way and simply ride. Think of parking your conscious mind while you ride and allowing your unconscious mind to take over. Your body is smarter than you'll ever know. You train all those hours on the road, so why not trust that training? Trust means recognizing that your body is capable of doing what it knows best—riding. Don't get in its way.

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.
John Wooden, Famous NCAA Basketball Coach

  1. To Find The Zone, Find Your Pre-Zone: Many cyclists jump out of bed, make a mad dash to the race, jump on their bike and off they go. Then they wonder why they're such slow starters and why they get such poor race results. They don't understand why the zone rarely shows up for them. The zone can be a very finicky place, but you can coax it out of its hiding place more often if you understand and use the concept of "pre-zone". Pre-zone is simply the concept that to get in the zone, you must be in it before you need it. No one can snap their fingers and have the zone appear out of thin air at the start line. You need to warm the zone up. Warm up your body. Do some visualization. Say some cue words that get you excited to race. Stretch a little. Take a practice ride. Watch some videos of yourself in your highlight reel. Recall your best races and how deeply you were in the zone. Do all this an hour or less before you race and I will guarantee the zone will become more a friend, not remain a stranger.

Perhaps the greatest satisfaction in cycling has been to discover that there are few things you can't do as long as you're willing to apply yourself.
Greg LeMond, Olympic cyclist


  1. Don't Complete The Race All At Once: Consider this quote: "Mile by mile it's a trial; yard by yard it's hard; but inch by inch it's a cinch." This means that when you look at how far you have to go on a ride or in a race, and how much you have to do to realize your riding goals, they can feel incredibly overwhelming. But if you break the entire ride into manageable little chunks, you can handle anything. Just make it little by little. If the waiter serves you an elephant to eat, how do you manage that feat? One bite at a time. What does a golfer do when they compete? They don't play the entire 18 holes at once. They "play one shot at a time". You can do the same when you ride. Break your rides and races down into segments of your choosing and simply complete each segment in sequence.

The only one who can tell you "you can’t" is you. And you don’t have to listen.
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So now that you've had a mini-coaching session with me and learned about GIGO, how to get out of your head, pre-zone and riding one segment at a time, how does that feel? Are you excited to go out for a ride? I wish you all the best on your rides, and remember, YOU have the power of your mind to propel yourself to new heights.

For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you need an assessment instrument that identifies your complete mental strengths and weaknesses. Here is a free, easy-to-take 65-item sport psychology assessment tool you can score right on the spot. This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths and weaknesses in your mental game. You can use this as a guide in creating your own mental training program, or as the basis for a program you undertake with mental coach Bill Cole, MS, MA to improve your mental game. This assessment would be an excellent first step to help you get the big picture about your mental game.

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Copyright © 2017 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.


Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on sports psychology, peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps sports teams and individuals achieve more success. He is also the Founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, an organization dedicated to advancing the research, development, professionalism and growth of mental game coaching worldwide. He is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published author of books and articles, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports and big-time college athletics.


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mental game of cycling


Bill Cole, MS, MA
Sports Psychology Coaching

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