What’s your race?
It’s not always survival of the fittest.
My coaching career has taken me into a rich variety of areas with some really great clients. One season included a period as a cycling coach during which time I was involved in the local racing circuit. Now cycling, like many sports, is mainly populated at the top levels with young guys who are at the peak of their fitness, and I had discovered quite early on in my sporting career that the first thing you need to work on to be a top sports person is to select the right parents. Genetics has a massive part to play in the levels of achievement any sportsman may aspire to achieve.
Although I had been keen on sports and played regularly in my school days after I started work I had managed to gain some weight and I decided to start cycling as a part of a consolidated attack on the battle of the bulge. After some initial research, I discovered that there was a lot of misinformation and myth around about the most effective way to cycle, and in an attempt to find out how to cycle properly I signed up for a Cycling Coaching course with the British Cycling Federation for road racing and cyclo-cross.
By the time I started my cycling career I was in my 30s and I was amused to discover that I was already a veteran! Despite not feeling that old it had the benefit that I could enter local races and compete with others my age and actually stand a chance of obtaining a good result. Having joined a local cycling racing club I soon started to enter some races, and in one in particular that I recall I had set off with the other veterans and we had three laps of a road circuit to race round. About half way round the course there was a fairly sharp left turn onto a short stretch of flat straight road which then had another sharp left turn which led onto a fairly steep climb.
I decided that on my last lap this was the place to mount my attack, to get around the first left turn at the head of the pack and give it my all. As we started the last lap I made my way to the head of the bunch, or peloton, and then made my move as we turned the corner. I put my head down and sprinted off the front, and then shortly after glanced over my shoulder to see that I had brought a few the other riders with me. I let one overtake me as we went along the back straight and take the lead for a while, and then as we approached the next turn made another move to regain the lead. I took the last left turn at the front once again and raced up the climb with my legs now starting to burn from the effects of the lactic acid building up from the sprint.
By the time I was half way up the hill with my legs screaming at me the thought flashed through my head that I was done, I had burnt all my fuel and I would now have to abandon the attempt. I glanced over my shoulder to see who was going to overtake me next only to find that there was no-one there! Although I my legs were hurting and my lungs were burning and all I wanted to do was to slow down, the others had already dropped back and I had opened up a great lead. With the end in sight, I found renewed strength and dug deep int my reserves and all of a sudden all the pain was lost in the elation of winning the race. I won my first cycling victory!
Cycling is a sport where teamwork and tactics really do make an enormous difference, and it is not always the strongest competitor that wins. In my cycle club, there was a guy called Martin Bishop, and he was a lighter build than I am, and he had started cycling after his previous sport of distance running. His level of fitness was already much greater than mine, and so whenever we competed together he would win every time.
On this one occasion, we were out together in a mixed ability race where the riders set off in different groups depending on ability, with a view to getting everyone to the finish line at around the same time. So, the veterans group set off first, followed by the 3rd category riders, then the 2nd and finally the 1st category group of the top riders in our area. Martin and I set off together in the veterans peloton, and we would take it in turns to lead out the group as the race unfolded. Martin would usually string us out whoever we came across any small hills as one of his strengths was his climbing ability. Well, as we were nearing the end of the race we had a very sharp left turn to take us back up an incline towards the finish about a mile away, and shortly after we came out of that turn the main bunch came flying past!
Well, Martin jumped into the middle of that group and left me behind with some others – another race where he would beat me hands down I thought. However, I kept working hard with the group I was in and as we approached the finish line I noticed that Martin was only just ahead of me! He had been dropped by the main bunch and now he was struggling to keep up, and I can remember so clearly as I passed him on the road that the only thing going through my head was “I’m going to beat Martin Bishop! I’m going to beat Martin Bishop!” Once again it didn’t matter how much my legs were hurting or my lungs were burning, and it didn’t matter a jot that I wasn’t going to win the overall race, all that mattered was that I was going to beat Martin Bishop – and that was an enormous personal victory.
Although we may not be in a cycle race, throughout life we find ourselves in competition with others to achieve a prize, whether it’s to complete a project on time and within budget, or perhaps to make a sale. It is important to remember at these times that it’s not guaranteed that the fittest cyclist will win, but the one that’s more determined to win that achieves the victory.
About Roger Fairhead
Roger is a Leadership specialist and uses the PRIZE Winning Leadership model to help leaders improve their effectiveness and that of their teams, through remote and on-site delivery of keynotes, group training events and individual coaching sessions.
He is the author of several books including "PRIZE Winning Leadership" and “Personal Productivity Planner”, a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and a Director of the Global Leadership Network UK with extensive experience in Project Management and Sales.
“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.
Roger also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.