Why 2020 was my most important year
Like many, my 2020 was mainly spent training, alone, with nothing to aim for in the near future. However, this did not mean that this was a wasted year in any way. Fundamentally, it gave me time to take a look at my life on and off the bike, and focus on improving myself as both an athlete and a person. In this article, I will focus on lockdown onwards, as apart from Icebreakers track omniums in Newport, or Casnewydd, there wasn’t really anything noteworthy occurring.
From a cycling perspective, I looked at many areas of the sport. From training to psychology, I experimented with my approach, as I had the time to make potential mistakes, or adapt to any positive changes.
My first focus was improving my weaknesses, the most significant one being my explosivity and raw power. The times before lockdown on the track, where I was struggling to get on the back of a team pursuit, was when it became apparent that this was a real issue for me. I would be left behind in the last lap of a scratch race, and could barely score in a points, so I knew to be able to improve any other area, I would have to first improve this. This period of time was important, as I learnt how to focus on one aspect of my training, without leaving the others behind, and also the importance of physical and mental recovery, as the required sessions were always maximal, often leaving fatigue in my legs the day after.
Another thing I learnt, is something that is actually very important, yet seemingly insignificant to many people, and that is the question of why. Why do I ride? You may think it odd that I never really knew the answer, but I had always been doing sports, so why had I stuck with cycling, and given up football a long time ago? I think it is the freedom, of being able to go anywhere I like, when I want (okay maybe not exactly synonymous with lockdowns). Riding throughout lockdown made me feel good about myself, as something that was a constant in my life, which is why I believe that my non sporty friends struggled with the social isolation. Riding throughout the spring and summer last year, and in the winter of 2020-21, made me feel in some way superior, as I could see things that non cyclists could not, like the area outside my village.
The last important thing that 2020 taught me was dealing with nerves and pressure. Very strange, in a year of no racing, but this was as a result of trying out for the Great Britain Cycling Team Junior Academy. After a long hiatus, this was a very stressful event. But, I found that training specifically and visualising the day were instrumental in reducing any nerves. As for the pressure side, I decided that there was none. A lot of pressure that youth riders feel comes from themselves. Parents often do not mind whether their child is first or last, as long as the child has fun, an outlook that my parents fortunately have. Youth riders generally don’t have sponsors to please or families to feed. I had a coach from within the pathway at the time, as I was on the Apprentice program, but he didn’t put pressure on me either, so all that was left was myself. My mindset was that I knew what I had done before, and if I didn’t succeed, it wouldn’t be game over for me. In my head, I had already done many Individual Pursuits and Kilos at Manchester Velodrome. Overall, I ended up enjoying the event, however I was not selected to be part of the Academy. Never mind.
Ultimately, a situation is not about what you lose, which in this case was an entire season and my GCSE exams, but what you gain, which was a wealth of experience.
Ciao for now,