Written by ALP Cycles Coach, Jennifer Sharp.

As a coach, I'm always looking for ways to improve my coaching game. I read anything sport psychology I can get my hands on, study race tactics, share information with other coaches and I also get to apply self-coaching to see if what I'm sharing actually works.  I'm also blessed to be married to a coach and we frequently bounce ideas off of one another. When I found myself floundering in the national level crits this season, struggling with how to surf the front of the field verses tail gunning the back, Benjamin had some suggestions. But it was ultimately up to me to figure out how to apply those skills and execute them within the field. Below are the tactics I applied to my game this year that made a significant difference. No matter what level of racing you're competing at - these tips will come in hand to elevate you to higher levels. 

Have confidence. At this point in the season, you should have a pretty good idea of how your fitness compares to others. And if you raced as often as I did (55 races this season and counting...), make no mistake - you should be fit. Start the race with the confidence of knowing you can finish. You belong here. Own it.

Mindset is everything. The moment you pin your race number on your jersey, claim that time for yourself. Don't let anything penetrate your bubble. Turn your phone off. This is your time. Don't let distractions get in your way of performing at your best. Warmup to your favorite music, feel into the effort and get mentally ready to go to battle. These women you're about to race are not here to just ride around with friends - they are here to beat you. Get ready to turn it on and show up to the line prepared, sweaty and ferocious. 

The Pro 1/2 Women lined up at the start of Lake Bluff Criterium at Intelligensia Cup in Chicago, IL. ALP Cycles Coaching athlete Daphne Karagianis of Chicago Women's Elite finished third in the omnium.

The Pro 1/2 Women lined up at the start of Lake Bluff Criterium at Intelligensia Cup in Chicago, IL. ALP Cycles Coaching athlete Daphne Karagianis of Chicago Women's Elite finished third in the omnium.

Establish your spot. Regardless of the size of your peloton, you need to establish your spot. Instead of backing off and out of a spot because someone else wanted it more, make yourself big by getting in and out of the saddle, broadening your shoulders and anticipate accelerations. Find the flow in the course. Stick to the faster routes- on the outside of corners, sheltered out of the wind, and get ready for the surges. Focus on leg speed - distribute the workload through high rpms instead of clunky accelerations, which can also translate into burning matches. 

Be patient. After about 20 minutes of racing around and feeling like your head is going to explode, things will ease up. Don't waste any unnecessary energy in the first part of the race. Remember - everyone feels good in the beginning. The trick is to manage your energy so you have enough left in the tank for when it matters most - the finish. (Note to self - ahem, Jen!)

Practice positive self-talk. This one can apply to any time you're on the bike (or off of it, for that matter). Tell yourself good job! during the race. Celebrate small victories. We often beat ourselves up by criticizing our every move - instead, be your own cheerleader. Focus on process goals during the race such as cornering and passing 2-3 people per section verses outcome goals. 

Keep at it. Cycling is full of failure. The only way to get better is to keep at it and continue to work. That means throwing yourself back into a race even when you come in dead last. Learn from your mistakes, apply them to the future and keep challenging yourself to continue the journey.

Have some tips that work for you that you'd like to share? We'd love to hear what works best for you. Please leave a comment below! 

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