After completing my recent adventure, it really got me thinking about how a normal guy like me could actually go out there and conquer the toughest cycling race - the Tour de France. So I’d like to take this opportunity to share some of my thinking with you.
I don't believe it's because I'm a great cyclist, because I'm not. Yes, I used to race when I was younger - won some races, and competed in many many more. And I've trained hard, sometimes with some great riders, but there was some very talented natural riders who would come out and beat me, even when I was at the top of my game. During the Tour de France event itself, it often surprised me how some guys, who were quite new to the sport, were able to fly up a mountain quicker than me. (My excuse was that they were lighter and younger!)
My goal was set 5 years ago from a desire to ride the whole Tour de France event like the professionals. I had no idea how I was going to do it, how I could take the time from the family and from work, how I could organise it, pay for it and of course ride it. However I did have a very strong reason why I wanted to do it and herein lies the pivotal point for me. Do you have a strong enough reason why you want to do something? I connect this into everything I do with regards to goals. It’s all well and good wanting to do something, but actually is the reason why strong enough?
Last week, I presented to my team about the future of Blueleaf and where we are going. We can only really get on that journey if we are very clear of our present position. No matter whether you like it or not, these are the two key things to have clear. I shared with the team how in the Tour de France experience, I involved mentors to help me - a coach, someone who shared the vision and also someone who had a track record of doing the event for themselves and others. We created a plan as to how I was going to train, based on my limited spare time, no access to mountains like there are in France and the crap UK winter weather. Just a few weeks before the event, I spent a week in Majorca replicating as near as possible what the event was going to be like, getting used to the same conditions and terrain. So when it came to the start of the event, I was ready. I knew as near as possible what to expect.
However the big thing was to not just look at the whole 3,400km as one big bike ride. It was broken down into 21 stages and within that, we broke it down into roughly 40km chunks.
Can we ride 40km? For sure. Let’s do it, stop, refuel and focus on the next 40km.
And this was how we did every stage, and then of course the 21 stages which made the full 3,400km.
Did it always go to plan? No. There was some new tarmac which had been laid that we rode into - loose gravel sent some riders flying leaving skin on the road. Some bikes had problems, some riders had illnesses, and some were just not prepared enough, not ready to do the whole event. Again it’s so like life in general. We bring people into our team, but on occasion, for one reason and another, they just don't work out. They often have a different vision, or their past history does not help them to achieve our shared vision.
I took an immense amount of learnings from the whole event and for me it worked extremely well. 3,400km covered, over 47km of height gain, 21 stages, no punctures, no aches or pains, and if I'm honest, I've finished the event with so much more energy. Every day now I get up and I have so much more energy than before the event. It’s like my body is working so much more efficiently.
So the learning? Get out there, set a goal that you really want to achieve (even if you may not know how to achieve it) and live it.