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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, November 13, 2021

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

The same thing happened today that happened yesterday, only to different people. - Walter Winchell


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Les Woodland's book Cycling Heroes: The Golden Years is available as an audiobook here.

Iljo Keisse: “I started racing because of the Six Days”

Keisse’s Team Deceuninck-Quick Step posted this:

The Six Days of Gent are back next week after having been cancelled last year, and three Deceuninck – Quick-Step riders will be racing in the famous Het Kuipke. The one and only Olympic and World Champion Michael Mørkøv, a winner here in 2009 and 2015, and Mark Cavendish and Iljo Keisse, who will race together as TheWolfpack powered by Maes0.0%. For the 38-year-old Belgian, it’s a really special event, the place where it all started.

Iljo Keisse having at good day at the 2015 Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo

The “Kaiser of het Kuipke” has won seven editions of the Six Days of Gent, but the most special one remains the first time in 2005: “I won with Matthew Gilmore, who was my partner at that time. It was so special, as a part of your dream comes true. I started racing because of the Six Days. As a kid I was sitting on the balustrade, watching the races. To win in Gent meant finally achieving this goal. I wanted to become a track rider, that was my dream. Later on, road racing came along.”

“After all those years it changed a lot. Before, I was really specialised in track racing, I did it every day, starting from my first win in Gent I went to all the Six Days with the ambition to win. Now I’m not a track rider anymore, except for those six days and like three weeks of training during the whole year, the other days I’m racing on the road. Every year I feel it gets more difficult. In 2019 I was so frustrated because I felt it was impossible to win. Next week, with Cav we’ll be at at he start, but without big ambitions. After two, three days we’ll see how the situation is, and that’s also what I need to find that drive again. If we can still battle for the win, we’ll certainly try. If we see it’s difficult, we can maybe pick out some moments to try to light up the Kuipke. We’ll see.”

To be on top of the podium next Sunday isn’t an easy task. “In the past I would have said you just need to go for it on the first evening, but in the meantime the first evening everyone just follows. What I notice is that during the first three days everyone can still manage to hold on, but then some start to have difficulties. If in my case I would like to win, the most important thing is to dose my effort, to hold on in the front as long as possible and to then make a move at the end.”

“Now with Mark I’m riding the Three Days of Copenhagen, as last preparation. It’s really important to do this. The other guys who are specialised in it just had the Worlds and other races and it’s better to have some competition in the legs to have a chance to compete against them. It’s also super close towards next week and we’re training full gas, so it’s actually perfect.”

Having to prepare and ride the Six Days didn’t leave Iljo with a big resting period. “Getting older, I don’t take a lot of rest, but I try to stay busy as I feel this also helps towards the road season. For Cav this also limits his off-season, but the fact he chose to ride the Six Days means he wants to do it. I really like track racing, it’s such an honest discipline. The public sees everything and you train all aspects of cycling: bike handling skills, flexibility, technique and tactics. It also makes the perfect learning school for young cyclists.”

One of the most experienced riders in the peloton, Iljo Keisse announced his retirement from cycling next year already some time ago and he would like to end where it all started: “The Six Days are so special to me. It all started there, it’s close to my house, to my dad’s pub. My family and friends are all there, and it’s at the end of the season, so I could still ride a complete season. I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t end my career there."

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Why Trek-Segafredo is adding a Psychologist to its Performance Team

Here's the team's announcement

Consolidate, strengthen and evolve. Watchwords that year after year have led Trek-Segafredo in building a solid structure. Now a new element has been added for next season: Meet clinical and sports psychologist Dr. Elisabetta Borgia.

Elisabetta Borgia, 34, is a mother of two children and a former cyclist with 17 years of competitive riding (including two cyclocross Italian championship titles and three participations in UCI Mountain Bike Worlds Championships) to her name.

In 2011, Elisabetta graduated with honors from the Università Cattolica in Milan. Two years later, she started collaborating with the Italian Cycling Federation Study Center and, since 2019, has worked with Elisa Longo Borghini. Shortly after, Borgia helped manage group dynamics and specific cases of the entire Trek-Segafredo Women’s team, especially in 2020 with the disrupted season due to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Cycling is part of my DNA and my education,” Elisabetta explains, introducing herself. “Clinical and sport psychology are my major interests, my vocations. Although I have been working in professional sports for years, I have never wanted to abandon the clinical activity. I believe that measuring myself daily with the human suffering of normal people, not just pro-athletes, is a continuous training and a constant growth. I consider the idea of being able to combine both an added value and extremely stimulating.”

Trek-Segafredo Head of Performance Josu Larrazabal is especially pleased to welcome Borgia into the Team, a concept that Luca Guercilena first introduced, he explained.

“The idea of a psychologist to enhance our Performance Team belongs first to Luca [Guercilena] and has always been backed with enthusiasm. In recent years we followed different strategies, using external specialists and looking for the right balance with respect to the needs of our athletes. Group dynamics are one thing, individual dynamics another, where, for example, language barriers can limit the creation of that fundamental relationship of trust and harmony. Psychology is an enormous area of development, with a lot of aspects to take into account. Our choice now is to entrust a professional with the supervision of the psychological support of both Teams. We believe that Elisabetta, with her experience, is the right person to bring consistency to our intentions.”

Both Josu Larrazabal and Elisabetta Borgia have witnessed first-hand the weight that psychological aspects carry. Once viewed as a trend of opportunity, sports psychology is now more widely seen as one of necessity.

Mens sana in corpore sano
‘A rational mind in a healthy body.’  The Latin phrase – to perform at the best level, you need a balance between body and mind – is not a new discovery. In sports, as in life, a healthy mind in a healthy body leads humans to express themselves at the peak of their faculties.

“As a coach, I believe that the perfect balance for a professional athlete is created 50% by physical form and 50% by mental serenity,” explains Larrazabal. “Over the course of a season, however, you have to take into account quite a few variations in this balance, even strong ones. From experience, I can say that the psychological aspect in many cases can have a greater impact on performance and the final result.”

“Between what an athlete could give and what she or he actually succeeds in giving, there is always a difference that, in some cases, is remarkable,” adds Elisabetta. “Many factors can affect the performance and can be related to the sport activity, such as the difficulty of always following an athlete’s regime, managing anxiety before a competition, or keeping the concentration high when performing. But these factors can also be unrelated to sport, such as a sentimental crisis or concerns related to the family environment. Riders, like everyone, need to deal with a wide range of variables, with the difference that they are required to perform at their peak consistently.”

There’s evidence in this assumption – it’s not just related to an old Latin saying or theory – and today, we often observe its reality in professional cycling.

“It is no longer an isolated case that we see riders quit prematurely or need to take a break. It’s a repeated fact. Reality shows that, in high-level athletes, a kind of limit has been reached in the assimilation of the physical and mental workload. Every competition brings with it a high level of pressure and expectation.

“The training to prepare for the events is increasingly demanding, not only in terms of workload. I’m referring more to team or altitude camps, away from family and friends. It’s an important mental stress that they have to manage. It is absolutely sustainable for a short period and with strong motivation, such as the preparation for a Giro or a Tour. But when it becomes continuous and prolonged, it can become as heavy as a boulder.”

Physical and mental training
If we know that a big part of sport is mental, then we must ask ourselves: Why, if there is a physical preparation for athletes, does a proper mental preparation not also exist? The answer for Trek-Segafredo lies in a new approach – addressing this important psychological aspect for the riders – and now included as a core part of the Performance Team.

“We have a clear example of it when athletes or coaches comment on or analyze a race or a match,” explains Josu. “The arguments are mainly psychological and motivational, such as confidence in one’s own means or tactical choices dictated by instinct.

“As coaches, we analyze every performance both from a physical and mental point of view. So, the reality shows that the mental aspect counts a lot and pushes us toward providing a real mental preparation that must have equal importance to the athletic one and, from athletes, the same dedication.

“We already saw many examples of high-level athletes who talk about this kind of preparation, explaining their successes thanks to the contribution of their trusted psychologist or mental coach. I believe these cases will be more and more common in the future.”

“When I started my activity as a teacher in the Italian Federation’s training course in 2013, there were team directors for whom sports psychology made no sense or, at best, was confused with the ability to motivate riders,” adds Borgia. “Almost ten years later, our role has been legitimized by the facts, by the interest of athletes to improve themselves by addressing psychological aspects as an integral part of their performance growth.

“In modern cycling, it is no longer a sign of weakness saying that a psychologist supports you. On the contrary, it’s almost a sign of greater professionalism. There is a widespread awareness that psychology is a fundamental area of development.”

Mental preparation, therefore, becomes a protocol to be put in place and, same as the physical training schedules, help riders approach the races, manage the variables during competition, and afterward, recover the psychophysical balance.

“My job is to prevent or mitigate the problems both for the single riders and the working groups, identifying and managing the weaknesses and enhancing the strengths,” explains Elisabetta. “In my work with Trek-Segafredo, I will proceed by steps, the first getting to know the riders one by one and drawing up their emotional profile, their history, and peculiarities. The first training camp will be the right moment to start.

“During the season, the work will be marked by constant monitoring, working closely with the colleagues of the Performance Team to identify the most important actions for the individuals and the groups. The goal is not to centralize every action but to have a figure prepared to deal with psychological needs, a reference point for the riders, or, on behalf of the team, a point of contact for external psychologists or mental coaches. Our mission is to understand symptoms and root causes, to provide an added value to each athlete’s preparation and performance capacity,” Elisabetta concludes.


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Olympic track medallist Campbell Stewart signs with Team BikeExchange

The team sent me this announcement:

Olympic Medallist Campbell Stewart makes his transition to road racing, joining the WorldTour peloton with Team BikeExchange for the 2022 & 2023 seasons.

The 23-year-old picked up the silver medal in the Omnium at the recent Tokyo Olympic Games, adding to his World Championship title in the event in 2019, displaying his wide-ranged skillset and sharp turn of speed on the track.

Stewart will be the fifth rider from New Zealand to join the Australian outfit and after his impressive results on the boards, the team is intrigued to see what he can achieve on the road given his remarkable strength and power.

Brent Copeland, General Manager on Stewart:
"Campbell is undoubtedly one of the world's most extraordinary track cycling talents. His palmares speaks for itself with multiple world championship medals, plus a silver medal in the Omnium at the Tokyo Olympics. Campbell has also shown what he is capable of on the road as well, with two wins in France and a stage win in New Zealand this year.

"Our team has always been attentive in our search for talent. For this reason, we have decided to offer him the opportunity to join our squad, confident that he will be able to continue his career as he starts to focus on the road."

Campbell Stewart:
“I have been following GreenEDGE Cycling for years and I am excited to be joining. It’s an incredible opportunity for me and I will do everything possible to make it a success. Of course, I will need some time to adapt to the new environment, but I’m sure I will fit well with Team BikeExchange and the team spirit.

"Between December and January I’ll begin to work with the staff and team members and I am really looking forward to learning as much as possible from everyone as I turn my attentions more to the road.”

Campbell Stewart
Date of Birth: 12th May 1998 (23)
Nationality: New Zealander
Joins GreenEDGE Cycling: 2022
New Contract: 2022 & 2023

Top Results:
1st 2019 World Championships Omnium
1st 2021 New Zealand Cycle Classic stage 5
1st 2020 New Zealand Cycle Classic stage 2
1st 2021 A Travers Les Hauts de France stage 2 & 3
2nd 2021 A Travers Les Hauts de France overall
2nd 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Omnium
2nd 2020 World Championships Team Pursuit
2nd 2020 World Championships Madison
2nd 2018 Commonwealth Games Points Race
2nd 2018 Commonwealth Games Scratch Race

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