Updated 14th July 2019

In my last blog I wrote about the psychology and physiology of riders in the context of riders of different physical capacity.

In this blog I am writing in the context of a Grand tour where there is not a great deal of physical difference between the main contenders.

Contadors Giro

In the last three weeks Alberto Contador has been taken to the edge of his physical capacity during the 2015 Giro D’talia stages.

He has crashed, received painful debilitating injuries and overcome them.

He was sometimes left exposed in groups where his competitors teams had numerical superiority.


For example on the penultimate and hardest stage of the Giro to Sestriere, he was alone with no team mates for support.

He was then dropped by his main opponents and still overcame his difficulties to retain his Pink Jersey of overall leader.

And while he was taken to the edge and over it physically, especially on the Sestrier stage, he never seemed to go over the edge psychologically.

He remained calm and resolute, eating and drinking during the bad phase and pacing himself until he came around. He then  limited his losses by a controlled climbing effort.

I have admired Contador’s performances so much during this Giro as he demonstrates what it is to be a champion.

Components of a successful Tour de France Performance

When I am looking at bike races especially Grand Tour Races I am looking for the things that make cycling such a great sport.

The physical conditioning, the bike skills whether descending or sprinting.

The tactics and the mental qualities of patience, focus, picking the correct tactics and being able to apply them whether that means aggression or defence at certain times.

Lots of riders displayed some of these qualities during the Giro and it made for great racing.

But what makes the absolute difference between being the Champion or an also ran in the Giro where there is very little physical difference between the best riders on GC?


Research from other sports suggests that great Champions display a number of Psychological traits.

32 Olympic Gold medals

Heres content from a research project on ten US Olympic gold medalists who won 32 Olympic medals between them.

Its from the Journal of Applied Sports Psychology by Daniel Gould, Kristen Dieffenbach & Aaron Moffett are very interesting.

“Ten U.S. Olympic champions (winners of 32 Olympic medals) were interviewed, as were one of their coaches ( n = 10), and a parent, guardian, or significant other ( n = 10). A battery of psychological inventories was also administered to the athletes. It was found that the athletes were characterized by: (a) the ability to cope with and control anxiety; (b) confidence; (c) mental toughness/resiliency; (d) sport intelligence; (e) the ability to focus and block out distractions; (f) competitiveness; (g) a hard-work ethic; (h) the ability to set and achieve goals; (i) coachability; (j) high levels of dispositional hope; (k) optimism; and (l) adaptive perfectionism”

This research demonstrates that whenever Contador crashed, punctured was dropped, or was on the attack that he displayed all the Psychological traits of a Champion right throughout this year’s Giro.

Looking forward to more battle and great performances from Contador and the other great champions in the Tour De France

Link to Journal Article http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10413200290103482

Paddy Doran http://www.peakendurancecoaching.com

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