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A Thin Line

In my February blog I wrote about coming back to racing after an injury and the 2021 season was slowly approaching on the horizon.

It’s June now and we’re looking back on almost 4 months of racing in what is an Olympic year. Back in my first blog of the year, I was super positive about and looking forward to a new season with a new team and new goals. After smashing my testing in January and a great training camp in February with the boys from Leopard Pro Cycling I felt more than ready to continue my upward trend from 2020 with gaining my first podiums and feeling like I found that last missing 1 or 2% to be able to really race the race and also go for results myself…

Photo: Raphael Schumacher

That’s where this blog comes in: The thin line of pro sports. The thin line between racing the race or participating. And the tenacious search for reasons and solutions.  Last year I went into a race not thinking about how to make it to the finish line, but how to make it to the finish line first. 

After a tough start in this seasons spring campaign that mindset quickly changed, because obviously I had to think about finishing itself more than I had to think about the position I finish in. Plus I had to figure out what the problem is and was. 

There have been a lot of factors that have changed from one year to another: new team, new bike, new shoes and pedals. Furthermore, the last time I was racing, I crashed and my season was over.

The mind games began: Is it the position? Is it my positioning? Is it me being more fearful in the peloton after the crash? Is it the training? Is it my general health? Am I fatigued? Is it just too many things that changed all at once? Is it the races I race? Or is it just me?

I kept asking me all those questions over and over again. I made changes. I went to a bike fitting, adapted my training. I started to work with a sports psychologist and started to work more and more on my skills.

Photo: Felix Homann

Three weeks of concentrated training later I went into the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour with a positive mindset, knowing I have done my homework. But still, I wasn’t where I wanted, needed and had to be, neither were my legs or results. Only during one stage I had that slight glimpse of my former me, a glimpse of hope motivating me to work even harder to get back where I was.

It is a lesson that I’m learning at the moment, even if it is a hard one. The last three years I kept improving continuously. There wasn’t a real down or valley I had to push through. Now for the first time things aren’t running smoothly and I have learned that it’s not like my numbers are 5 or 10% lower. My FTP is even better than it has ever been. But it’s those few details that make a big difference. It’s this thin line. It’s being 1-2 % below or 1-2% above that line.

It can be the few mm of your saddle being too low or a few VO2 Max sessions too less, it can be 1-2 kg above your race weight. 

So when you go into the attack, you are able to go three times, but the fourth time you can’t close the gap anymore. Breakaway gone. It’s the 5 km/h you lose in the last corner, because you are that tiny bit earlier on the breaks than you used to be. It’s the 10m you lose to the bunch at the top of the climb. But it’s also a process. It’s not static. And why shouldn’t I be able to get back where I was, because obviously I have been there already. So I’ll find my way back there. And I am sure this experience will even help me to get onto a higher level since I’m looking at more details surrounding my performance than I have ever done before. 

Photo: Kyosuke Takei

It might be already the weeks now after Nationals or it might be in the second half of the season. But if I know one thing for sure, it Is that I am not giving up that easily. I’ll keep asking myself those questions, I’ll keep re-evaluating and I’ll keep racing, because this is what I love, even if I do not cross the finish line first.

Thanks for reading, 

Cheers

Tanja

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