Arnaud Démare is a 26 year old professional cyclist from France who races for the UCI World Team Groupama - FDJ. He has significant career wins in his young career, having won the 2011 UCI World Under - 23 Road Race Championships and the 2016 Milan-San Remo Race. Milan-San Remo is considered to be one of the highest rated single day races in professional cycling. This past July, on Thursday the 26th to be exact, he won the 18th stage of the 2018 Tour de France. This win is significant because on the two previous stages he finished nowhere near the front, having come in at 147th and 145th place. Which was last on those respective stages. Now there are a number of reasons why during a tour race a rider might finish one stage towards the back of the pack and another stage up towards the front. After all, 21 days of riding your bike under the conditions they ride is a grueling feat. On this given day no one had considered Démare to be a true threat. In addition to the two previous last place finishes he was actually having a tough previous four days. Finishing the last four stages towards the back of the pack. Having felt good that day though and keeping himself out of trouble he was able to position himself towards the front in a classic bunch sprint and emerge the victor.
The lesson I learn from this is that a given day’s performance does not define your ultimate capacity to perform. All too often I feel athletes lose sight of this. Especially when it comes to racing. It is tough not to judge ourselves by our race performances and I get that. We sacrifice a lot and put many months of hard work into achieving a self-declared result, and if that result is not achieved it is easy to get discouraged. It is not like baseball where we have 3 or 4 or even 5 chances in one game to get a hit. We don’t go back and re-ride the course if we don’t complete it under 6 hours. Even when it comes to training athletes put too much stock into single day performances. Why do we tend to judge ourselves and base our training off of one random 20 minute FTP test. Should this test performed in our basement on a dreary day in January be an absolute on how we should train for the next 3 months? I know these results do have their place and I’m not expecting anyone to just totally disregard their race results or never perform an FTP test again. I’m simply asking athletes to think and to be more flexible and open-minded as to how they judge their performances and how they train. I’m sure Démare knew he had it in him to win a stage even if his previous performances on those mountain stages might have had him doubting his legs. If one trusts the process and sticks with it day after day, month after month, and year after year the desired performances will come.