I've been thinking about this a lot lately. And some of my athletes are going to call me a complete hypocrite because I just wrote a piece for them on setting appropriate goals and ended that post by saying that you simply have to earn yourself a level of fitness to support your goals. And I still believe that whole heartedly.
But then there's Thomas Voekler.
Not saying he's not fit enough to achieve his goals- just saying that in the past that guy has not shown that he has the physical capability to do what he is doing this month in France. But he's doing it. So what's the deal with that?
And this is a total aside, but I have to say, I do wonder if he is a master player in the psychological game... Every day he says that he doesn't expect to keep the jersey tomorrow but then he goes and fights like hell for it all day... and then keeps it. We all know athletes who do this to some degree (and btw I hate it when athletes do this)... they say, "Oh I can't go as fast as you..." blah blah blah and then you're training/racing together and they totally do go as fast as you and becomes this psychological blow... b/c you're killing yourself going as hard as you can and that sandbagger athlete is still riding right on your wheel or running shoulder to shoulder with you uphill and the obvious implication in your own mind at that point is I am not as fast as I thought if I can't drop this guy/gal who told me he/she couldn't go this fast... So I do wonder if Voekler is getting under the skin of the other contenders when they attack on a climb and can't shake him. It must be a bit of a blow to their confidence when they see that guy hanging on like such a sticky booger. Maybe that's why they only attack for like a second and then sit up? Anyway. That was a complete aside.
Back to Voekler. My thought there is that he actually really does truly believe in himself. He must truly believe that he is as good as those other climbers. So if day after day we hear all the commentators say that he doesn't have the physical capacity to climb with them, but yet, he is climbing with them, then it must all be in his head, right? So maybe there IS such a thing as Race Day Magic? Or in his case, Race Month Magic... where you have a good deal of baseline fitness but then race day comes and you just freakin' rise to the occasion. Previous ceilings you may have put on yourself... break through them! To hell with your heart rate monitor and power meter on race day. Just go race.
Now I may have completely jinxed Voekler here and he might just get dropped like a bad habit tomorrow when they climb those huge Alps... but even if he does, well, he still showed me something this last week about what we can all be physically capable of if we just believe ourselves to be.