The wait is finally over. For the past twelve weeks or so, riders have been counting down to this week. Long days of riding followed by long afternoons in the gym or on a bicycle will finally see fruition in a few days’ time. It is not an easy time for the riders. The hard days just seem to be on repeat, a Groundhog’s Day of pain and suffering. For most of the top riders, they will adapt some sort of the “suffer now or suffer later” adage. Luckily, those days are behind everyone.
The tricky part now is the mental game. There are, in my estimation, seven to ten riders that all think this is their year to win the title. I can’t really argue with most of their cases, either. The biggest nemesis they will have to face is their own psyche. Staying patient, making good decisions, and being there every weekend for seventeen races is paramount for winning this championship. Their mind will be screaming “GO! GO! GO!” And while they certainly need to do just that, it has to be a calculated effort. As many will be saying on Saturday, “No one can win the title at Anaheim but they can certainly lose it.” Getting a good result is definitely important, but making a championship decision to take a fourth place for 18 points is much smarter than making a poor decision, crashing out, and getting 1 point.
As for this week, it will be a bit easier than what they have faced the past couple of months. The work has been put in; it’s time to recover and let the body energize for peak performance on Saturday. Riders will do a lot of sprint work this week and maybe finalize some settings on the bike, but it’s really more of a maintenance type workload. The gym sessions and bicycle rides will be tapered down a bit with an emphasis on recovery versus building. Now is not the time to try to get into shape; that day has come and gone.
There will be a lot of massaging and stretching this week, just trying to stay loose and keep the mind relaxed. I can’t properly explain in words how much pressure the riders feel entering this Saturday; it’s their whole world wrapped up into one day. There are literally dozens of people whose sole job is to make a rider perform to his potential. On top of that, said rider’s sponsors are spending millions of dollars on marketing and rider salary, and letting them down doesn’t seem like an option. Friends and family have been waiting for months for this day to come, and the riders themselves are some of the most competitive people on earth. Putting in a good, solid week, keeping a clear mind, and going into Saturday with more excitement than nervous tension is the goal. Wishful thinking, maybe, but still the goal.
It’s finally time to kick off another season. Personally, I couldn’t be more excited. All of the angst and stomach knots I used to feel as a racer are now replaced by sheer anticipation. We are on the precipice of what many feel will be one of the best seasons ever. The off-season countdown is drawing to a close and all of the nonsensical predictions will stop. Ladies and gentlemen, Anaheim is finally here.