The talent in the pro peloton is an oft-discussed topic. Yep, there is A LOT of it! But there are a couple of things that don't get as much play, but that make such a HUGE difference in the long term success of pro's. Ok, there may be three things, but let's start with two...
Topic #1: Chip On The Shoulder - Racers race for a different reasons...but most everyone of them has some sort of chip on their shoulder. It may reside under the surface, but the drive to win comes from a place of internal upset - be it a slight in the past, family/personal experience or a personality trait...there is a reason Phil says the 'turn the pedals in anger'. I don't cast aspersions here, merely point to what I think is a deep internal drive that top riders seem to share, and I think that drive resides in both a quest to be the best and to make/prove a point. Doubt it? Look inside your motivations when racing.
Topic #2: Calm In The Head - Listen to interviews and you'll likely hear a fairly calm and collected assessment of the race to come, or just passed. Riders don't tend to get too worked up about stuff day to day...some ascribe this to fatigue (which may be true), but credit must also be given to general demeanor of the athletes when it comes to their job. While you, or most especially I, may get worked up at the impromptu flat, travel interruption, or race situation that doesn't go our way, pro's generally take a pretty philosophical attitude to these things. I think it's essential to be mostly level headed....
and consistency matters...viscious:
Of course a bit of enthusiasm always helps:
Sorry Adam...had to be done...
Topic #3: Iron In The Gut - This is actually the most important unknown talent, but my title block was getting too long. Pro riders MUST have an Iron stomach, it's a necessity. The amount of stuff they put thru their bodies is simply amazing - fear inducing actually. Let's just shake out some numbers real quick.
First there is the water: 8-10 Bottles PER DAY - On the bike! Plus another couple of bottles post race, then post race recovery mix, then more water with dinner - lots of water! at 20oz per bottle it gets to be over 3 GALLONS pretty quickly (64oz to a Gallon or something right?).
Next we have food: There are lots of discussions about how many calories a day the racing cyclist burns, but let's put it in a couple of understandable formats. First, let's baseline at 5000 calories a day for a race like the Tour of California. It's an oft cited number, but not far off and we can use both Marc DeMaar and Luke Bobridge as our references here - DeMaar did 3935KJ's for the stage, Bobridge 4468KJ's (It's farily common to equate KJ"s to Kcal -calories). This doesn't include their BMR (basal metabolic rate), so the 5000 calories guess is pretty good. In simple terms:
A Big Mac has 550 calories (with almost half of those coming from fat!)...so you're gonna need 9 Big Macs each day. Not health enough? Ok, Chicken is healthy so let's get some Nuggets! at 190 calories for 4 Nuggets - about 47 per Nugget - you'll need about 106 Nuggets each day.
Ok, cyclists are famous for their pasta consumption. WikiAnswers tells me there are 220 calories in a cup of Spaghetti. Why, that's only 22 cups of Spaghetti...a pittance! But of course they eat many of their calories on the bike, let's say 250/hr based on absorption rates and how much the stomach can process (60g is a good baseline), so they get another 1250 calories from on bike nutrition in a five hour stage. Gels are typically in the range of 100-110 calories each, so let's call it a dozen on the bike, or if you want to be truly Machiavellian 50 gel packs for a full days nutrition,yum!
Ah, you're more of a liquid nutrition kind of rider, eh? Ok, Hammer Perpetum is about 130 calories per scoop - 38 scoops and you've got a day! Of course you have to add that to a liquid, most are using 3-4 scoops per bottle (9 bottles'ish), so you may never actually get out of the bathroom to race...but i think you get the point.
So what's the bottom line? Success in cycling requires talent and natural ability, but it also requires a good head on your shoulders, a stomach that won't quit and a desire to avenge whatever wrong motivates you...