Inside the mind of former Tour de France winner Cadel Evans

By Su

Tour de France 2011 winner Cadel Evans visited the “Disneyland for Athletes” – his nickname for Thanyapura Phuket – earlier this year after announcing his retirement from cycling. The athlete spoke to Thanyapura Phuket about how important mind training is for race day and how he maintains concentration in a race, his experience of the Thai roads and his retirement in the sport. 

Video time stamps

0.14 – His time in Phuket

0.20 – His cycling experience in Thailand

0.30 – Cycling advice for the conditions in Thailand

1.00 – How Cadel maintains focus and concentration during his long three week tours

1.18 – Cadel’s life sayings for competing

1.28 – Being In the Zone

Main points from the interview

Former Tour de France champion Cadel Evans has to maintain concentration for three weeks at a time during tours – something that can prove difficult with the many distractions a sportsperson faces, both physically and mentally. He says, during that long period of time you cannot “let off for a minute because there will always be that one traffic island or crash and the whole Tour de France is over”. His motto is to “tough it out and learn how to suffer”.

But for the four time Olympian, he doesn’t have a specific routine to get In the Zone and maintain the perfect level of concentration. Before a race, Cadel needs a bit of calm and time to relax and reflect so that his “mind is clear”, which at the Tour de France he says is quite hard.

Cadel said: “At the Tour de France, it is a bit harder to find time to relax because everyone is getting ready for the race around you and within the team, there is a certain level of expectation to get the results. To find somewhere quiet at the Tour de France to have some down time is quite difficult but it’s important to me so I can let my mind focus really.

“Sometimes I will stop and think of a good friend, family member or my son just to calm down. It’s bringing yourself to that space to calm your mind. When I am doing everything automatically, I sometimes forget to just relax and breathe so that’s what I try to focus on that.

“There are times when there are outside influences that can create negatively but you have to insulate yourself from that. You have to stop and think ‘I’m doing the best that I can in the condition that I am in’ – so, I have always went back to that philosophy.”

Cadel has competed in several tours but noted that talent is not just physical, it is also mental and getting In the Zone can be just as important as preparing your body physically.

He said: “Physical ability accounts for about 80 per cent of the performance and then the mental talent makes up for that 20%. You get some people that are mentally very talented but not physically but they can sometimes do better because they have learnt how to work harder, better and faster to get more out of themselves.”

Looking back on his successful and long career, Cadel said he has no regrets from any of the mistakes he made that could have won him a race, like the 2008 Tour de France.

“The things that you do wrong when you are 18 or 20 is what you can learn when you are 25 or 30. The mistakes that I made at the Tour de France in 2008 helped me win the Tour de France in 2011,” he said.

“I look back on my career and my motivation was that when I eventually stopped that I would not have any regrets. I stepped away from competing in February this year and I didn’t have any regrets then. In the end for me, it was give everything and have everything and so as long as you have given everything that you have each time in training, or in races, you can’t ask much more of yourself.”

During his time at Thanyapura, Cadel made the most of our facilities and explored Phuket on his bike.

He said: “I realise why people tour the world by bike now because you get to see a place properly – it’s a good way to travel.

“It was my first time in Phuket and first time cycling in Thailand actually and at Thanyapura. Here at Thanyapura is pure quality – it has physio, sports science and the medical stuff alongside all the training equipment in a smaller more relaxed environment.

“I have been out on the roads cycling and they are quite good and the drivers are very patient. The climbs here are quite short and sharp but climbing always comes down to power to weight ratio, so if you can lose a few kilos before you come here that is always going to help.

“I notice with a lot of the roads the gradient increases as you get to the top of the hill, which is a bit demoralising when you’re getting more tired.”

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