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"Feel alive and willing, whatever quest you’re on," says Ryder Hesjedal, Canadian cyclist and winner of the Giro d’Italia.
Words to live by – whether you’re a top-ranked cyclist, or a senior business executive.
Whatever your objective, you must balance short-term decisions against long-term strategy. Success is never a given. It definitely wasn’t for Hesjedal when he got on his bike the first day of the Giro d’Italia.
The Giro may well be the world’s most difficult cycling race. Stretching over 21 stages, cyclists cover more than 3,500 kilometres. And it took every day and almost every kilometre of the competition for Hesjedal to win – just the second time in 95 years that the race has come down to the final stage.
It was a prestigious victory for Hesjedal – the first Canadian cyclist to ever win a Grand Tour. But what factors helped him succeed? What mental shifts were required to get over the tests of adversity? Hesjedal took time out of his training schedule to chat about how he won the race of his life.
His answers provide insights that any senior executive can learn from.
Congratulations on the biggest win of your career. What did you do after such a big victory?
Thank you! It’s been an incredible three weeks. Just after the Giro d’Italia was done in Milan, I was enjoying the moment. It was pretty chaotic with the media and all the obligations that come with the win. After that it was just enjoying the moment with the team, support staff, management and everyone who made it happen.
What did you do to prepare for this big victory?
Reaching your goals is a matter of sticking with your plan and forging ahead daily. I had a long-term plan mapped out before the New Year, then worked hard at it. Every day you evaluate your performance and make decisions. Achieving the initial markers that I set up in my plan kept building my confidence, and driving me towards the results I wanted. Then it was just a matter of getting into the race and getting it going.
What was your strategy going into the race?
It helps to always focus on the day in front of you, and not on the end of the race, to keep rolling forward. You have to execute the race to the best of your ability. All I thought was that I had a chance to make it. And all I did was make it the best ride of my life. I just focused on the task at hand.
You won the jersey for three days in the middle of the Giro, and then lost it. When you lost the jersey, did you make any changes to your game plan?
There are many strategic and tactical points such as that [winning and losing the jersey] in the race. Once you have the jersey, it’s a big accomplishment in itself. And it’s not easy being in the jersey, because at that point you’re in the lead and have a position of responsibility - being on the podium and having extra press conferences. It becomes hard to stay focused on the big picture, but I knew I had to work hard to stay focused.
You won the event on the last day, which was incredibly dramatic and exciting for the fans to watch. What was going through your mind on the last stretch?
It was the last day, and all I thought was I have the chance to win the Giro d’Italia, because I had made it so far. I just wanted to make it the best ride of my life. It was a very powerful situation, and I just focused on execution of the task at hand.
You had a slip on the bike with just a few kilometres left in the final stage. You didn’t fall. How do you stay focused after such an incident and maintain the ‘give-it-your-all’ mentality?
I knew that I could have easily crashed that day. You ride for so many hours in the day and such slips are part of the deal and part of the game, but you keep going. On days which slow you down in your plan and complicate the situation, you still have to keep rolling ahead.
What set you apart in the Giro d’Italia?
Timing and preparation are two things that can help set you apart from others. The accumulation of experience and training, combined with really wanting something and going after it is a winning combination. You should really want it, go after it and give it your best. Nothing in life comes easy and you just have to keep working at it.