As a coach and athlete, I have seen and experienced many races that didn’t go as planned. I have been dropped and cut from a race week after week. I have finished last. I have been in a winning situation that with only 2 corners left, came crashing into a heap of bikes, road rash, broken helmet, and a DNF. I have flown to races, spending a lot of money and time to get there, all to have really bad luck and get cut from the race on day 1 of 5! Trust me, I have had my share of disappointing races and it isn’t fun. I have seen my own athletes train so hard for events all to have mechanical issues, bonking, cramping, sickness, or just being physically challenged beyond what they imagined. Whatever it is, we all have goals and set expectations on how our races should turn out and it just doesn’t always go that way.


Here are some tips on how to take what you might feel as a ‘failure’ and turn it into fuel.


1. If you have a disappointing race, don’t react, write down play for play of that race.

This was a tip that was given to me when I first started racing collegiate cycling in 2004. For me, it started with a notepad and a pen and then turned into a blog. This recap of every event made it so much easier to reflect upon what happened and what went wrong.

Was it race tactics?

Was I missing proper nutrition? Did I bonk?

Did I need to train harder to reach the physical requirements for the event?

Was I not giving myself enough credit for the good things that happened that day?

Was I pro-active as a member of the team?

By writing down what happened in your event, you can not only do some serious venting, but help yourself piece together the puzzle of why your event didn’t go the way you wanted it to and figure out how to make the next one better.



2. Keep it fun and don’t get caught up in results.

When I first became a pro – I literally fell into the deep end of the pool and had to learn how to swim. I chose to start my pro career in Europe with the best of the best. And boy did I ever go through a humbling experience of getting dropped over and over again to finally setting a goal of just finishing a darn race! It was like getting punched in the gut over and over and finally pushing myself up. I stopped checking the results because I knew I definitely wasn’t on the podium, I wasn’t top ten…or 50. Looking at a finishing number would only make me feel discouraged so to undo that – I stopped checking results and just focused on baby steps and baby victories – finishing. Despite all of my subsequent ‘failures’ that summer, I did find the fun and some comedy of the whole adventure. Heck, I was living the dream while my friends were going into a corporate world of working 9-5 every day! So basically when you are having a horrible race and feeling terrible for yourself, play the ‘would you rather’ game and ask yourself, “Would I rather be sitting in a cubicle right now?” or “how many people would want to have the opportunity to do what I’m doing now?”


This is me after a race in Belgium in 2008. As you can see from my face, I was a little defeated.  Racing on the cobbles was incredibly challenging and I was dropped mid-way into the race. But I refused to give up!



3. Have a good attitude and congratulate yourself on starting and not giving up.

Bad days are going to happen, it’s just the way of life but give yourself some credit. First of all, think of how many people you know that would never attempt to do what you are doing. You are a rock star for just being out there!  It is also quite admirable to overcome an adverse situation. Finishing under tough circumstances shows a lot of strength and determination! You might not get a medal for that, but I guarantee you will have a priceless feeling of that personal victory when you cross that line.


Recently, I had an athlete who was at his national championship race, sitting in 2nd place, feeling like he had the potential to win – all to have his chain break and set him back 20 minutes!  He didn’t give up though, he fought his way back up to fifth!  Another athlete was having the biggest endurance challenge ever, broke her wheel, and although she barely made the time cuts, she still finished with a smile!


Sometimes the weather will make your race extremely challenging.  Try a cyclocross race in sleet that turns to snow!



4. Having a good event does involve a little bit of ‘luck’.

I have some Irish in my blood so I do believe in ‘luck’! When you understand all the dynamics of an event, you’ll realize the odds of having a good race or event are actually really low! Having a mechanical, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, crashing, and going off course are some of the things that can happen. With so many factors, having a great day takes lots of planning and luck.

There are ways to increase your odds of having good luck – for instance:

  • Being physically prepared – follow a training plan or hire a coach
  • Understanding race tactics – do more events!
  • Keeping mechanicals to a minimum – keep your bike in great condition and have a mechanic at a bike shop give your bike a regular tune up. If you have a race, make sure you have new (or almost new) tires and parts that could otherwise break.

Grand Junction Epic Rides

That tiny dot on the trail is me!  This was my first professional mountain bike race – the Epic Rides Grand Junction. After a few people dropped out, I was the very last person to cross that line but I attempted to wheelie and made sure to have a smile on my face!


5. Talk it over with your club, team, or friends.

There is nothing like sitting around with friends and telling your war stories. In fact, the more horrible your race was, the better of a story you can tell! I’m not encouraging whining or asking for sympathy, I am just saying that talking about your horrible day might help you find some humor in it, help you cope with your disappointment, and maybe realize that everyone else has been in the same boat too.


So, pick yourself up and don’t let bad results or disappointment bring you down and keep you from pushing yourself, setting big goals, or trying again. We all have different expectations of ourselves.  What some might think is a ‘good’ result, you might feel is horrible. You’ve got potential and you know it! Sometimes it takes a few tries to get there but you’ll never reach your goal if you don’t try. And lastly, don’t forget to have fun! If you are getting so worked up from results that you aren’t having fun, you may want to reevaluate why you are doing the events you are doing. Life is too short to not enjoy it, so make sure whatever you do, you enjoy the adventure that it brings you!


About Melissa Ross:

melissaMelissa Ross is Co-Founder and Cycling Coach of Potential Energy Training and Nutrition. Melissa’s 11+years in the sport as an athlete and 5 years as a coach has taken her all over the world from touring Italy, racing across Europe and the US as a professional road cyclist, to becoming a pro mountain biker, exploring the trails across Arizona and even recently finishing 13th in the Absa Cape Epic in South Africa and making the podium 2 years in a row in the Leadville Trail 100! Melissa has an incredible desire to help other people reach their full potential and bring the passion of having a healthy lifestyle into their lives.

Connect with Melissa:

How to cope with a disappointing race.
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