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The Keys to Creating a Championship Mindset


The best cyclists in the world don’t always have the highest power outputs or VO2 max values. A big aerobic engine is a prerequisite for reaching the top level of competition, but champions perform beyond their test numbers because they are inspired by the belief their best performances are still ahead of them. No matter your current fitness level, you can absolutely improve your performance by developing a championship mindset!

In a recent post I described what a fixed mindset looked like and how it holds cyclists back. Here is what a growth mindset looks like and why you want to develop one.

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

In case you didn’t read my recent post, here’s a quick refresher on Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck’s growth mindset concept. At a basic level it identifies two mindsets. A person with a ‘fixed mindset’ that believes talent, ability, and intelligence are fixed and unchangeable traits. The focus on being good, avoid challenges that might prove otherwise, and resist changes and new opportunities. An athlete with a ‘growth mindset’ believes talent, ability, and intelligence can grow and develop through practice, hard work, and learning.

Cyclists and other endurance athletes have a natural tendency toward growth mindsets. You inherently understand that training (learning) leads to increased fitness (improvement). However, some cyclists who understand how physical training works are still motivated by a fear of failure, a key hallmark of a fixed mindset, instead of the opportunity for success.

What a winning mindset looks like

Just last week Fred Drier interviewed Trek-Segafredo’s Toms Skujins for Velonews after the Latvian won Tre Valli Varesine in Italy. Skujins raced on the Hincapie Sportswear Development team in 2014-2015 and at the time worked with CTS Coach Kevin Todd. He’s gone on to great success with Cannondale and Trek-Segafredo, including 4 World Tour victories in 2018 and a few days in the King of the Mountains jersey in his first year at the Tour de France. One of the most telling quotes from his recent interview was: “If you put us all on trainers I’ll never win another bike race again. I’m not the strongest so I gotta come up with other ways to win.”

An athlete with a fixed mindset would say he wasn’t the strongest rider so he’s happy to just do his job for the team and not go for wins. That drive to come up with other ways to win is what a growth mindset is about.

Within your group of cyclists and your own training, here is what a growth mindset looks like.


This person asks questions and challenges conventional ideas about training, nutrition, and performance. They are not satisfied with, “This is how we’ve always done it.” That doesn’t mean they jump from one training method to another on a whim, but rather that they examine new ideas to see if there’s anything they can learn or apply to their training. This is also an important quality to look for in a coach.


New relationships with athletes, coaches, and experts in performance-related fields are opportunities to gain more knowledge. These people are less cliquey because they welcome new voices and aren’t intimidated by cyclists who may be faster or stronger than they are. Similarly, they are quick to share information with less experienced riders or help cyclists who are struggling to hang on to the group.


Fortune favors the bold. Faced with identical circumstances, cyclists with a growth mindset see the opportunities to win or do something great before they see or consider the risks of losing or getting dropped. Cyclists with a fixed mindset recognize the same scenarios – like the perfect time to attack – but perceive the risk before the opportunity, and then typically choose the safety of status quo to the risk of failing.

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Sometimes being bold isn’t about going off the front. It can also be seen in an athlete’s willingness to completely empty the tank to hang on at the back or give everything they have in workouts. Athletes with a growth mindset are problem solvers and optimists; they will do everything they can to avoid quitting.

Great teammate

Cyclists with a growth mindset aren’t intimidated by the success of others. They don’t view helping a teammate win as a negative reflection on their own abilities. They are not concerned they might be ceding their position (real or imagined) in a team’s hierarchy. Similarly, when they win they are genuinely appreciative of the riders who helped, and quick to thank each of them personally.

Love process as much or more than outcome

Cyclists with a growth mindset love to win and accomplish event-oriented personal goals, but they also love training. They maintain a long-range view in which events are mile markers, not destinations. This helps them have the confidence to take it easy on rest days, because there is no constant need to test themselves. They are also willing to take on challenges with a moderate to high risk of failure. The potential to succeed in the face of significant obstacles is motivating, not threatening.

All the characteristics of a championship mindset apply to your career and relationships as much as to your cycling. The best entrepreneurs and the best employees are open to new ideas, collaborative, willing to take risks, and happiest to see the team succeed. Great personal relationships are built by valuing your partner every mile of the journey, learning and adapting as you both change over time, and finding genuine fulfillment in seeing the other person succeed.

Create your own championship mindset and be a champion in all aspects of your life!

Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach of CTS

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Comments 6

  1. Great post, however, I wanted to know if you could write a little more about this course? I would be very grateful if you could elaborate a bit more.

  2. Pingback: End-of-Season Review: Are You Asking the Right Questions? - CTS

  3. I’ve concluded competive cycling truly is a metaphor for life.

    Life is a lot like competitive cycling: Sometimes you have to dig deep, suffer but still not be guaranteed anything, not even a pat on the back.

    Win some, lose some, but never give up. Nothing great ever came from quitting. That only leads to regret.

    I can live with failure; I can’t live with regret.

  4. I don’t think I could say it better than Kerry above. Thanks Chris; I always look forward to the insightful CTS blogs from all of your team.

  5. Thank you Chris for sharing this “nugget” of wisdom. The analogies and lessons learned from athletics truly apply to who we are and how we live our lives. Some self-proclaimed business guru would charge thousands for this sage advice and not be as able or as eloquent to state the principles in simple, plain language. You and your Team at CTS are “rock stars” Chris. Keep’em coming….and thank you so much for everything you and your team do for us.
    Best regards
    Kerry Eaton

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