One of the best feelings as an athlete is knowing you’re ready to advance. After years of incremental growth and the excitement of discovering new approaches, athletes (whether hobbyists or amateurs hoping to go pro) are usually ready for a new challenge. In fact, this extends to anyone hoping to advance and challenge themselves.
For example, Scottish poker pro David Docherty got his start back in 2008 after winning a contest to see the World Series of Poker Main Event live. The tournament captured his attention and he went on to start playing competitively online. Fast forward fifteen years and Docherty is one of the premier players in the UK scene.
But to advance from a Texas Hold’em newcomer to one of Scotland’s top players, Docherty needed to break through the noise. To grow, he started rubbing elbows with industry pros at events like the European Poker Tour and online tournaments. By 2021, he had nabbed a six-figure win at the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour.
For cyclists looking to level up their game—whether with the hopes of becoming the next David Millar or simply to challenge themselves with a route like Bealach na Ba—you’ll need to know the signs of when you’re ready to go from a spectator to a participant. And, from there, when you’re ready to leap from an amateur into the big leagues. Here are four signs that you might be ready.
You’re a Pro with Your Cycling Kit, Including Repairs
The list of basic skills cyclists must develop is extensive, from learning how to ride in wind and rain, sit on a wheel, and drink while riding. But one of the most important skills revolves around the cycling repair kit. Not only should you be highly specialized with your kit, but you should also know how to use it in remote locations.
This means knowing how to repair tire punctures and change a flat at the bare minimum. But if you’re ready for the next cycling challenge, you should be aware of a few other gear notes. These include things like greasing all threaded equipment, switching from metal to nylon tire levers, and knowing how to use a smartphone to keep track of dismantling.
You’ve Built (or Joined) a Cycling Community
For Docherty to become one of the UK’s most qualified poker pros, he had to join the international poker community. Given most people practice with online events and games, Docherty’s community was largely virtual. By comparing his technique and performance against other pros, he was able to benchmark his progress. The same goes for cyclists. If you have a strong cycling community around you, you’re prepared to take on new challenges. Not only will a community support you, but they’ll also push you to perform at your highest level.
You’ve Got a Hankering for Ultras
One sure sign that you’re ready to advance is that you’ve started looking into ultras. These are some of the most demanding physical contests in the world—nonetheless in cycling. So, if you’ve started eyeing specific training programs that will help you prep for 50-70 km events or for those that run 70+ km, then it’s time to target a specific event.
Keep in mind that you can start off a bit slower. For example, the Around the Bay ride includes options from 20 km to 300 km events. Rather than dive straight into a larger ultra, varied events like Around the Bay will let you take things at your own pace as you level up.
Your Calendar is Filling Up
This sign goes hand in hand with having the itch to take on an ultra. As you become more enmeshed in the cycling world, you might find that you’re penciling down more events—whether with the aim of watching or participating. You might even be keeping track of pro cyclists as they prepare for the grand tours in France, Italy, and Spain. If that’s the case, then know that you’re psychologically prepped to start taking on new challenges, whether solo pursuits or organized events.