Cleere’s Corner: The difference between Racing and Training

Dr. Michelle Cleere
Nerves exist but anxiety doesn’t have to!

Can butterflies really turn into full blown anxiety and create worry, doubt, and fear? And impact my race? Years ago, I’d get ready to give a presentation and my nerves would pop up. For me the nerves start with the physical manifestation and then move to my brain. It would start with butterflies in my stomach and an increase in heart rate. Then it would lead to me thinking all kinds of negative, irrational stuff.

What was the outcome? Inevitably I’d get on stage and feel nervous. I’d stumbled through the first five minutes stuttering.

When I realized what was going on (after much insight gained through my MA in Sport Psychology), I knew I needed to change what was happening prior to my presentations. I developed a pre-presentation routine. I tried several things – music, movies and meditation. They all helped to a degree, but I still wasn’t feeling as confident as I wanted to.

The next step was to develop a mantra. Something short and sweet that would calm the nerves and get me feeling excited about presenting. My mantra was and still is – I am so excited. I sometimes add, I can’t wait to do this! My nerves start the night before a presentation. As soon as I start to feel the nerves, I say my mantra; out loud (if I am alone) or in my head. Two seconds later when the nerves pop up again, I say my mantra. Two seconds after that when they are still there, I say my mantra again. It takes some persistence.

Recognize the reality of anxiety

So how does it show up for you? How does it show up for racers? Anxiety is something every elite performer deals with at some level. There are three important things to understand about anxiety:

  1. Nerves which we often interpret as anxiety don’t have to get that big. Learn to let the nervous thoughts flow in and flow out. If you add to those thoughts, you make them bigger and that’s when the thoughts grow and become full blown anxiety.
  2. Nerves will always exist. They are the way our brain tells our body that something big or important is about to happen.
  3. You do have a choice how you deal with them.

Anxiety is a negative emotional state often characterized by worry, doubt, fear and nervousness. Anxiety appears cognitively through worry and fear. It also appears somatically through things like butterflies and increased heart rate.

The effects of anxiety on your performance

There are many theories on anxiety. The theory explained here is called catastrophe theory. Catastrophe theory states that low worry, increased arousal, and somatic anxiety are related to performance in an inverted U-way. With a lot of worry, the increases in arousal improve performance to a person’s optimal zone. If arousal continues beyond the zone, there is a rapid and dramatic decline in performance. Once a person’s performance has rapidly declined due to increased arousal levels, they would need to greatly decrease their physiological arousal before being able to regain previous performance levels.

Key considerations of anxiety

There are five key considerations to think about when it comes to anxiety.

1)   Identify your optimal arousal related emotions. Think of arousal as an emotional temperature and arousal regulation skills as a thermostat. Your goal is to find your optimal emotional temperature (under what conditions do you perform optimally) and then learn how to regulate your thermostat. Regulating your thermostat is done by either psyching up or psyching down.

2)   Recognize how your personal and situational factors interact. It’s important to understand the interaction of personal factors (self-esteem, state, and trait anxiety) and situational factors (event importance and uncertainty) to get the best predictor of arousal, state anxiety, and performance.

3)   Recognize your signs of arousal and anxiety. You can better understand your anxiety level when you become familiar with the signs and symptoms of increased stress and anxiety. Learn how to regulate the levels of symptoms based on your optimal performance level. The quantity of symptoms depends on the individual. It’s the quality that’s important to keep in mind. Try to notice changes in these variables between low and high stress environments and learn to make changes when necessary. Here are some of them:

4)   Develop your confidence and perceptions of control. You can develop confidence by being positive and putting yourself in positive situations/environments. By being positive you surround yourself with other positive people and positive situations/environments. One other way to develop confidence is by learning to feel ok about mistakes.

Deal with anxiety

Self-reflection is a critical component of being a cyclist. After a performance, write down how you felt before, during, and after (positive and negative) it. Keep track of your thoughts, feelings, physiological symptoms, your perception about whether the performance was easy, moderate or hard; what importance did you place on it, etc. You can use this information to become aware of what helps you play well and what gets in the way of your performance. Self-reflection allows you see the patterns and adjust the negatives to make a more positive change to your race.

Other techniques for dealing with anxiety

1)   Smile when you feel the anxiety. It’s difficult to be mad when you are smiling, and it takes the edge off anxiety-producing situations.

2)   Think fun. Highly skilled cyclists have a sense of enjoyment and fun while they are performing. Most of them look forward to the challenge of pressure situations. This does not mean they don’t get nervous.

3)   Breathe. Breathe. Breath control and focus produce energy and reduce tension.

4)   Use a mantra. Saying and thinking personally generated, positive words or phrases can be energizing and activating. Some examples are: I can do it, push to the top, , etc.

5)   Build confidence with a pre-race routine. Once you perfect some of the techniques for dealing with your anxiety you can incorporate these into a pre-race routine. A pre-race routine is a systematic sequence of preparatory thoughts and activities cyclists use to concentrate effectively before performing. These routines help train your mind to focus on what’s important versus focus on the anxiety. By concentrating on each step of a well thought out routine, presenters learn to focus on what is in their control.

Don’t try these for the first time the day of a race. All the above techniques for dealing with anxiety take practice. It’s something that you want to get in the habit of developing during less pressure training sessions, so you have a fully developed, personalized plan for the big race day. Just as you would you do for the physical aspects of your race.

Transform your anxiety into your zone

Your performance can be hindered significantly by how far your anxiety pushes your level of arousal. At the lower end of the arousal scale, a cyclist is not aroused enough to perform optimally. With a little psyching up, you can find your zone or optimal performance level. This zone is very small as compared to the lower and upper ends of the arousal scale. That is why it takes a lot of awareness, understanding and refinement to stay in that zone, and not drop off the other side into the psyched-out zone where performance drastically declines.

Remember, you aren’t going to change your anxiety levels overnight, but the great news is you can immediately begin to become aware of what your anxiety levels are and almost immediately figure out how to work on regulating your anxiety for optimal performance. For your best race!

Check in with Dr. Michelle if your anxiety impacts your race.
Dr. Michelle
Elite Performance Expert
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Fun at Winter Camp!


NorCal Race #1 South Conference – Seaside, CA

February 24, 2018

Varsity Boys

1st Noah Hayes

NorCal Race #1 North Conference – Seaside, CA

February 25, 2018

Varsity Girls
1st Mina Ricci
3rd Clodagh Mellett
Varsity Boys
1st Dylan Fryer
3rd Julian LePelch
4th Sebastian Dow
16th Liam Howard
JV Boys
5th Toby Coughlan


U23 Team Camp Report

by Carson Beckett

Saying that I both had a great time and learned a lot at the Bear Pro Team Camp is an understatement. I was so amped to kick off the year and officially get back together with the team. It was so exciting to be packing the bike again and getting things together for another travel day, something I’ve missed over the long winter months. Partnered up with the boys, Jason Jablonski, Shaums March, and Stephen Ettinger, our team camp commenced on Friday afternoon.

The first day was kept mild and filled with just getting things together for the long weekend along with some meet and greet. However, Saturday was busting at the seams with events. We started off the rainy, 40° day with skills work under an enclosed pump track. Shaums put us all on flats and BMX bikes to shake things up and teach us about balance, cornering, and grounding yourself of the bike. We spent a couple hours getting worked over on the pump track–even though the BMX bikes felt weird then, switching back to our XC bikes was a whole new beast. We followed the skills up with lunch and an afternoon ride to apply what we had learned. That evening, we went to the Terrain Gym and learned a bit about some applicable strength workouts. To follow up that night, we had Kristin Keim come and discuss some important points regarding the mental aspect of racing and training. This was HUGE for us, especially as we begin to buckle down for a new season. With dinner out in town, Saturday was a full dose of learning and I know each of us benefitted from it.

Sunday we rose to meet Shaums and work on skills involving drops, jumps, and steep terrain. A good dusting of snow and frigid temps didn’t keep us held back. We started with cornering in the street, then moved to the trails to work on our drops/jumps–progressively working up to bigger ones. We got a quick lunch after this session and then headed out with Stephen to rip some phenomenal Bellingham single track. Working on applying those steep skills, this day was a huge help to all of us involving comfort on the cross country bike. My “dinner partner” and I (Eli) made burritos for the crew and we finished off Sunday with some nutritional, training, and Q & A talk with both Jason and Stephen.

Our final morning came quicker than imaginable, and we packed everything up Monday morning to be ready to go after an AM trail ride. Shaums treated us to some pristine (and frozen) single track to close out the trip. After heading out of Bellingham, we had a good bit of time at the SeaTac airport to reflect on what was a phenomenal weekend. Along with an amazing group of resources, it had the full spectrum of skill work, mental work, and strength work. Not to mention the fact that it was a total stoke builder for everyone on the team. We are completely blown away by the support from sponsors, USA Cycling, and those involved in this coming season and this team camp just amplified our excitement. Time to get the 2018 season rolling!

NorCal Race #1 “Fun at Fort Ord” Report

by Mina Ricci

I had my game face on.

Head down, hands tapping to the beat of my music, breathing through the nervousness. Pre-race nights were always hard for me–a few restless hours filled with anxiety–but as this was the first race of the season, the nerves were worse than ever.

The NICA NorCal Race 1–set in Fort Ord, California–marked the start of my 2018 season and the end of my NICA career. It would be the last NorCal race I ever raced and I went into the event with a combination of sadness, happiness, and nervousness. It seemed like only weeks ago that I first started racing mountain bikes in the NorCal league my sophomore year, and yet here I was, racing my last varsity race as a senior after five months of intense base training.

Race morning was a bittersweet flurry of activity. I tried my best to stay calm and focus on every moment, remembering the faces, the sounds of announcements, the whine of trainers, the familial nature of the NorCal league. I was nervous, yes, but underneath that all was a confidence and surety that this would be a good day.

And before I knew it, I was at the start line with five seconds until go time. How had the time gone by so fast?

Four seconds, three, two, one — And we were off!

Varsity girls were set to race three laps on the sandy, 5.5 mile, fast-paced course, so I planned to go out slow and let the some of the other girls lead the way. But when all the girls funneled in behind me, I realized that I would be the one leading the pack and sped up, setting a quick pace. Soon, the top three varsity girls and I had broken apart from the rest of the pack and were racing ahead.

All was going smoothly until I came around a sandy, downhill corner in the first lap and crashed, giving the varsity girl ahead of me time to sprint away. Remembering my cyclocross skills and months of mental training on how to stay calm during a race, I hopped back on my bike and raced to catch up with the lead, cursing my clumsiness.

For the rest of the first lap and into the beginning of the second, Stella Sisneros, Zayetzy Garcia Bareno, and I traded places, drafting off of each other–until I made a break on the first climb of the second lap, sprinting my heart out and gaining a lead.  And soon Stella and Zayetzy fell behind.

So came time for the last lap. The lap of pure pain, when your legs are cramping and you feel as though you could never pedal any harder than this, yet you manage to sprint even faster. Throughout that last lap, my only thought was “Do not give up, Mina Ricci, you’ve trained so hard for this.” Fighting past fatigue, cramping legs, and a residual cough, I put in one last effort on the final climb and crossed the finish line elated, exhausted, hands in the air and 1 minute 7 seconds ahead of second place.

What a way to start my international season!

Junior Team Camp Report

by Clodagh Mellett

The 2018 Bear Junior Team Camp did not disappoint! It was packed full of fun socializing with the new team, nutrition talks, goal setting, injury prevention and of course shredding the Marin trails on our awesome Trek bikes!!

Our Team camp began on Friday night with a fun social dinner at Julia’s house; we discussed the importance of goal setting for successful athletes. We had a chance to get to meet the new faces in the room and to reconnect with those who we hadn’t seen since last season. The night was full of balance board competitions, backflips, games of pool and trampoline shenanigans!

The first official day of camp started with a beautiful ride through my backyard. We headed up Mt. Tamalpais on Railroad Grade dropping down on the Coastal trail overlooking the ocean where we stopped to get some media footage, we made our way down to Muir Beach and finally climbed back up Diaz Ridge on our way back to the Trek store, our home for the weekend. After our ride we were all ready for food, a couple of team parents had prepared a fabulous meal with everything we could have wanted after a long ride. After lunch, Yuri Hauswald from Gu talked to us about all their products and the best ways to get the most out of them. He explained why we are sponsored by them, not because we were making podium or because we are on Bear Development but because we are ambassadors for the sport. Next Craig Upton talked to us about training, performance and the importance of hard workouts, base training and the massive importance of rest days! Our last speaker of the day was Dara Richman, a physical therapist who talked about stretching, injury prevention and common bike injuries and how to best prevent them. After a long and informational day of fun, we had a couple of hours to go home and rest up before the taco party at the Howard’s house.

We had another night of casual socializing while we enjoyed tacos on the deck with the team.  After we were done eating we made our way into the living room to hear Russell Finsterwald’s fireside chat on life, we got to listen to his life story of becoming a pro athlete. He gave us insight on things he had learned along the way and through his journey. He told us about the hard times and about the amazing experiences he had traveling the world as a pro rider.

The second day came fast, we were at the Trek shop at 8:15 in our gym clothes ready for a hard workout. Aaron Lautman, an amazing all-around athlete was leading our class, we started with core and really focused on form and getting the most out of each exercise. There had been a rumor going around that Kate Courtney was joining us for our ride, I was excited! We were all kitted up and when we walked down stairs, there she was; Kate Courtney. We got to ride with her and talk to her about her life as a pro athlete and as a new college graduate. The girls especially had lots of opportunities to ride with her and get to know her a little better. We worked on some skills with her as we made our way through Tamarancho making conversation with a girl who started out where we all are today! Another fun ride with good weather and lots of footage taken, we got to shred Tamarancho as a team in our new Castelli kits! By the time we made it back to Trek we were starving and like the day before, parents had prepared a yummy lunch for us! After lunch Jack Ricci and Julia talked to us about the importance of nutrition. We discussed different strategies to try throughout our training, the timing of food intake, the amount of nutrients, when it should be eaten, and intermittent fasting. After another long but enjoyable day, we had a couple of hours until dinner at Nina Frank’s house.

Our last night of the Bear Junior Team Camp was full of fun times. Alex Wassmann, and Dana Martin joined us to discuss social media strategies, community action ideas, and branding. We learned lots of tips about representing The Bear Development team, and what that means, we are ambassadors for this sport! And to top the evening off, we played the annual game of charades.

On Monday, we met at Trek at 8:15 for our final ride, we planned to do some sightseeing. We headed out to the Golden Gate Bridge, getting some awesome team shots, we rode up and over Hawk hill and hit the beach, some of us were very excited to see the ocean, and some of us even went for a quick swim in the freezing Pacific ocean. After our final ride we came back to one last team lunch before those from out of state packed up their bikes and headed home.

The 2018 Bear Development Junior Team Camp came and went so fast! I learned so much and had lots of fun. I can’t wait for the upcoming season to get going! Thanks to everyone who was willing to help educate this remarkable team, thanks to Julia and everyone who helped her organize this amazing weekend! And thank you for the fantastic photographers and videographers who chased us around all weekend capturing us all in action!

Junior Team Camp Report

by Dylan Fryer

This year at the Bear Dev Junior Team Camp in Marin, California, there were a whole host of things planned over four days to get to know all the new team members and start off the race season.

On Friday night, we all went to the Julia’s house for a fun team dinner and a first chance to meet a lot of the new faces. After dinner, we talked for a bit about goal setting, going over all the different parts to think about when setting, and achieving, your goals. And to top off a great first night, we all walked out with a bunch of GU products (Thanks GU!) to help keep us fueled for the camp and for the races to come.

Saturday morning brought our first ride of the camp. Our route started at the Trek Store Corte Madera and went over Camino Alto into Mill Valley before heading up Mt. Tam to the West Point Inn. Once there, we headed down Old Stage Road to Pantoll Station where we regrouped before hitting the super scenic Coastal Trail, which took us all the way down to the ocean. After that we headed back up over the hill and ended at the Trek Store for lunch. We were fortunate to have several guest riders that day including Yuri Hauswald, who works with GU, and professional rider Russell Finsterwald. This ride was the perfect landscape for epic photos and we were lucky to have several people out on the trail to do photos and videos, including Nico Tuton-Filson and Rob Evans taking photos and Elliot Jaramillo and Jeff Jungsten taking drone footage. After lunch courtesy of some awesome Bear moms, we had Yuri talk with all of us about the importance of sponsorship activation and promotion, Craig Upton came and talked about training and race preparation, and Dara Richman came and talked about recovery and injury prevention for athletes. That night, we had dinner at the Howard’s house and got an opportunity to hear Russell talk about his path to becoming a pro and his tips for how we can achieve the same goals.

Sunday started in a very different manner with a strength training session thanks to Julia and Aaron Lautman. Aaron took us through some core and glute workouts and talked about the importance of training muscles other than just our quads. After that, we kitted up and headed over to Tamarancho to do some singletrack riding and take more photos, this time joined by professional rider Kate Courtney. We rode the flow trail and stopped by the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame to take some group photos. After another Bear mom supplied lunch, we listened to Julia and Jack Ricci talk about the importance of nutrition and properly feeding our bodies so they can handle the stress that this sport puts them under. We ended the day with dinner at Nina Frank’s house, a talk about sponsor promotion and social media, and some fun games of charades.

Monday, our last day of camp, we had to turn to the tourist side of the coin with a ride to the Golden Gate Bridge, and out to Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands. This culminated a great team camp and wonderful opportunity for all of us to ride together and get to know one another. Let the season begin!

Meet U23 Member Daniel Johnson



Racing age: 21
Hometown: Durango, CO
Race Bike of Choice: Trek Top Fuel
Favorite Training Song: “My Name Is” by Eminem
Best Post-Ride Snack: Koala crisp chocolate rice cereal

Click through to hear a sample of Daniel’s beautiful piano playing!

I grew up in Southern California where summer never ends. I loved being active and doing things outside all day, which mostly consisted of racing my bike around the neighborhood. I don’t need much to stay entertained – I love playing the piano, writing music, and listening to it. I moved to Durango, Colorado, a little over a year ago and I am loving it. Honestly, other than that I’m pretty simple! I like having a good time with friends, riding, and racing my bike. I am also a classically trained pianist and have written a few songs that I’m pretty proud of!

Cycling became a part of who I am because bikes were always around me. My mom and dad were both professional mountain bikers back in the day. Dad loved watching European cycling events, the Tour, and all the other motor sports on channels that aired them.

I have been riding since I could walk. I tried some other sports when I was young but when I was playing them, all I could think about was riding my bike. In fact, bikes are what I thought–and what I still think–about most of the day. I remember doing some stuff that maybe wasn’t the smartest riding around the neighborhood. This one time in particular, I was looking down at the chainring, chain, and cranks while I was riding because I liked the way it looked when it was all in motion. But when I was looking down pedaling, I slammed head first into the back of a parked van and knocked the living hell out of myself! That was a sight for the neighbors!

I started racing BMX when I was around 8 or 9 and my full focus was on that. I made it pretty far racing on a national team and traveling around the country and I loved it. During that time I broke my leg badly at 12 years old and was in the hospital for 2 weeks. After that I started riding on the local bike path to rehab and realized I enjoyed that side of the sport too. When I was better I got into mountain bikes. Getting into the NICA High School MTB league was awesome for me; I acquired the taste of winning and pushing myself hard. Meeting great people and making good friends was a big part of being in the league. And now here I am on this amazing team Bear Development, traveling the world racing bikes with awesome people!

Meet U23 Member Tate Meintjes

Every week for the next month, we will be introducing a member of the Bear Development Pro Team!
Check in to get the inside scoop on Bear Dev’s U23 Riders!
This week, meet…


Racing age: 19
Hometown: Reno, NV
Race Bike of Choice: Trek Top Fuel
Favorite Training Song: “Believer” by Imagine Dragons
Best Post-Ride Snack: A smoothie with a scoop of GU Recovery Protein Powder

All my life, I have been pushed to achieve my full potential in every endeavor I take on – whether that be school, sports, or work. When I was taught to do my best, I think my parents were hoping I would just do the best I could in different aspects of my life. I don’t think they ever saw it coming when that translated into me trying not just do my best, but to live my best. I have lived in Reno, Nevada for my entire life and it is a great base for everything I do in my journey to live my best.

Part of this is going to school. I am attending the University of Nevada, Reno and am studying mechanical engineering. I live on campus and when I am not in class I am outside doing something I love. During the winter I work at a ski resort teaching young children how to ski. I am an instructor in the same program that I went through when I was a young kid learning how to ski. This makes my job rewarding because the program that I am teaching in gave me the building blocks to become the skier and snowboarder that I am today.

Skiing and cycling have been a huge part in my quest to live my best life. My parents introduced me to a wide variety of outdoor sports when I was young such as running, hiking, kayaking, skiing, snowboarding, and cycling. However, when I was younger I didn’t think about cycling as a competitive sport so the way I fueled my competitive nature was through soccer. I joined a team when I was very young and enjoyed it but looking back on it, it never made me feel as ecstatic as cycling has. I was a good soccer player, went to team practices, and played the games, but I never had the motivation to work outside of my time with the team to get better.

This was due to the fact that while I was playing soccer, my friends and my brother were out joining our first local mountain bike team. So instead of working on my soccer in my free time I started going on rides with them more and more, constantly getting heckled because they were getting structure training and were faster than me. After what would be my last soccer game, which we won, I went with my dad to spectate one of my brothers and friends race. I saw the comradery between the riders and the laid-back atmosphere and was immediately hooked. I joined the local mountain bike team and started the most exciting and rewarding sport I had ever done.

When I started my cycling career I never thought of how far it would take me. Last year (2017) especially was huge for me. Early in the season I had the best form I have ever had in my life and immediately took care of one of my long-term goals of winning a Pro XCT. While this in itself was a dream come true, it led to something bigger. I got chosen to represent the United States in Canada which would be my first international races and another completed dream of racing for the U.S. National Team.

Last year was also big for me on a local scale. After my time racing in Canada I was added to the Reno Gazette Journals: Murray’s Top 100 Local Sports Figures of 2016-17. While Reno, Nevada is a relatively small community, many professional sports figures reside or are from the Reno-Tahoe area. This list put me next to names such as 5-Time Olympian Katerina Nash and Professional Freestyle skier David Wise. While I am not anywhere near the level as them, I am honored still to be listed beside such big names.

As I enter the 2018 cycling season I am moving into the U23 ranks and am looking forward to proving my abilities racing against the hard hitters. While there are no indicators telling me how I will perform this next year I am resolving to not just race my bike as fast as humanly possible; but to also excel in my education as a first-year college student, and to somehow still have time for the friends and family that I have been riding bikes with for longer than I can remember.

Meet U23 Member Carson Beckett

Every week for the next month, we will be introducing a member of the Bear Development Pro Team!
Check in to get the inside scoop on Bear Dev’s U23 Riders!
This week, meet…


Racing age: 21
Hometown: Benton, KY
Race Bike of Choice: Trek Top Fuel
Favorite Training Song: “Now or Never” by Halsey
Best Post-Ride Snack: Peanut butter and honey with banana sandwich

Growing up in a small town in Kentucky, things were usually tight-knit and familiar. After a few years of travel and experience, I have been able to meet people and make connections across the U.S. and the globe…something I certainly am grateful for. I would like to think of myself as quite the adventurer off the bike. It is easy to get sucked into another trail or half hour of riding, but I strive to fight complacency in everyday life, too. Since moving to school in Brevard, NC, it has been a lot easier and exciting to be able to explore. I am pursuing a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Exercise Science and I am excited to be able to partner that education with my career in cycling.

At a very young age I started doing some campground riding and trail exploration with my father. After a couple years of that I started actually doing some “pee-wee” races, where my dad could actually just run behind me. Eventually I transitioned out of his running abilities and he had to start riding behind me, but it didn’t take long to be out there solo. I started in racing with a couple local races each year but by the time I had hit middle school we were traveling to race the TBRA series (Tennessee Bike Racing Association). These frequent weekend trips with my local bike shop team and friends marked much of my memory from growing up and I believe is why I fell in love with bikes. Eventually, I guess I wanted to pick things up and began to seek cycling opportunities more and more, putting behind the ball sports.

A few major life achievements that I am super proud of involve getting selected for the Trek All-Star Athlete award for NICA a few years back. This was an honor and I was grateful to be able to go and speak in front of so many figures of cycling. Another is getting a NICA race program started at my high school in my second year there. Since my father and I initiated it, I have seen an amazing amount of friends and young kids pick up biking. The community around my home town has become exponentially more involved and it has seriously shaped the sport’s popularity in our area. Another ongoing achievement that I have been proud of is being able to travel, race, and go on to college while maintaining a strong grasp on my education.