First of all, let me just start by stating something obvious: It's really useful to set goals in life.

And I'm not just talking about cycling. I've heard from other people there's more to life than cycling. :P It's been proven scientifically that if you have goals and if you work towards them every day, you tend to achieve them. And that makes you happy. See? It's not rocket science. The best news is that setting and striving for a goal, even if you don't make it, will make you happier.

Ok, since I hope I convinced you to start setting cycling goals, let me tell you how I do it.

I start by dreaming

Before I get into a specific goal, I basically day dream for a while, trying to imagine some thing: a destination, a challenge, a route or a competition, that would motivate me to want to do it. I try not to limit myself in ways that are dependent of time, money, equipment or any other down to Earth reasons. For example, for this year I totally wanted to go on an incredible bike adventure on my own. I didn't know when or where but I wanted something challenging. I was feeling that in the past couple of years I haven't been so adventurous and I needed some more adventure in my life. A couple of weeks later, I found out about TCR and I instantly felt I wanted to do it. In the same instant, a dozen reasons came into my mind about why this is too crazy: no experience, no time, not enough money, equipment and other bla bla.

I set goals that scare me

There's no point in setting goals that are comfortable and easy to achieve, that won't give you a major adrenaline kick at the end. If you're already doing 100 k rides don't make the 2017 plan to reach 120 k. That's boring! Set a goal that it's in that sweet spot between impossible and achievable. Coming back to my goal. The TCR is certainly scaring me and keeping me awake at night but I know that with enough training I'll surely do it.

I set SMART goals

SMART meaning:

Specific - do a tour in Europe in June or ride 200 km in a single day

Measurable - some way of knowing that you achieved your goal: a specific mileage, competition, etc.

Achievable - see what I wrote above about the sweet spot

Relevant - make sure your goal is relevant to you, your passions, your overall life goals or more specific cycling long term goals.

Time - have a clear deadline for achieving that goal. I would also add: have at least monthly (if it's a year long goal) checks to see if you're on track.

I write them down. Yes, on paper. With a pen.

I can't really stress enough the importance of writing your goals down. Almost six months ago, I started journaling again and I do it every other day. It gives me clarity, focus and it reminds me why I do the stuff I do every day. Now stick the paper on your desk or in front of your bike trainer to see it every day.

I break it down into a plan

Now that you have the big goal it's time to break it down in more chewable bits. For example, I'm planning to do a specific mileage each month before the TCR. This means I have to do a specific number of rides weekly to achieve that. At the beginning of each week I plan those rides to reach my quota.

I follow through (I hate this part)

Now this is the really nasty part: actually having to work every day towards that goal. This is what I find the hardest and where the struggle really is.  It's because it's here where the fluffy and sweet stuff that dreams are made of is meets the cold and bitter stuff reality is made of. Reality is that cold, windy, misty morning,  when I have to clock this week's 200 k. Brutal!

You just have to remind yourself (and I know it's sooo hard) that this is the stuff champions are made of. It's called GRIT.

What are your audacious cycling goals for 2017?