Macho or masochistic? At what point does proving your toughness get too much?

Sports psychologist Dr Josephine Perry takes aim at cycling's macho myths


(Image credit: Flickr Vision)

Rapha recently produced a drinks bottle printed with the slogan “a slice of watermelon” on one side, and on the other: “To achieve race weight, Marco Pantani would, according to legend, ride for six hours on nothing more than water, returning home to just a slice of watermelon.” 

Just water indeed – in hot water was where Rapha ended up. Anyone who has read biographies of Pantini knows it wasn’t fruit that fuelled his performances, but illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Even so, the myths of the heroic, self-denying cycling purist perpetuate – and are potentially extremely harmful. They encourage us to idolise an unattainable ideal of macho hardness, and to respond to every difficulty with ‘man-up’ or the crasser shorthand HTFU, cherishing terms like “suffering” and “pain cave”.

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Josephine Perry

Dr Josephine Perry is a Chartered Sport and Exercise Psychologist whose purpose is to help people discover the metrics which matter most to them so they are able to accomplish more than they had previously believed possible. She integrates expertise in sport psychology and communications to support athletes, stage performers and business leaders to develop the approaches, mental skills and strategies which will help them achieve their ambitions. Josephine has written five books including Performing Under Pressure, The 10 Pillars of Success and I Can: The Teenage Athlete’s Guide to Mental Fitness. For Cycling Weekly she tends to write about the psychological side of training and racing and how to manage mental health issues which may prevent brilliant performance. At last count she owned eight bikes and so is a passionate advocate of the idea that the ideal number of bikes to own is N+1.