My top-end speed was my weapon, but my acceleration was really bad, so I spent the last year leading into Athens working on the power stuff. By the time I got to Athens I didn’t have a weakness and my top-end speed was out of control.
I’d never been a nervous rider. But when it came to the semi-final people were screaming my name over the fence and I started to think, Geez, the whole world’s watching! I lost focus a bit and former world champion Laurent Gané got a fair way in front before I put everything into catching him and got him on the line. Unintentionally, I’d revealed what speed I had.
In the first round of the final against reigning world champ Theo Bos, of Holland, I felt I raced the perfect race. Once I’m in front not many can come around me, but Theo did. One down. I needed to win the next two.
I knew I had to change my approach. I had to get angry. I put my headphones on and listened to some heavy metal – Rammstein, Metallica. At the start line I was pulling faces, bouncing up and down, hammering the handlebars. I had to make him think I wanted the front position, even though I really wanted him in front so I had something to aim at. That’s the way it worked out and I got there . . . just.
I now had to re-set for the decider. I wanted to be behind, but when we picked the cards I got the front again. I again pretended I wanted the front, until at one point I made it look as as though I’d made a mistake and given him the opening he was after. He took the front. I’d given him enough rope and now I had a target. I hit him on the final corner and rolled right past him. Some bum kid from WA and I’d just won at the Olympics!
Lessons From Bayley
Lean On Them
Whatever your goal, you’re better off if you’ve got a true believer beside you. “Looking back, the biggest thing I had at the major competitions was a great support person – someone I could trust and bounce stuff off. My biggest failures were when I had no one in my corner.”
Be A Headbanger
Bayley chose wisely in cranking up some heavy metal before race two. In a 2012 Brunel University review of research into the psychological impact of music on exercise, one of the world’s leading experts, Costas Karageorghis, described music as “a type of legal performance-enhancing drug”.
Target Your Weaknesses
Peak performance is an exercise in constant calibration. Four months out from the Games, Bayley realised his emphasis on power had taken the edge off his acceleration, so he backed off the weight training and concentrated on pedalling fast on small gears for a while.