An aspiring rider asked the old grizzled cyclist, "What is the secret of riding your bike so fast?" The greybeard answered, "Never stop training."
In another sphere we have "an ardent young man petitionining a master swordsmen to accept him as a disciple. 'I'll act as your servant and train ceaselessly. How long will it take me to learn everything?' 'At least ten years', the Master replied. 'That's too long', the young man protested. 'Suppose I work twice as hard as everyone else. Then how long will it take?' 'Thirty years,' the Master told him. 'What do you mean?' the young man exclaimed. 'I'll do anything to master swordsmanship as quickly as possible.' 'In that case', the Master said sharply, 'You will need fifty years!' 'A person in such a hurry is a poor student.'
'The abashed young man was allowed to serve as an attendant on the condition that he never ask about nor touch a sword. The young man spent the next three years cleaning, cooking, and running errands. One day, however, the Master crept up on the young man and whacked him with a wooden sword. Thereafter, the Master continued the sneak attacks day and night until the young man developed an acute sixth sense-he could discern an attach before it was delivered. 'Now you are finally ready to learn', the Master told him. Formal instruction began and the student made rapid progress." -- taken from "Tales of the Masters of Budo" as published in "Bushido Secrets, Teachings of the Martial Arts Masters", edited by John Stevens. (Shambhala, Boston & London 2002)
I relate this piece on martial arts training to competitive cycling to point out that while diligent training is important to one's success, high level results in competition depends on a sharpened sense of anticipation. A cyclist can, without a doubt, ride a bike fast through many hours of training. But there is more to racing. To be successful, the cyclist has to anticipate when to attack and when not to attack. What break to be in, and what break to let go. Developing this ability to anticipate the critical ebbs and flows of a race takes time and requires the cyclist to frquently train in race conditions. Successful training puts money in the account. Smart anticipatory racing withdraws the money wisely.