In an earlier part of my life, I used to race bicycles. Any attempts to state how good I was would undoubtedly cause laughing-induced-cardiac failure in those that I raced against, so let's just say this: being a racer, I was faster than any non-racer (the types that go on long century rides or down to the store for an ice cream). This may sound like a tautology, but there is more to it. I knew plenty of people that put in long hours but never got their liscence to race, and consequently never got very fast. There is something about getting that liscence that forces you to either get serious enough so that you don't embarrass yourself or to quit and never mention that you raced at all. Keep in mind that bicycle racing is totaly different than running, where finishing a marathon dead last is still considered a good thing. In bicycling, you need to stay with (or ahead of) the pack or you are pulled from the race. After spending $20 on an entry fee and money and time getting to the race to have your visions of fame and glory end in less than five minute will motivate you one way or the other.
I still follow the sport and am quite curious about how well Lance Armstrong will do in his comeback. Elizabeth Kreutz has quite a few behind-the-scenes pictures of this (search through the index for "Lance's Comeback"), and what struck me were the number of distractions that Lance has to face. Given what I have to face in my professional career, I can barely find an hour to focus on reading a journal article or two. It's always done in smippets here and there. How this guy can deal with these distractions and THEN put 100% concentration into his bike is beyond me - regardless of whatever results he will ultimately achieve. Yes, it is his job to train, but I still wonder how he can set everything of modern life aside for so long.