The racer prepares for the big race because he values the challenge it presents. He values the obstacles the other racers put between him and his goal of winning. Why?
Because it is those very obstacles, the size and momentum of the big peloton, which draw from the racer his greatest effort.
It is only at big races the he is required to use all his skill, all his courage and concentration to overcome; only then can he realize the true limits of his capacities.
At that point he often attains his peak.
In other words, the more challenging the obstacle he faces, the greater the opportunity for the racer to discover and extend his true potential. The potential may have always been within him, but until it is manifested in action, it remains a secret hidden from himself.
The obstacles are a very necessary ingredient to this process of self-discovery.
Note, that the racer is not out to show himself or the world how great he is, but is simply involved in the exploration of his latent capacities. He directly and intimately experiences his own resources and thereby increases his self-knowledge.
(Adapted from W. Timothy Gallwey’s THE INNER GAME OF TENNIS – an excellent read)