I just finished reading "The Paradox of Choice." It's a good read with an interesting premise and a couple of revealing anecdotes. Nothing earth shattering but I'm glad to have read it. The basic premise is that the world we live in gives us too much choice, which generally makes us less happy and not more. This being a pretty concise premise which doesn't necessarily support a couple of hundred pages of material, the author drags a few related concepts in. The most interesting of these, to me, is the hazard of constantly comparing yourself to others. Competitive athletes, of course, have the comparison to others as one of the central tenets of their lives.
Superficially, athletic competition is far more transparent than other venues in which we compare ourselves to others. I have no idea what other guys who do what I do for the people for whom I do it earn, for example. I have no idea how far into debt my neighbors went to buy their sporty new car, or if they are about to go into foreclosure, or if they are complete trustafarians and that's how they're able to afford their rock and roll lifestyle (these are entirely conceptual neighbors, btw - not based on actual persons). I haven't studied up my 10 Commandments lately but I seem to remember something about covetousness in there somewhere, and as it turns out not coveting thy neighbor, or his wife, or his Range Rover or stainless and granite kitchen is a good way to play it. If you like what you've got, enjoy it and don't malign it for what it isn't.
Back to athletics and transparency... It gets a little more convoluted. The race will compare each of us to one another, but will not provide anything like the kind of transparency that we think it might. I might beat you but spend orders of magnitude more time training, and be spending all my money on equipment and coaching and traveling and general stuff I wouldn't be doing if it weren't for racing. I might be falling behind at work, or falling terminally behind in my family life. I might be on the juice. Unless you are a pro or are headed that way, and it is your job and your obligation to do what it (legally and ethically) takes to win the race, the comparison will never be a simple one. And, as we've learned, the whole legal and ethical sidebar convolutes even that.
I'm finding it hard to keep this in mind right now as much as it should. I'm seeing other people improve by leaps and bounds, while I'm plodding along, trying to be some margin more effective than I was last year. Riding with friends provides ample evidence that some are going to be way better than they were last year. Do your training, stick to the plan, do what you think is right, keep it all in perspective with regard to the big picture, and enjoy it. And suffer your ass off and push yourself to improve, and try to plan better so that you have more time to train and rest, and encourage yourself to pay better attention to nutrition and the many other things that will help you get more out of yourself.
This sport could drive you nuts.