(This was an email I sent Joyce when she expressed serious concern over not being prepared for the upcoming season...)
Regarding your training... As you said, race season is the quickest and surest way to get in great physical shape. Really what's important is your mental toughness. That's what it comes down to in the end - who wants to win more. I experienced this in boxing - and although I didn't have the lowest body fat, or the thickest abs, I knew deep down I wanted it more. I trained like I wanted it more. Sure I made mistakes along the way, which in boxing means a loss of brain cells. But suddenly my jabs and right crosses connected when I wanted them to. That kind of mental toughness is lethal. It knocks people out of competitions. You find out who the true contenders are. And most importantly you learn where you can improve.
When mental strength and physical power coexist in perfect harmony you become unbeatable. When you put your mind to the test, your body obediently follows (hopefully). If it doesn't, then you train more. But one thing remains constant, regardless or training methods, periodization, etc etc... you also have to foster mental strength. One trick that helps me is to keep a journal. I've kept one in all of the sports I've participated in. The most valuable is the boxing one - and I will continue to draw from those experiences for many years to come. From what I understand - you have lots of experiences too... not only from cycling but mountaineering and the dozens of other sports you've played. So when that little voice of doubt creeps into your conscious you can pull from your moments of triumph and persevere.
It's nice knowing that something can challenge you so much - not only physically but mentally. It makes you feel alive and not some cog in the machine. I can't imagine life without knowing it - although scary and daunting at times, I wouldn't trade it for the world.