Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The easy way to get a pro cycling team united

How do the Team Managers and the Sport Directors make a professional cycling team truly united?

There are many ways to do so, some do teambuilding like they experienced it as riders, some not the way they experienced it as an active rider. Some use common sense whilst some Team Managers trust science and Harvard Business Review. Some, like Bjarne Riis, trust people like B.S. Christiansen, the famous Danish coach with Special Forces background. B.S. is currently not working with Riis any longer. I know riders who will be pleased hearing this, because some didn't enjoy his famous training camps - at least not a the time while it lasted.

I like to believe cyclists have a high team spirit. After all, they experience some serious pain together in every condition possible and we all know what that makes to people together, right?
Why is it then, that on the first training camp of the year, it looks like a gruppetto coming down the road instead of a team?

This picture shows what I believe some teams can do different and it doesn't cost much either.

Team Astana - oh wait a second - Saxo? No, actually it is Radioshack
Pic by Casey B. Gibson - Cyclingnews.
Yes, I am aware that some teams change their team kit late autumn or during Christmas time due to changes in sponsors and other matters. The main reason we see cyclists dressed differently while training in a team is probably that new cyclists legally belong to their new team from 1st of January. However, many training camps have been held after this date and the riders still look like a group of people from your local cycle club doing their Sunday ride. Except the speed but I'm sure you get my point.

39teeth presented a picture of Team Geox on twitter today from their training camp, no one having team kit, but all dressed in the same outfit - all black. I actually think this is good. Not that they don't have their team kit by now, that's obviously much to late, but glad they all dress the same. 
I am not a kind of guy who needs everything in order, who strives to keep my house shine, but I truly believe same outfit will make the guys feel like a team faster. And, for whatever it's worth, I don't think any football team would do things this way. Imagine the chaos.

If you gather 22 or so riders from every part of the globe, from all kinds of teams and some have even trouble make themselves understood due to language barrier - what to do? The first thing every other group of people do in teambuilding is to get everyone out of the known environment - that would be the office- and remove all forms of hierarchy in the group. Every group will get an object or a colour that identifies the team. Next thing you'll know you are building towers out of toothpicks but that is another story. The single most important thing is unity. If you create unity - you'll have identity to build from and the riders will co-operate on a whole new level. After all, cycling is a team sport, that we know for sure.

Perhaps will there be a change to all this. Perhaps the UCI will put a tax on team kit as they have on bikes causing teams to have team kit ready in October along with the financial backing needed. Perhaps do Team Managers see that this is a very cheap way of creating a robust team from the very start. Then everybody will not be in doubt what team they spot along the roads.

Pic by Richard Moore (Team Sky website)

Radioshack picture by: Casey B. Gibson - Cyclingnews, downloaded here


  1. Interesting thoughts...but does a team HAVE to be united to succeed? LA & AC in 2009? Cav & Grp ? Commonsense suggests united is best....and it will be interesting to see if Sky have the chemistry right this year

  2. Ash: True, those teams, at least Astana 2009 roster, was indeed not very united. And that worked out quite well as you point out. It is possible that teams with one superstrong leader does not need to have the same degree of team spirit as others. One thing is the very nature of domestiques, working selfless for others, which can make the wheels go round for some time. Another aspect is that team sponsors may find internal problems in a team disturbing.

    But I find it interesting to see what happened in Saxo a mere year ago. The team somehow started to fall apart, and this is a team with the key players, staff and riders, being together for 5-10 years. When the snowball starts to roll...

    I believe Team Sky will be a factor this year. Maybe not as much in GC in the tour, depending on Wiggins shape as they are, but they will take wins in one-day races like the classics and probably some stage wins as well.

    Sky can benefit from a lot of do's and don't's last year, and the rhetoric is not on the same level as last year...