Monday, 20 June 2011

Strategy or tactic - a glimpse into the tour

Boardroom strategy

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Cycling and the corporate world is tied together. Money rules and nothing unravels this more than a GT. The pinnacle of the year is looming in front of us, just 12 short days away. The team's liaison has been pushed to the limits recently, trying to serve sponsors as well as a demanding press. Sponsors planning both the show-offs in Paris after the finish and trying to squeeze another person at the never ending dinners at the rest days, making team leaders pull what's left of their hair off in despair.

It is said that the challenge of being a leader is not understanding the practise of leadership, but practising the understanding of leadership. 

Jonathan Vaughters, the boss of Garmin-Cervelo, wrote on twitter that "some [riders] will be disappointed". Not that JV in some way is a bad leader, what he says shows he's got empathy, something a good leader should have. But he's right, someone will get disappointed and some has already been. Teams now show their cards to the opponents, and indeed, the alea jacta est.

Are there really any surprise in this, I hear you ask. Oh yes, is my reply. This reveal the different teams' strategy. 

From day to day basis, teams rely on tactics. In a 3-week GT, it's all about strategy. Some say strategy bridge the gap between ends and means. Some corporate people out there will read this now nod in a familiar way. According to Free Dictionary, a definition of strategy is:

  • The science and art of using all the forces of a nation to execute approved plans as effectively as possible during peace or war.
  • The science and art of military command as applied to the overall planning and conduct of large-scale combat operations.

And a war it is. Note that strategy is more than just about the riders, as you all know, there is no "I" in team... Where to place a soigneur with a wind jacket, food, water or a coke, when to get a massage, what hotel to stay in, is also an important part of strategy.
Thinking man

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American team BMC got their team roster out quite early, revealing that Hincapie will make his 16th appearance in the tour, building their team around Evans and Hincapie. BMC claim they have a "well-balanced team" but it is clear to me that they are leaving their top sprinters out.

Surprisingly Liquigas is rumoured to do the same. Not surprising that they focus on Basso, as he, if he get in shape, is amongst one-two who can match a tired Contador, but surprising because they are rumoured to leave Peter Sagan out. Yesterday, the young rider said to Cyclingnews that "a team built around Ivan Basso will go to the tour". This is such a disappointment to me, I would love to see Sagan wrestle it out with Boasson Hagen, Hushovd and Boom. Instead, The Gazetta reports Sagan for the line-up in the Vuelta.

Rabobank is doing the same, setting up Gesink for the podium. Breschel is still injured and Freire still struggles with his breathing problems in his nose. If not, perhaps the roster would look different. Still, both Lars Boom and ten Dam could make a difference in rolling hills and a Boom could very well nail a bunch sprint too.

Quickstep is relying on Boonen and Chavanel, their "normal" outfit for any race really. Boonen need to shine this tour to add to his palmares. So look for the blue and white in break aways and Boonen in the sprints.

The strategy is made, now it is up to the tactics. The Generals have made their masterplan, now it's up to the lieutenants to set the strategy into action. In some weeks, we will see if it is the team with the best strategy who will be dressed in yellow when the tour enters Paris.

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