Sunday, 27 November 2011

Interview with Karl Lima - Manager Team Hitec Products

This interview originally appeared on Cyclismas

Cyclismas has the past week put the spotlight on women's cycling. Last week on the hotstove, the Overlord got Shane Stokes, Mike Tomalaris and Neil Brown over to talk about what women's cycling can do to develop further. Next week we'll talk to Nicola Cranmer and Bridie O'Donnell on the upcoming hotstove. As a part of our focus on women's cycling, @Pedalingtheroad got together with Karl Lima, team manager of the Hitec Products-uck, one of the best women teams in the peloton. A mere week ago, the team was voted "team of the year" over at the podium cafe. The team hasn't been around for many years, but has already made it clear that they mean business by taking thirteen wins this year.

Team Hitec Products-uck 2010 edition

photo by anMartin/Martin Vestby, here.

What we wanted to find out were two things: 
1. What sort of difficulties does women's cycling have, how can they be solved?
2. How to build and set up a pro team for success? 

Karl Lima

photo by anMartin/Martin Vestby

Pedalingtheroad: 2011 has been a fantastic year for womens cycling in general and for Team Hitec products-uck. What can you tell us about your season impressions ?

 Karl Lima:
We have had a splendid year, we got a head start by signing Emma Johanson, the reigning Swedish champion, but I really feel that the other girls have come forward one by one as the season went on, to everyone’s joy.

Some might wonder how a Norwegian guy ended up running one of the most successful teams out there, can tell us about yourself and how you got into cycling in the first place?

Sure, I from a working class family on my father’s side and a more academic family on my mother’s side. As most I grew up with football (soccer) and different teamsports, I first started to ride a bike when I became a mediocre footballer. You could say I became a mediocre cyclist instead! I have kept sports close ever since really, working as sporting director in Bryne Cycling Club since 2006 and I have also trained different age groups in football (soccer). For the time being I am technical director and part owner at Hitec Products AS in Stavanger, Norway. We are the world’s leading in electro-hydraulic control systems for the energy industry.

How was Team Hitec Products born?

Ullensaker Cycling Club wanted to start the very first scandinavian pro team for women back in 2008. They wanted Tone Hatteland from Bryne Cycling Club as their sprinter and contacted us because of this. When the financial turbulence hit globally in 2008, the two main sponsors pulled out of the project. Suddenly I found myself organising other things too. I arranged so that my company, Hitec Products, could sponsor the team as main sponsor. Hitec Products was already known locally for being into sports, supporting local football (soccer) and icehockey, in addition to giving all employees a bike to encourage to better health and environment at work.

I used Hatteland’s network from Holland and Sweden to sign talented and experienced riders to the team. Riders like Isabelle Søderberg and Sara Mustonen from Sweden along with Danish  Margriet Kloppenburg. Our vision was focused on the Olympics in London 2012.

Creating a team from scratch is always exciting and something of a  crossroads. I’m sure you did your share of thinking. What ideas did you have, what positions did you hire first?

The first positions i got in place were management. Then other staff/support positions. We ”inherited” some of the old club riders (Norwegians, -ed.) the first year so I focused on signing a few experienced foreigners as well as completed the roster with young, talented Norwegian riders. This combination was a success. The rest is history, as they say.

If you could single out a couple of the most important criterias for success, what would they be?

Clear and consise goals, the ability to make quick decisions, team before individuals and a solid base of riders. And the move to attract experienced riders from outside Norway to help coach the younger ones. After all, there was a reason womens cycling in Norway was having problems back then. 

Speaking of goal setting, what are the team’s main goals for 2012?

We are going to participate in the Olympics with at least six girls from the team and of course weare going to win the gold medal. We will defend our three championship jerseys (Emma Johanson, Frøydis Wærsted and Ferrier Bruneau). We will also try to win the world Cup. In addition to this, we expect to match this year’s UCI-victories (13) and participate in the new TTT at the Worlds.

Lets move on to women cycling in general. Several teams have had to close down this year, among them HTC and Colavita-Forno d’Asolo (the sponsors of the last team have split and sponsor one new team each). How do you think the future of women cycling look like, golden or grey?

I see several positive developments in women’s cycling, like more races and a general increase in the number of UCI-teams registered. What is truly great about this is the fact that “new” nations arrive. I believe it is important not to get stuck and whine, repeatedly pointing out that we get to little attention here, too low salaries here and no broadcasting there. It is counterproductive. We have to stay positive and keep working undeterred towards better recognition and create more attention to our sport by continue to focus on the development of quality in every step and the general offer we possess to sponsors and fans. Like what the Norwegian national handball team or the women’s Nordic ski team has done. Women’s cycling is qualitative speaking quite similar to the men’s that I truly believe this is possible. The fact that we ride 2 km/h slower is hardly visible, unlike the differences in for instance football (soccer). Girls also look better on the bike than men. If we are patient, the money and the attention will come naturally. 

The debate about how to improve the public interest (and economical aspects) in women’s cycling has been ongoing this autumn. What do you think can be done to improve this aspect?

I believe we have to become so attractive that people wish to spend money on women’s cycling. We can achieve this by doing what I mentioned earlier, by selling ourselves in a positive way without whining too much. That said, TV ad broadcasting is very important. By the way, I was worked up over the road Worlds this year. The peloton was almost not recognizable. Sad to see such a strong team like the Dutch didn’t want to race, betting on a mass sprint. Maybe it was good they didn’t succeed with such negative tactic. Had Hitec Products come home to Norway racing like that in a national race, we’d be bullied, that’s for sure.

Some female cyclists, like Bridie O’Donnell, have said that the UCI are neglecting women’s cycling by not supporting races, salaries issues to mention a few. They feel frustrated over the situation today. Do you feel the same way?

I am not frustrated. But I note that the UCI are a bit old fashioned in how they view women’s cycling. They can definitely do more for the sport. But I think that they believe that if they introduce minimum salary on the present time, many UCI-teams will close.

You have four new signings in front of next years season. What are your expectations for Hitec Products-uck in 2012?

We will have more cards to play in the toughest races, the girls we have signed are world class. Watch out for Elisa Longo Borghini, she is just 20 years old!

Next year we’ll see nine races on the women world cup calendar. Any races in particular we should be on guards for an Hitec move?

All of them! But if I have to pick I would say Plouay and Vårgårda, these races we want to improve from 2011…

Thanks again for your time and your thoughts on these matters. 

Friday, 25 November 2011

Some catch my interest - an #ff

We surround ourselves with different media and technologies. Sites, people, different media outlets and others scream for attention 24/7, much to the appreciation of some, a pain in the butt to others. Twitter, facebook, blogger, wordpress, Google + (which I honestly don't get) competes in stealing attention from housekeeping, training, hanging with friends or spending time with your spouse or kids. It really is a jungle out there and it is easy to get lost. I wonder what small kids makes of this, seeing parents "constantly" online.
Don't worry - there are cycling blogs for everyone!

The Badger had enough, Paris-Nice 1984

Downloaded here.

I know I spend my share of time online, but as long as one keeps an healthy attitude and is aware of the the use and consequences, I guess things are under control, right?

The Jungle
I mentioned that it is a jungle out there. Some might find it difficult to keep track of development and to discover new quality people, blogs and sites to follow. Personally, discoveries like this are some of my favourite things I enjoy online. As the very skilled commentator Thomas Friedman says, the world is flat. By saying this, he emphasis on the ability we have to collaborate and share thoughts, ideas and merge technologies at the speed of light.

I thought I could share the blogs I follow the closest. I try to take the time to stop by those blogs, some daily, others on a more weekly or monthly basis. The point is, these have managed to catch my interest. Could be because of the pictures, the lyrical texts or the amount of detailed, behind the scene description of what is going on in the cycling world. Some inspires me to go for a ride, some to write and others to learn more. A nice variety there you could say.

I'm not that good on #FFs, so here are my present top eight (there are way to many people that could possibly be on a top ten list, that's why I cut it down to eight) list:

8. Bianchista
Stylish and reporting from the daily life as a cyclist.

7. Tenspeed Hero
The freshest take on my list, hope they keep up the quality.

6. Twisted Spoke
Humour combined with news and stories.

5. Sprinting for signs
Passionate for Flanders and pavé.

4. Big Ring Riding
The site who celebrates the toughest machines (riders) out there. Great pics. A bit loud but he's really nice. Born on the hills near Grasse if I remember correctly.

3. Cycling Tips
Nice pictures and interesting stories from Wade down under. Tips & tricks for cyclists too.

2. Red Kite Prayer
Fuel for both body and mind.

1. The Inner Ring
Currently the best cycling blog in the world. A step ahead others on news, interesting stories and an amazingly wide focus on his blog (from food to a pro's daily life).

These were on the top of my list for blogs i regularly check in to for the time being. All quite different, something for all tastes I guess. Some I know I'll be keeping on that list for long, as I wrote earlier, I really enjoy to discover new people and sites so the list might be different next time. Perhaps I'll make it longer.

And for those who wonders who I follow, check out my conversations. Not everyone got their own blog, there are many interesting people who posess great knowledge out there whose company I enjoy.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Italy's new Tourism and Sports Minister

A couple of days ago Italy got a new Tourism and Sports Minister.

His name is Piero Gnudi and is a Minister in the new Italian goverment formed by Mario Monti. The cabinet will try to establish reforms to save the country from a financial disaster.

Piero Gnudi - will the Giro d'Italia benefit on his watch?

Downloaded here.

Gnudi is 73 years old, with a degree in Economics and Commerce from Bologna. He has been very active in different industrial companies, being Chairman in different boards up until now. Here is brief resumé of his career from Alma:

His political experience began in 1955 when he was appointed economic adviser to the Minster of Trade and Industry. Since 1994 he has served on the Board of Directors of IRI, he served as supervisor of privatizations in 1997, President and CEO in 1999 and Chairman of the liquidation committee in 2002. He is a Board Member of Confindustria, on the Steering Committee of Assonime, the Executive Committee of the Aspen Institute and Board of Directors of Unicredit. He is also the Chairman of Profingest and Vice President of Alma Graduate School.

He was the Board Chairman of Enel from May 2002 to April 2011. He has also been the President of Rai Holding, President of Locat, President of Astaldi and Board Member of Eni, Enichem, Stet, Merloni, Ferrè, Beghelli and Irce.

This is very important for the Giro. As a sports minister, Gnudi have access to the money (what's left that is), as the Tour in France, the Giro is of most cultural importance in Italy, both for inhabitants and for the tourists.  As well connected as Gnudi is, he is a major force to consider. As you can read form his CV, his past work also took him well into the RAI network, which could prove valuable for the RCS, the organisers of the Giro.

The Italian journalist Pier Bergonzi of the Gazzetta dello Sport tweeted yesterday that Gnudi has a passion for cycling and that he used to go for rides with Romano Prodi, the former prime minister. So, can a cycling enthusiast of a minister give the Giro the support it needs and help the RCS fulfil their plans? Not that the giro need any specific help in that matter, but in Italy relationships matter and is vital to drive a business forward. The giro is just that - a giant business. It is easy for us to forget that, but there are several million € at stake just for organising, and in order to be an annual event, the giro need to make money too.

It remains to see how this will be but I think it is a big advantage that the new Tourism and Sports Minister in Italy is a cycling enthusiast. After all, who else than the Minister for Tourism and Sports is best suited to keep the Giro under his wings?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Can you feel a color?

As the season is over the regular 'best of the year'-posts show up. These are actually one of my favourite posts, they represent all the good memories throughout the year. The chance to review the best happenings of a whole season fills me with joy and brings my level of anticipation for next year even higher.
And it has been quite a year. This sport of ours takes leaps in several ways, the technological and social. At the same time tiny baby steps on other frontiers, like governance, rules and point system to mention a few. There's been some interesting discussions regarding this matter but that is a post on its own.

The word which start with 'pan' and ends with 'ache'
I salute the riders, not only the winners but the performance or achievement of the others too. Endurance, both the strictly physical element as well as mere psychological barriers, have fascinated me over the years, and I believe that's partly the reason I find cycling so fascinating in the first place.

This years tour and giro was all about suffering. The giro was much harder than the tour, but a rider can suffer like a dog and perform higher than expected, no matter how steep the mountains. Sprinters don't have easy days during a GT, as Mark Cavendish says in Michael Barry's Le Métier. Riders who give their all create history and ensure their place in fans' hearts. I have heard of fans and others who actually claims an heroic effort gave them a brand new impression of a rider. Call it shallow and superficial if you must, but I consider this a very human thing to do.

So, in this post I want to focus on those who outperform the expectations. Especially those with a jersey. What does it mean to wear a pink or a yellow jersey? Why do some rise to the occasion while other don't? There is an expression that goes something like this: You don't rise to the occasion in combat, you'll sink down to the level of training.
"Am I still in yellow?"
Hushovd on Super-Besse

Photo downloaded here.

As earlier mentioned, Hushovd had seven days in the yellow jersey during the tour. Earlier tours, when they started with an easy seven kilometres prologue, sprinters could compete for yellow the first four-five days, but this was different.

This is what Hushovd said after the Tour de France stage to Super-Besse Sancy:
"I know I'm in shape, perhaps the best shape of my life. Knowing that makes one dig very deep inside myself and get everything out. The jersey is a motivation in itself." 
"I cannot be disappointed when I loose the yellow jersey because I have given my all each day to defend it." 

The great Eddy Merckx was driven by his own goals, at least according to this article. "The biggest pressure to perform came from within me". "Quiet, internal motivation", are some of the words used to describe the great champion.

At this year's Tour de France, almost everyone expected Thomas Voeckler to loose the yellow jersey afer a day or two. Europcar's Jean-René Bernaudeau said this to velonews after the third day in the Pyrenees: "The team has really surprised me with how well it's defending the yellow jersey. It gives us wings."
Even though Voeckler is known for his attacking style of cycling, at least when the tv-cameras are on, he did something incredible this summer. Arguably, some said this was solely because the big favourites focused on each other.
Voeckler giving it all - repeatedly
Downloaded here.

And who can forget Johnny Hoogerland standing on the podium in his KOM-jersey, after being thrown into a barbed wire fence following a collision with the TV-car? Truly one admirable action, that speaks for itself. 

What drives people
What make athletes live the life they do, and choose as they do? Motivation is perhaps the most researched field in psychology. The general curiosity concerning the elements that can make us shape our future, is it possible to influence our ability to make choices? To explain behaviour is always easy in retrospect, but it is priceless to be able to see history in the making. Some prefer dividing motivation in two main characteristics; intrinsic and extrinsic. 
Science and research often point to several different types or theories of motivations, based on instinct, incentivedrive-reduction, psychoanalytic theory, broad theories as well as different cognitive theories. The common denominator, however, seem to be emotions, which is very interesting. To simplify the matter, we might say we all tend to maximise pleasure while we at the same time try to minimise pain. Sadly, the different theories are too many to investigate further here, but feel free to reflect on what drives the different riders when they perform, I'm sure there are differences.   

The tour was splendid, especially for us Norwegians. Riders and journos have for many years described the vikinghelmets during the tour. This year was exceptional, with EBH and Hushovd taking four stages and Hushovd made seven days in the yellow jersey. I noticed that many tweeted their surprise to how determined EBH seemed during stage 17 to Pinerolo, it truly was a beastly performance. Those who know EBH knew he would come up with something after being outsprinted by Hushovd the day before. He called his father the same evening, sounding very determined claiming that "tomorrow, I'll win." After trying to get into every break that day, and being hunted down every time, finally the break established itself and the rest is history.

Some people just have this ability. Debate it, research it,and call it whatever you like. I just love to watch it take place.