Photo downloaded here.
Winning is contagious
Yesterday I talked to Mads Kaggestad, former Credit Agricole, on twitter. He mentioned that the pressure is now on for the big teams who have yet to win. I support this fully.
Of course, the riders on teams that haven't won anything yet will shrug the shoulders, look distant and say that "the season is still young" or that "the goals are the classics" and so forth. But, beneath all that, I suppose there is a tiny piece of uncertainty building. Nothing big, nothing you'll loose sleep over. Yet.
Thing is, big teams have big riders. Big riders get the support, meaning that "less experienced riders need to seize the possibilities", as Kaggestad said. So far they have not, meaning that the team's stars need to step up to do the job and win. After all, that is what they are paid to do.
Take BMC, having last years WC, tour winner, and rider of the year. The pressure on these guys is intense. Luckily, the three of them have been in the spotlight before and are familiar with pressure and how to deal with it. Have in mind, being mentally strong has nothing to do with being emotionless or "switched off", it is how you deal with pressure.
There are many things one can do to deal with this, in my work I see this all of the time. Getting on the offensive and in that "zone" is critical, over-analyzing the preparations, the training and the team, are just some examples of how not to do it. Hopefully, staff and riders have been in situations like this before and have a strategy to cope with it or race coaches who are trained to work on these matters. Let's not forget another fact in favour of the stars; having adjusted your form during the better part of a decade helps too.
The season has been on-going for nearly two months now. Teams like OP-QS, Lotto, Sky and LIQ have all nailed a victory or three each, bringing the riders' shoulders down and creating smiles all around. Meanwhile, other big teams, like BMC has yet to prove themselves. This may lead to pressure building, both within the team, from sponsors and from fans. Will discipline remain? Who has the mental strength to perform? Only time will tell.