Well, its been a busy 3 weeks on the bike, well, 4 actually, but its the last 3 in particular that has given me some motivation for this post, which may have a slight philosophical bent to it. Its been a golden run of riding and NO rain (until today), which has resulted in only 4 days off the bike out of the last 28:
Yip – 51.5 hours and around 1400km’s in the last 3 weeks alone. Ordinarily this volume may seem like a chore, tiring or difficult to get out of bed for. However, its actually felt exceedingly easy. How come? Am I on the gear? No… New kit? No… PRO contract? No… Ultimately, its simple and FREE:
Well, this is the headline really, but on a broader topic its about the culture and camaraderie that you develop with the same group of fuckers that grunt at you when you meet them on the road at 5.30am each day as you roll to the ride/torture session that is on the agenda for that particular day.
Its fair to say that in recent times we haven’t enjoyed the most swell set up on the road here in the DN Global hub, but these things are cyclical (Just ask Man Utd) and sometimes you need to ride out the down patches before things start to improve. Well, things are massively on the up here now and so its time to get a little bit Rah Rah on it. Hell, we even got the Wolf out for a 100km road ride on Saturday, so something must be going on here.
In a lot of ways, Cycling teams (or sport in general) share a lot of the same key ingredients for success as in business or oddly, the military. Yes, whether it be “Win that race”, “Deliver that project” or “Take out that fucking bunker”, we all rely on some pretty important aspects to get right:
- Leadership – For me, it starts here. Get the right leadership in place and there is no limit to what can be achieved. Sure, there is some damage in all the pressure being placed on the leader, but a good leader will always find a way to build up and develop those around them and not make it all about them, but they will ultimate deliver in the key moments when they need to. Don’t have good leadership in place? Then don’t bother… Good leaders also know that you can’t please everyone, trying to do so ultimately means you end up pleasing no one. Usually though, if they get it right, its only the people you don’t want on board that get the shits
- Alignment around a common goal – Next up, you need something to rally around. A common vision, goal or purpose to align the crew around and focus on. There is nothing worse than aimless training/working/shooting, it ultimately blunts motivation and morale
- Build the right team – To steal a phrase from the Crusaders, “A champion team will always beat a team of champions”… And there is something in that. By build the right team, I don’t mean get a whole bunch of guys who want to come first all the time and it be about them, but look at your goals and what you want your culture to be and then get the right people on board. You don’t always have to have their role defined on day one – Getting good people trumps this, you can work the finer points out later. Fuck knows the supply of good cunts can be low at times, so nail the good ones and go from there.
- Momentum – Got the first three key ingredients in the pot? Excellent… Then this part should be easy. Much like bombing a rock section on a downhill bike, momentum is a must have. You know when you have it and you can really feel it when you don’t. The last 3 weeks of hard riding, shit talking and hanging out has created momentum that you can feel every time we roll out. You can’t buy momentum, but its the most valuable commodity you can hope to have
- A ruthless cunt removal policy – This one is simple really. If you’re at work and reading this (assuming the Web Marshall hasn’t blocked it), then I bet you can rock back in your seat, look around the office and count 2 to 9 cunts that you would love to have packed into a box and removed from the work place. Same in cycling teams/groups. If you’re lucky, you’ve already been through this process… If you haven’t, then start ASAP, as the longer they are around, the harder it is to go through the above steps. Remove them immediately. You know who they are, they may even know it to (the bad ones won’t). If in doubt then a drop dead place to start is with the ones that have multiple social media pet posts.
However, that’s all well and good, but the glue that really binds all this together is shared experiences. Ever sat down with a new group and they were talking about “that race where we faaarking smashed them” or “the time Timmy put the hammer down” etc etc, well, those legends are what cements shit in place, especially in amateur-verging-on-semi-pro cycling teams. Importantly you need to create your own ones as a group. Yes, respect the past, but don’t try and copy it. Create your own new stories and experiences as a team as you evolve through the next ‘up’ cycle. There are usually 2 places that this team work and camaraderie is developed, forged or simply beaten into the group:
1. In the heat and turmoil of ruthless and relentless combat
Nothing beats racing, particularly stage racing (some MTB stage races not included in that), to forge a band of brothers, but outside of this its the day in, day out nature of HARD training that sticks things into place. Usually, there is ONE session per week where everyone knows its going to be big. You really want to and don’t want to turn up at the same time, but after being violated each time you ultimately want more – Something that speaks disturbing volumes for our state of mind. For us, its been the Wednesday beat down at the Snozza slaughterhouse:
This was from last Wednesday, of what remained of the 30 minute final session of suffering. Hard doesn’t start to describe it, one of those sessions where you actually really start to panic internally and wonder just how the fuck you’re going to hold on. What it does for your riding is immense. What it does for team work and team bonding even more so (assuming you’ve already off boarded your cunts). If you don’t have a regular weekly session where its structured but NOT around everyone’s individual power, then get it rolling ASAP, as it becomes a staple.
2. Sitting around drinking coffee and saying fuck a LOT
Its debatable, but possibly this almost does as much for that sweet scent of TEAM as the hard sessions do. Yes, the post ride coffee. Partners waiting at home usually hate it, but its a necessity after every ride. The debrief, the shit talking, the extreme inappropriateness and the essential refuelling is hard to replicate elsewhere. Trying taking the nerd next to you at work out for coffee and calling him a cunt 18 times and see how it goes, reasonable chance it won’t build a sense of team in the work place. We’re lucky enough to have found Assembly coffee, which provides the ultimate platform for indulging the post ride break down:
This is why Tri guys never really form teams, other than being a group that turn up at the same time for a salad all wearing compression gear, as they forgo this bonding step to instead do a ‘brick’ or read the instruction manual for their overly complicated Garmin watch.
Get the right team dynamic and environment going and you can do awesome things on the bike (except win UCI 2.1 or 2.2 races). Improvements in riding are rapid, fun levels increase significantly and the miles disappear with relative ease, even when backing up another 4 hour day after having your legs torn off the day before. Its infectious and rewarding. Indeed the Goat has enjoyed riding with other people so much that he has started to play this new game called “front tire flat” to make rides go longer each weekend. Yes, in the land where no one ever punctures, he has managed 4 front flats on consecutive weekends:
Someone get that man a set of GP4000s stat. So, there you go – A massively touchy feely (in an Uncle Fraser like manner) post today, but the last 3 weeks have provided the impetus for such musings as I have reflected on building form in line with building team momentum. Thanks to all the boys for making it a great period of riding and to Snozza for the resident leadership, tips, pushes when my fucking chain keeps coming off and for eating all my new KOM’s.
I may have stated the obvious here, but if you’re in a team that’s going well then DON’T take it for granted… and if you’re not, then you may want to think about having a look at things and making some changes. Its worth it, as when you’re part of a (great) team: