Archive for the ‘Pro-Peloton’ Category

An Inside Look Into What It Means To Be Teammates on BMC Racing

February 22, 2011

This month at CyclingDomestique.com we’re excited to feature a great article by Fitzalan Gorman from www.usprocyclingnews.com She caught up with the riders of BMC Racing to get their thoughts on teammates and how that will play a part in their continued success on the world circuits of the UCI Pro-Tour.

American Riders on BMC Racing: Larry Warbasse, Taylor Phinney, John Murphy, George Hincapie show off 2011 team colors at Spain Press day PhotoCredit:Fitzalan Gorman/ usprocyclingnews.com


Training camp is often the only time of the year that all riders, directeur sportifs and staff are all together in the same place. While officially it is work, these few weeks are the calm before the storm that is the long professional cycling season. At the end of January, BMC Racing held its training camp along the Spanish coastline near Denia. This area has fairly quiet roads with lots of options including flats and undulating, hilly terrain. While here, I got a chance to talk with various members of BMC Racing to find out a little more about the teammate side of cycling.

Cadel Evans and Tim Roe at Press Day in Spain 2011 PhotoCredit:Fitzalan Gorman/ usprocyclingnews.com

So what do you think of your new teammates?

Brent Bookwalter: “These guys add a certain level of class and experience to the team. Many of the new guys have serious Grand Tour experience and are veterans at the pro tour level in both age and experience. I’m rooming with Ivan Santaromita. We are the same age, he was born in 1984, but he has been racing in the pro tour longer than I’ve been racing road bikes. Guys like that, guys who have been around the block, are very capable, classy and accomplished riders and there is a lot of depth there.”

Cadel Evans: “I’m rooming with Yannick Eijssen. He has so many questions and is so motivated. I can only hope that I am giving him good advice. Along with Tim Roe, I hope that I can help develop these young riders better. I’m also excited about having Manuel Quinziato for the Tour de France. He will probably have the biggest influence on my results.”

George Hincapie at BMC Press Day interview in Spain PhotoCredit: Fitzalan Gorman/ usprocyclingnews.com

What do you think of your mentorship with Chris Butler?

George Hincapie: “I have a bit more mentorship role with Chris than with the other riders because I train with him all the time. He has a ton of potential. He had one of the highest watts per kilo at camp for this time of year, which I was excited about. He needs to learn how to ride in the peloton and how to ride on the flats, but when it comes to his climbing, he is definitely world class.”

As a rookie, how do you take advantage of the wealth of experience offered from your veteran teammates?

Chris Butler: “I definitely try to soak it all up. I live 2 kilometers away from George in Greenville, so I am definitely biased towards him but there are so many resources on this team. I feel like Karsten Kroon can ride a bike better than anyone else in the peloton. I just want to follow him around and learn all of that information.”

BMC Racing feels different from so many other pro tour teams: There is no other agenda here other than racing. Do you feel this way?

Brent Bookwalter: “Obviously the objective here is to win and to get results but I think we are really fortunate that our head sponsor, Andy Rihs, the head management, Jim Ochowicz, and the heads of this team are not “win at any cost” kind of guys. They place a lot of value in creating a team more than just bodies pursuing results. They are creating a real family with the hopes that true results will arise from that. I feel that we are fortunate to be in this type of environment over one that demands winning.”

John Murphy: “I feel that if you took the same group of guys, and put them first in a situation that demanded they win, and then you put them in a situation where the team provided everything they needed in terms of products and support, 9 times out 10, the supportive environment is where the riders will succeed. I think it is the best approach to anything competitive. Demanding winning isn’t the right psychology.”

Many hours are spent riding for someone else. Tell me a little bit about the mental side of riding in support of one of your teammates.

Brent Bookwalter: “Whether it is George, Karsten, Cadel or anyone else on this team, you step up. I think anytime you care about a person, on a personal level–more than just a coworker level– there is a greater incentive; there is more at stake than career success. There is personal success because you can honestly be happy about that person stepping up on the podium at the end of the race instead of yourself.”

How hard is it to put your personal agenda aside to support your teammates?

John Murphy in Spain at BMC Press Day PhotoCredit: Fitzalan Gorman/ usprocyclingnews.com

John Murphy: “You work for the team and know that you will get your time. It has to go both ways and it is a constantly revolving circle. As much as you want to be the one winning and putting your arms up in the air, nobody does that by himself. If you are lucky enough to be that person, then you have to appreciate everything that everyone else is doing for you.”

Brent Bookwalter: “At this point, we are all professionals. You create longevity and professional success in this sport by fulfilling that role. To some extent, you can have satisfaction in it. You can think, it is not my job to win at the end of the race but it is my job to cover the pack for the first 100 km and I am going to turn myself inside out to do that. It definitely isn’t a thankless job.”

Final Impressions on Teamwork and BMC Racing:

While here in Denia for the BMC training camp and press day, I was impressed by the individual strength of each rider, but it was the overall spirit of cooperation amongst the team that left a lasting impact with me. Cadel Evans explained the uniqueness of BMC Racing perfectly when he said; “I am allowed to be myself on this team”.  This team just feels different; the respect and attitude between the staff, riders and coaches can be seen in every interaction they have with one another. While everyone’s goal is for BMC to win races, it feels like they are working towards this goal collectively, much like a family.

BMC riders Jeff Louder, Chris Butler, Brent Bookwalter, Chad Beyer, Chris Barton at Press Day 2011 PhotoCredit: Fitzalan Gorman/ usprocyclingnews.com

Many thanks to John Murphy, Brent Bookwalter, Chris Butler, George Hincapie and Cadel Evans for taking a few moments to talk with me about the team and for giving us an inside look into how teamwork plays into the fabric of BMC Racing. Best of luck to BMC Racing with all their goals in this upcoming season!

Teamwork versus Domestiques: Ben Day talks about FlyVAustralia and Pegasus Racing

October 14, 2010

CyclingDomestique caught up with Ben Day of Pegasus Racing and FlyVAustralia to get his take on just how “mateship” and teammates played a part in their successful 2010 season.  As the team is in the process of applying for a UCI ProTour license, we also wanted to know how that philosophy will play out as the team moves over to Europe to compete in the 2011 season.

Jay Thomson & Ben Day at Wind Tunnel Mooresville, NC Photo Credit: CristiRuhlman

When we think of a cycling domestique, we usually think of individuals.  Those cyclists who ride in the peleton giving shelter to their GC rider, bringing food and water and pretty much being the unknown force behind the pro-peleton.

But……what if an entire team could be that way–sharing the responsibilities and promoting a culture of just that: TEAMWORK.  Might it not be a driving force on the cycling scene, one with a very special team solidarity?

There is a team that has done just that, and done it successfully.  That team is Pegasus Racing’s FlyVAustralia.  In fact, during their time on the US domestic scene, they’ve ridden together so successfully–this year alone they have scored 84 wins–that they have now made application to the UCI to head to Europe and ride there, hopefully as a ProTour team.

FlyV Australia team PhotoCredit: FlyVAustralia.com

CycingDomestique:   Tell us about “mateship” on FlyV and how its actually helped you and the guys be so successful this season? And also how you see it working as Pegasus Racing takes it to the next level?

Ben refines TT position PhotoCredit: Randy Ruhlman

Ben Day:   The whole mateship ideology, we kind out of garnered out of how in Australia we call each other mates all the time.  It kind of lends itself for us to be a lot more friendly to each other, I guess you could say it’s: Teamwork Aussie style. But in this context with the team, it just reinforced the importance of what it means to work together as a team and sacrificing yourself for the sake of the team.  It’s like teamwork with no personal agendas as often is the case in other systems. I believe we have 84 wins so far for 2010 with one more tour to go, so you have to say its working really, really well.  The challenge will be going into next year with the new ProTour team.  For us going in there and bringing in some foreign people, we’ll be trying to teach this method to them as well, and see if they can take up where we’ve left off.

CD: You guys have had such great success here. With  the team dynamic that we’ve seen, you guys have something special.  How do you think that’s going to translate to the new team?  Tell us a bit more about that.

Ben:  It’s going to be a bit of a challenge in itself.  You know, these guys we’ve hired, we’ve hired them with the intention and foresight that these are going to be great people to have involved with us.  It’s a process, not one that just happens naturally though. 

In the beginnings of 2010, we did some helicopter crash training to help bring the group together and to be in some stressful situations together and learn more about each other.  And that helped involve us with the rest of the year, where we had a lot of success.

But we kind of operate on a very honest platform. And when someone’s done a good job, like someone wins a race or something, they’ve done a great job and they don’t really need a lot more pats on the back.  But guys who’ve sacrificed themselves for somebody else to win the race, those moments, they’re the ones that are the most important to say “really good job done.  If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be there.”  You really need to appreciate that kind of thing.

We have a very honest and open communication with everybody on the team. But at the same time, if somebody doesn’t do their job we also hold them accountable.  So I think having that is….. sorry for the profanity….a no Bull**** platform to work on–people are held accountable.  If they’re good, they get congratulated; and if they don’t, then we sit down and talk about it.  It’s not just, kind of, left for people to figure over or for people to talk behind other people’s back.  We’re open and honest with each other and we honestly care about the bloke next to us. When we celebrate, we celebrate together. When we lose, we rally together to support each other for the next feat.

CD:  You guys have also signed alot of Aussies for 2011.  Like you said, you call yourselves “mates”, do you think it’s in the culture and might make it a bit easier to fit into the team?

Ben:  Yeah, it’s definitely in the culture.  We’re just like that–Australians are very laid back people and don’t get worked up over small things or whatever. You know we’ve signed 11 riders, and so far there are also 11 foreigners with still some spaces to fill.  So for the moment, and we will always be, an Australian team.  I think that Chris White’s spent a lot of time making sure that he finds people who are willing to…….people who have similar mindsets, the personality of working hard, being laid back willing to comeback and do it for the team.  They are going to be our mates and we’re all going to have a great year next year I’m sure.

CD: For next year, we’ve heard that you’ve already gotten Robbie McEwen and Robbie Hunter.  They’re both veterans, but they also know how much hard work it is and how much they have to depend on the team. Are you guys looking for more guys like them, or more all-rounders, GC, or what?

Ben:  At the moment we’ve been able to get a really, really good Classics team together.  For now we’re a little bit short when it comes to GC guys, people who are capable of performing in three week tours.  But you know when you look across the peleton, there aren’t alot of teams that do have GC contenders in these 3-week tours. 

CD:  Looks like you guys have gotten some nice young riders, and you have some on the roster who are coming with you, like Jai Crawford and Jay Thomson to name a few. So you should have good development on the team then?

Ben: Yeah, we still have a few spots left and we’re going to see who’s left on the marketplace, but then we need to develop as well. We’ve got some young, very talented riders on board, and in a year or two, you never know, these riders might be knocking on the door of the biggest tours in the world.

CD: You mentioned that you had a good Classics team, as well. Do you think you guys are going to do a lot of the Classics or focus on development and some of the shorter tours?

Ben:  For sure, but the whole process, the ProTour process is still pending.  We don’t know, whether we’ll get the license-that gets in there anywhere between Nov 1st and the 15th.  But we have some guys who are very, very established in the Classics already.  And they are excellent cyclists and they have great reputations.  I’m sure we’re going to have starts in a lot of the biggest Classics in the world.  So I think that will kind of be the focus in the first year, and where we’re guaranteed to have some people up there getting results.

But then, still as well,  there are people who come out of the woodwork and we’ll be at tours and trying for stage wins and just trying to better ourselves all the time.  While we’re going there, people haven’t been in Europe for a while and we’re going in there with the realization that it’s not going to be easy.  But, you know, doing what we’ve done in the US, we’ve proven we can win races and we’ve got that experience already, so now we’ve got to get over there and amongst it and I’m sure there’s going to be alot of surprises next year.

Ben Day ready for another run on the wind tunnel PhotoCredit: CristiRuhlman

CD: You’ve been a GC guy on the domestic tour here in the US, but these are more the one week or shorter tours.   Are you looking more at the Classics or the shorter tours or straight towards the grand tours?

Ben:  The shorter tours.  I’ve been in Europe for 6 years previously, so I’ve raced alot of those big tours over there,  just haven’t done the 3-week tours.  The week-long tours, I’m more than confident that I can handle those and that I will have some good results in those in 2011. But when it comes to the three week tours, I’m humble enough to realize I don’t have the experience yet–there’s alot to learn about recovery…. and it’s very rare for a first time Grand Tour rider to come in there and really take the world by storm.  It’s happened, but they are really super-talented athletes.  I’m just taking it step-by-step and I’ve got quite a few years left in my career and hoping by the end of things, maybe we’re having a different conversation.  But let’s wait and see.

CD:  Anything else you think you might want to share with us about the new additions and larger Pegasus Racing and “mateship”?

Ben: It should be a good fit, but it’s not going just happen naturally–we’re going to have make sure we put some emphasis on it, as well.  We’re planning a training camp in Outback Australia in November.  It’s where we’re all going to get together for the first time.  I’m sure we’re going to have some “interesting” little activities out there–get to know each other better, be at one together.  It’s like a bit of a different concept to Saxo Bank’s survival camp.   We do other things, but this is more to bring each other together, to learn more about each other, and it’s worked really, really well so far.

 

MATESHIP is the mantra that Pegasus Racing/FlyVAustralia has put into practice. There is no denying its success on the US scene and that it has propelled them to the next step and towards the team’s European destiny for 2011.  With the UCI making it’s decision within the next few weeks on that future, it will be very interesting to follow the team and watch as Pegasus Racing’s concept of  “mateship” launches onto the European scene.



A Quick Peek at the Ultimate Domestique

February 15, 2010

Team Time Trial--2009 Tour de France Image Credit: AFP

Who are these riders who give their all in support of the team and its superstar cyclists? Who are the domestiques?

Let’s make no mistake here, all pro-peloton domestiques are super talented riders.  They’ve won races throughout their careers and show great promise.

Of course, they have to be that good.  If they weren’t great cyclists, they’d never come anywhere close to being considered for a Pro-Tour team.  Nor would they be part of that chosen few who support the team in the big races, the Giro, Vuelta, the Tour de France.  It’s the pinnacle, the place where all great cyclist aspire to be.

Through this blog I’d like to spotlight these riders, look at some history of how domestiques and tactics have developed, and maybe do a few profiles of current and retired domestique riders. In the meantime, maybe we can also get a few “surprise” guests to blog about their experiences as professional riders and domestiques.

First though, I really want to start with an ideal, a model of what I think has evolved into the Ultimate Domestique.  This is the rider with exceptional, star talent who choses to ride in support of the team instead of inflating his own palmarès.

Yes, it is true.  Most of cycling’s superstars started their careers as domestiques-carrying water bottles, blocking the wind, protecting the star rider, then they developed.  Lance did, Boonen did, even Contador did. And some of today’s top riders still play both roles, in a sort of super domestique way: stars in some races, support in others.

But occasionally, through circumstances of team or timing, a rider will fulfill the supreme supporting role–that of the Ultimate Domestique.  An outstanding rider, one who could easily be a superstar on a different, lesser team, yet he is someone who choses to be part of something bigger. The Ultimate Domestique is that star cyclist who choses to ride and give his all in support of another and help the team win a major Tour!

So, who is my choice?  Which rider epitomizes that role of the Ultimate Domestique?  Hands down, it’s  Andreas Klöden.

Andreas Klöden Photo Credit: Team RadioShack

An outstanding rider in his own right, Kloden’s individual talents on the bike are really pretty darn impressive.  Twice he’s finished second at the Tour de France (2004, 2006), won at Paris-Nice (2000), and brought home a Bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.   Yet, he’s chosen time and time again to spend his career with the some of the world’s best teams (Team Telekom/T-Mobile, Astana) riding in support of the most heralded superstars of  this generation–Ullrich, Armstrong, and Contador. And much to the frustration of those covetous Team Directors who would love to pay him to come be the big star on their teams.

Klöden has used his talent and stamina to support his team leader through the mountains, in the time trials, and through the grueling weeks of a Grand Tours with the focus on the Tour win for the team.  Once again it looks like Klöden will quietly operate away from the intense glare of the spotlight and continue to play his role as the ultimate domestique, this year with his new Team RadioShack.

Having seemingly been dropped from the media’s tentacles, Klöden rarely gives an interview anymore–which is a shame, because among other things he seems like he’d be a pretty fun guy to get to know.  Instead he allows his performance on the bike to speak for itself, but that probably says more than dozens of interviews ever could.

So, while I think we may get lucky and see a few more individual accolades before Klöden retires from professional cycling, one thing appears to be certain, he’s discovered his place and he seems happy.  Andreas Klöden has found his cycling balance as the ultimate team player — the Ultimate Domestique.

Photo Courtesy of Team RadioShack