When talking to Frankie Andreu (former protour cyclist and current director of Kenda/5 Hr Energy) at the Joe Martin Stage Race back in April, he gave our team one of the biggest compliments we have ever received. It amounted to, “Your guys really ride well together as a team, from stopping to give up a wheel to a team leader or dropping back with someone when they need to pee, they are very selfless and I noticed it all week. They don’t learn that stuff by themselves, so good job to you.” While I would love to take all the credit for their actions, in reality, I only play a part in what makes the team great.
“I was on the verge of tears watching a bloodied Emerson finish a very difficult crit in the rain with the help of his teammates to move into 4th overall at the Joe Martin Stage Race. The result was his (and the team’s) best result ever at the time.”
In any team environment, people demonstrate teamwork because they have to (i.e. they are paid to do so) or they feel a true obligation to do so (i.e. they want to). While in many professional situations I have witnessed the former, the latter is obviously much more powerful. It comes from a positive culture within the organization and truly liking your teammates. In sport, I have found that often times the smaller, ‘scrappier’ teams are better at this. Being in a less comfortable situation (i.e. having less to lose), and having a common goal of growing the program to something bigger is a great way to bring people together. In the business world, most start-ups I have been exposed to share a similar culture.
Our team is definitely a ‘start-up’ in the U.S. peloton. With no paid staff at the races, our riders are expected to wash their own bikes and clothing, maintain their equipment, and sometimes even wash the team car! (I still can’t seem to get them to do the dishes, but we are working on that…) While it can create some grumbling and longer days, in general they do a great job of rising to the occasion and supporting each other as needed to get it all done. A great example is after the big crash at the Gila, the riders who weren’t impacted spent the extra time to clean and repair the bikes for the guys nursing their wounds so they would be ready for the next day. When recruiting last fall, I made sure to set a clear expectation of what was expected of the guys, and selected the roster for their demonstrated ability as strong teammates over individual ability. This means the guys do a great job of holding each other (and me) accountable during the tougher times when it is easy to lose focus. We also celebrate the good times as well, and I am always proud when I see the whole team show up to cheer on a rider’s podium appearance (this rare at the pro level).
In addition to performing the 22 other jobs I don’t delegate to the riders, I also work hard to paint a bigger picture of where the program can go and why it is all worth it (a finish line if you will). We all know how important firm goals are on the sporting side of things and the business side isn’t any different. Plus, ‘suffering’ is always easier if you know when it will end! By making sure that we all share a common finish line we keep everyone pulling in that direction.
In the last few weeks the team has won both the CO State Road Race Championships as well as the U.S. Elite National Road Race Championships. In both cases, we won only because our riders were willing to sell out for each other. Colby Pearce once told me, “Bike racing is a team sport where an individual wins.” On our team we all win and celebrate those victories.