To the outside observer, cycling is very much an individual sport. The history, the stories, the imagery -- most everything is centered around celebrating the idea of individual heroism. The fact of the matter is, nothing in cycling is accomplished in isolation.
A single rider's accomplishments in a race are almost always enabled by a strong and supportive team. In that sense, it's probably most accurate to describe cycling as an individual sport practiced within the context of teams. So, what role does the team play? How does having teammates in the race prove essential to an individual rider's performance? During these first few days of the off-season, I got to thinking about those questions. Thinking back to the Green Mountain Stage Race, where Tom Hendry, Ryan McGarrity, Richard Scudney and I competed, I came up with a few illustrative examples. It’s textbook stuff, really, but not the sort of stuff that's commonly showcased.
- Teammates are there to share rides to races. Sometimes they even do all the driving and let you hog Spotify without lodging a single complaint.
- Teammates have plenty of extra bottles to lend when you show up to the stage race having forgotten your own.
- Teammates don’t bat an eyelash when you admit to also having forgotten bars and gels for the race, or recovery powder for after. They let you take from their supply without asking for anything in return.
- Teammates concoct improbable race strategies late into the night with you that will almost never work, until one day they actually do.
- Teammates open a gap for you near the front of the race when you’re badly out of position and need to move up before the start of the first big climb on the Queen Stage.
- Teammates bolster you mid-race with the confidence necessary to go ahead and launch that attack.
- Teammates keep the race hard at moments when the pace would otherwise ease, ensuring that it’s hard for people to relax or feed.
- Teammates attack providing you with an opportunity to counter-attack
- If you do manage to stick a break, teammates come to the front and set a tempo for the rest of the field to help you establish you lead and increase the probability of your near improbable attack.
- Teammates keep a great energy in the house, and bring their charming wives or girlfriends along who are kind enough to take photos, cheer everyone on, and prepare feasts for dinner.