First I will break down the action in the caravan itself. Then I am going to discuss the importance of the teamwork on display and how it took a rider on the team switching from “me think” to “we think” for it to happen.
The video itself shows only a few minutes of what overall was almost a five minute chase back through the cars to the front group. Racing here in the EU this sort of thing happens all of the time (and is why we need more races with caravans in the United States especially in the junior ranks).
00:07: The horn you hear is me. I am following the progress of the guys as they make their way back through the cars. We use our horns to alert the team cars in front that riders are coming up from behind through the caravan.
00:07-00:16: The guys are able to get past Team Hungary and two other team cars (avoiding some traffic furniture in the process). As I mentioned – the other cars knew riders were coming from behind due to my horn – those team directors took the right hand line through the corner around the traffic furniture to open up the faster line for the riders which enabled the two of them to advance past three cars at once. As a team director you have to “switched on” at all times and have an understanding of what lines the riders will take to avoid any incidents.
00:17-00:47: Unfortunately the next team car hit the gas and pulled away. I will always give a bumper to riders coming back through the caravan who I know are chasing back after a mechanical or a crash and the majority of teams will do the same. It’s possible that this team director didn’t see these two, or did and didn’t give a shit – who knows?
At 00:38 seconds you see the shadow of a team car – that is me and I am trying to judge if I have enough time and space to get around the guys and give them a bumper to help them close the gap. This technically would be frowned upon and if seen may have resulted in a fine – but it was something that I was willing to risk. You then see that I back off after determining that the guys are still making progress and if I pulled in front it might actually blunt their momentum. As it is it took them a full 30 seconds to close the gap to the bumper of the next car – and it was the rider who waited who closed that gap allowing the protected rider who crashed to sit in the draft. They then are able to pass two cars in the corner and make their way up to car 6 in the caravan.
It took the guys almost 20 seconds to get onto terms with car 6 but you can see that the director eventually backs off allowing the guys to get onto his bumper giving them almost 40 seconds of “respite”. Then at 01:48 you see him wave them around as he moves slightly right and slows down to allow them the faster line through the corner. They then are able to get past another car in the process. There is a big gap to the next car but I was able to slot in and give them my bumper – coincidently in my correct position in the caravan which is allowed. The guys were finally able to rejoin the back of the main bunch. They still lost some time in the process as there was a split in the group but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been thanks to the assistance of a teammate and knowing how to use the caravan in the chase back.
The rider leading the chase almost didn’t start this stage. He had been involved in a crash in stage 1a earlier in the day that had happened just outside of the 3 km mark and as a result had lost over 3 minutes. He had also been involved in a pretty bad crash in a race a few weeks prior to Hungary. The race in Hungary was….a bit sketchy. All of the stages were flat which allowed most of the riders to stay in contention. It was easy to sit in and as a result of such a large group staying together there were a number of crashes. Immediately after his crash he was so frustrated that he almost called it quits right then. In the moment I could see his injuries were minor and told him in a tone that left little to interpretation to “get back on his bike and finish the race.”. Then after the stage upon hearing he had lost over 3 minutes he exclaimed that he “wasn’t going to start” the afternoon stage.
“Why would you not start? All you have are scrapes and your bike is fine.”
“I am too far down on GC. I don’t have any chance in the overall so what’s the point?!”
“The point is that you can still help out your teammates. You are starting this afternoon (again in a tone which left no room for interpretation).
This particular rider has elite level physical capacity – this is obvious. Where he, like some of the others on the team, needs some work is his mindset. In this particular case he needed to switch from “me think” to “we think”.
Every rider on the team is a good kid with potential. A few more than others can have a tendency to be a bit self-absorbed. Don’t get me wrong, in the correct doses being successful at a world-class level requires some selfishness but in a team sport like cycling the key part of that sentence is “in the correct doses”. A big part of my job is getting the guys to think as a team not as a bunch of individuals who happen to be wearing the same jerseys. This is particularly difficult at the junior level because they all want to get the results that will get them noticed and picked up by an U23 development team or in that very rare case a World Tour team.
When the time came for the start of the afternoon stage he started the stage. And as the video shows he made that switch from “me think” to “we think” and helped his teammate get back.
After the end of the stage I could tell that he was pleased with his contribution to the team. The protected rider he helped even remarked that the assistance was crucial in limiting his losses. After some time I pulled him aside, looked him in the eye and said “that is why you start the stage if you are able to” and I could tell that he understood.
This marked a positive turning point not only for this particular rider but for the team and I am looking forward to the remaining races on our European schedule.