It’s not a secret that the major part of the season’s preparation for all teams is quietly nutted out away from the main spotlight, during what we call, the ‘offie’ – November, December, and early January. For most teams, this will usually be a pre-season get together in early November which generally is more of ‘a meet and greet’ affair, based on getting the coming season’s squad together and giving the sponsors – especially the technical sponsors, a chance to get their demands and requirements sorted for the coming season. Clothing companies will also call in to measure the riders’ thin, spare-tyre free waists, sad lack of torsos, pathetic arms and over-sized legs, in order to somehow try and make the clothing fit well to each rider.
Wheel and bike manufacturers come to explain the benefits of their gear and also milk ideas from the riders in an effort to make improvements while nutrition providers also call by to talk about their latest product advancements. Additionally, during this period there are often rider-director meetings where races and expectations are set out for the coming season.
The real work begins in December when teams focus on spending time on at least one or possibly two training camps, to kick start the guys’ season. These camps always come after the riders have already managed to complete a few weeks training. This allows them to acquire a reasonable level of fitness in order to get the most out of the camp. With the Northern Hemisphere firmly in the depths of winter during these periods, some of the challenges the teams face include deciding where to have the camp and which riders should attend given the geographical dispersion of team members. In Orica-GreenEDGE’s case, this is especially logistically challenging.
Generally speaking, we are an Australian team so the choice might seem obvious but we do have to consider that a fair portion of our riders are European-based – including some of the Australians in the team – so in the offie we have guys occupying both hemispheres. Rounding up the troops for training camps is therefore a tricky task. Some of the more common places for pre-season camps are Calpe in Spain, the Island of Mallorca, California and for Orica GreenEGDE Bright in Victoria is fast becoming one of our preferred choices at this time of year.
Although during the off-season the guys are lying low and quietly building on their training, for us in management – although we’re not spending time on the road – we are constantly plugging away at the logistics and objectives for the fast approaching upcoming season. It is a time of constant to’ing and fro’ing calls and emails. We need to have our machine tuned, oiled and revving for the pre-season so every rider knows what is expected of them, when and where. Although changes are always inevitable, the guys have their plans in front of them well before they set off to their first races.
Obviously for us, we have a broad range of objectives within the team and it’s critical that the guys preparing for the early season Aussie programme have all they need in December; for these riders and our team, it’s one of the two key periods of the season.
The team’s early season objectives on the Australian programme are not all that we have to think about, however. There are 20-odd other riders in the team who need to be focusing on and preparing for races further down the season calendar.
So behind all the attention and emphasis centered round the team in Australia, there are a group of Orica GreenEDGE guys who are doing the hard yards, chipping away in the late European winter. And this is where my attention is focused as I write these words. I’m on one of the Spanish Balearic Islands, Mallorca, with a small contingent of the Northern Hemisphere guys, helping them prepare and get on track for their objectives further into the season. I don’t think we could have felt any further away from the searing Adelaide heat yesterday as we crested the top of the 14km ascent of Puig Mola, ushered by a damp, chilly Mediterranean breeze and barely touched by the sun lowering on the other side of the Island. I wondered if we would have enough daylight hours to get back to the hotel as we aimed to complete our queen training day of our 12 days of collaborative training.
The business end of our day does not start before 10am. Contrary to the Aussie programme, where there are early starts to avoid the heat, we are here waiting for the day to warm up enough to venture out. And yet while we are very limited by the shortened daylight hours, the Aussie gang long for the sun to sink low so some respite from the baking temperatures can follow. We really are poles apart both geographically and figuratively speaking.
Our current dispersal is not isolated to Mallorca and Australia; we also have another group of riders in Argentina, clocking up some early season miles. Like the group here in Palma de Mallorca, they are a diverse group with some of the riders carrying early season objectives and others looking to score points on the board early, so to speak.
For our sprinters, trying to get in the mix of any early season sprints is a good way to start the season. And if good results come of those attempts, then that’s even better. The importance of the early season sprint opportunities is profound. Not only do they allow guys to find their rhythm and nous in the sprint again after a 3 month sprint drought, they also help to nurture that level of confidence which is so crucial to the success of sprinters. Sprinters do not always have to be in 100% condition to win, if they have a little luck and are savvy in a sprint those initial results of the season are theirs for the taking. And those build and cement self-confidence so essential in achieving the victories of the ‘bigger’ sprints later in the season. Results at any time of year and regardless of what race they come from are great for confidence and overall team spirit. As the old adage goes: ‘the sooner, the better’.
Others in the team will be looking to start well but have their sights set further down the season’s track. For these guys the approach to the season is generally a little less aggressive, yet solid. They will progressively build and build on their form and hopefully reach their desired crescendo when it’s time. Such is the case for our new signings Chaves and Italian champion Santaromita.
There is no doubt about it in this modern pro-cycling era that the early season races are more important than ever yet as team management, we are faced with the difficulty of trying to juggle a myriad of demands; riders based in different corners of the world, races being raced here, there and everywhere, different groups of riders carrying distinct objectives, while similar riders carry similar objectives – which is just as tricky to juggle – and all this throughout a very long season to be endured by all. As a rider, I was fairly oblivious to the complexity of knitting together all these demands in order to build and maintain a top level pro-tour team. 2013 was my internship, so to speak. My eyes were opened to the side of the team’s fence that I had seldom ever contemplated. I have come away from 2013 changed; maybe even wiser.
My role in Orica-GreenEDGE is more defined for 2014 and I have my own objectives and ideas on helping our riders be the best they can be. This side of the fence for me, although starkly distinct, is no less altruistic than my role was as a lead-out rider and my confidence too would flourish with a few early season results!