Tales from the Peloton, January 7, 2006
Pro peloton in disarray as one-upsmanship, injuries, and budget problems abound
Paris, January 1 (Fat Cyclist Fake News Service) - UCI spokesperson Ririe Anderson today announced that effective immediately, all professional cycling team-building events are banned, pending the establishment of a suitable UCI oversight committee.
"These so-called 'team-building events' are distracting from the real purpose of professional cycling," said Anderson. "Sure, it was actually kind of cool when CSC did that 'Basic Training' schtick a couple of years ago. Then Discovery did their copycat 'Hey look, we're hardcore paintball ninjas' photo op, and we all just rolled our eyes...but now, pro cycling teams are going too far."
Anderson is referring, of course, to the expensive, time-consuming, dangerous, and increasingly flamboyant team building programmes other pro cycling teams have initiated. Team Phonak, for example, has revealed that for its pre-season team building exercise, the directeur sportif one day told the team they were going to visit a famous landmark in San Francisco, CA, the now-defunct, but famously inescapable, Alcatraz prison.
What he did not tell the team, however, was that he would be leaving them there, and that it would be their own responsibility to break out and make their way across the San Francisco bay back to the mainland.
"I was impressed with the team's resourcefulness in escaping," said Phonak spokesperson Brad Keyes. "I was also quite amazed at how fully they utilised the equipment they had at hand. Who would have thought that a multi-tool would be so effective at tunneling through cement? Or that a few bike tubes could be used as a passable raft?"
"This exercise also helped us recognise some of our team weaknesses in time to rectify them," Keyes continued. "For example, there seemed to be some squabbling over who would captain the raft. There was also some concern among teammates as to what kind of message it sends to the world to drop off an entire cycling team at a prison."
Not all team-building exercises end as well, unfortunately. Intending to show its strength and endurance, Team Gerolsteiner set out to re-enact Sir Ernest Shackleton's legendary Antarctic expedition. And while this event is indeed bringing the team closer together, the expected duration of the expedition - 18 months - is unlikely to make Gerolsteiner a factor in the 2006 Tour de France.
"We subscribe wholeheartedly to the maxim, 'that which does not kill us makes us stronger," said Levi Leipheimer, in one of the last transmissions made from the team before their ship was crushed by an ice floe. "We only regret that there are evidently so many things that can kill us."
"On the positive side," noted a Gerolsteiner representative, "due to team...um...attrition...we can now safely say that everyone on the team is now guaranteed a spot in the 2007 Tour de France. Or it might be 2008. We'll have to see how their trek progresses."
Above and Beyond
Not every team is electing to conduct their trust-building exercises in the wild. T-Mobile, for example, has teamed up with NASA to send their entire team into space.
In a prepared statement, NASA spokesman Charles Gibson said, "NASA is pleased to be working with T-Mobile to bring their cyclists to the physical and mental condition required to pilot a spacecraft. When they are finished, they will not only be in the best shape of their lives, they will also have advanced degrees in mathematics and have the ability to repair any bicycle problem using nothing but dust, a length of cheesecloth, and a two-inch strip of tape."
According to team captain Jan Ullrich, "This training has truly brought our team together in ways we would have never anticipated. Unfortunately, the expense of this training has completely drained our team budget for the entire year, so I'm glad I've already got a bike and several jerseys."
Future team building exercises suspended
The day after the management of Team Cofidis announced it would be dropping team members into a haunted forest - a la The Blair Witch Project - several cyclists abruptly quit the team, which is when the UCI stepped in.
The establishment of the Safety in Team Building Exercise Commission (SITBEC) is now underway. Once established, SITBEC will evaluate proposed exercises based on specific criteria, such as:
1. Is it life-threatening?
2. Is it even tangentially related to cycling, or is it strictly a publicity stunt?
3. Does it cost more than the team's total allotted budget for the year?
4. Is it just plain silly?
Meanwhile, UCI spokesman Ririe Anderson has the following advice for professional cyclists: "You're professional cyclists, for crying out loud. Quit pretending you're on some freakish reality show." Concluded Anderson, "You want to work better together as a team? Here's an idea - ride your bikes together."
Elden Nelson fibs, exaggerates, and outright lies in his Fat Cyclist blog.