The sign of a great manager is his ability to get the best out of his athletes and to ensure that individual potential is channelled into the ultimate aim of team glory. That’s the acute challenge facing Koos Moerenhout at the Rabo Liv Women Cycling Team this season as he juggles the aspirations of Marianne Vos and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot to name but two.
At the Ladies Tour of Qatar, Moerenhout is without arguably his two most successful leaders but the Dutch team is still stacked with talent and the former Rabobank rider believes that managing individual expectations and team aims is a luxurious but challenging position.
“It can make things complicated but it’s a luxurious position to be in. So far the girls are working well together and they all acknowledge that there’s more benefit to riding together than if they were opponents,” he told Cyclingnews.
Last week, Ferrand-Prevot won the women’s elite Cyclo-Cross Worlds in Tabor, ending Vos’ reign. The French rider had already pulled the same trick in Spain last year at the road Worlds, and it led some to believe that there could either be a changing of the guard or a switch in teams.
Moerenhout believes that with careful planning and understanding the Dutch team can prosper on all fronts, and without having to diminish their chances of success.
“We had a few races last year like at the Giro with one, two, three on the podium. You need to be careful and you need to keep everyone motivated so that they get their own chances but still has the team objective in mind,” he said.
“Once you’re in the team you’re in the team. It’s doesn't matter what nationality you are. Pauline is important and the same goes for everyone. The general language is English in the team and we just need to make sure that there’s lots of planning.”
The comparisons between Vos and Ferrand-Prevot are easy to make. Both are exciting racers, and can win on a number of terrains.
“In one way they are similar but in others they’re not because they’re both different as riders and as people. They have some similarities for sure, like they are good uphill but can also win a sprint. Still they are different. Marianne wants to prove herself all day, everyday, Pauline is more focused on peaking.
“It’s a luxury problem, it’s a luxury challenge. If you don’t have the riders to make the wins in the hard races then you have problems. With this team it’s a matter of finding the right balance and that counts for every rider.”
And Moerenhout can of course always draw on his experience as a rider when it comes to managing expectations and individuals. At Rabobank he was part of a squad that constantly lined up for National Championships with the greatest numbers and arguably talent. However, there were times when the men in orange were either outthought or out manouvered by their unwillingness to sacrifice for the team.
“It’s a challenge I saw at Rabobank. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. There were a few times at the Dutch nationals for instance, when we were the team to beat due to quantity and quality but sometimes riders were looking for their own interests. If you don’t have the team in mind then you can miss out.”