Wait, is it only November? Why was I worried about a training camp? I had organized and managed well over 15 in my life. Why was I concerned about this one? Maybe it was because, in all my years working as a manger and director, I had never assembled a team camp so early in the pre-season. Maybe it was because I had been out of the professional cycling world for over five years. Maybe it was because I didn't personally know our staff or our athletes, save for one. Or, it could be that I was asking our athletes to leave their bikes behind for a week, even though some had a World Track race the day after they returned to Europe. The combination of all the unknowns left me with a stomach full of knots, and nothing to rely on but what I know best – my knowledge of how to run a team and how to meet athletes' needs.
The idea of our camp in November, sans bikes, was to create the focus on team building and introductions. An important part of creating a team that will sacrifice for each other on the road is establishing a platform of trust, empathy and unity. These are heavy words and they did not happen immediately. The process was organic, it took some fertilizing and tending in order to produce the final sense of what it meant to be a member of Cylance Pro Cycling.
Our camp was slated for the first week in November, which is early to get all the 2017 equipment delivered and prepped in time. With a lot of work and commitment to the cause, Sugoi was able to get us a good deal of our casual clothing, allowing us to do all of our team building exercises, team dinners and sponsor meetings in matching casual "kit" making for a uniform feel and appearance.
This camp also gave me, new to the team itself as well as the riders, an enlightening perspective. My previous knowledge of our Women's World Tour Team was limited to my internet research and, of course, Manel Lacambra's, (Director Sportif), incredible knowledge of the selected team. Now I got to meet each woman in person and begin to formulate a plan to best meet her needs for the 2017 season.
I have worked with two legged and four legged athletes for most of my life, as well as having been one myself. I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the very best women and men cyclists in the world. It has been my mission to learn athletes, what inspires them, frustrates them, what motivates them, how they "cycle" through their peaks and valleys of fitness, mentally and spiritually. I want to understand where they get their strengths from, what resources they have available to them in terms of support at home, and what are their stumbling blocks. An athlete can simultaneously be both incredibly complex and very simple. She or he can be both one dimensional in terms of desire to win, but a complex map of various routes on how he or she arrives at victory and how they cope with the agony and disappointment of defeat.
This was my opportunity to learn about the Cylance Pro Cycling women as individuals and then how each rider would meld to create the team.
I met them at one of the most telling times to meet an athlete. Tired, no – exhausted – having traveled over 24 hours for some, hungry, and a bit dazed by being in Irvine with all the lights and input of stimulation. How each athlete met me, interacted with me was telling. Some were straight-forward in presenting their fatigue, shook my hand and asked for their key. Others asked for their key and then very quickly for the Wi-Fi password. Some were effusive in their gratitude to be there with hugs, kisses on both cheeks and pleasantly asked about dinner plans. Travel always brings out a unique side of us all.
As the days progressed and I got a chance to meet and talk with each athlete in various settings (from a boat, to a high ropes course, to a nail salon) I could feel the trust building within the team. I also began to know the personality of each athlete. And what personalities we have.
We have the very business-like in Rossella [Ratto]. The very entertaining, light up a room and make everyone laugh in Joelle [Numainville]. We have the quiet, shy and observant in Erica [Zaveta], the sweet and tender in Willeke [Knol]. We have the astute, directed and the consummate professional in Kirsten [Wild]. Rachele [Barbiere], the quietly determined and quick to smile. The Ninja in Marta [Tagliafarro], the hopeful in Krista [Doebel-Hickok], the easy going and outgoing in Sheyla [Gutierrez], and Jasi [Małgorzata Jasinska], one of the most photogenic, inquisitive and eager to please. And of course Alison [Tetrick], the well spoken, polished and kind, smiling one, who is the glue and grit at the core of the team. [Katie Antonneau did not attend camp due to her cyclo-cross schedule -ed]
As I learn each of the women's personalities, styles and goals, and each day passes, I become more and more invested in each one of them. I want each one of them to reach the goals they present to me. Some are lofty, some are attainable, some are sky high, once in a lifetime goals, but I want to make each and every goal attainable for the person chasing her dream. I will fight to make sure they have what they need to achieve their dreams, I will make Cylance Pro Cycling an environment which promotes continuous improvement, the inspiration for each of our athletes to push themselves just that little bit more, to cross the boundary that had halted them previously, and to provide the best support any one of these athletes has had in her career as an athlete.
And so it begins. The day to day organization, planning and scheming … 2017 here we come. Bring the Green. We are on our way. All of us, as a team. We are Cylance Pro Cycling.