We've all had them. Maybe they blocked your promotion; maybe they pretended to lose your expenses forms just for their own gratification because their life lacked any form of joy. Horrible bosses are a feature of everyone's work life and, just like family, you don't get to choose them.
Think horrible bosses don't exist within the cycling world? Think again.
Cyclingnews spoke to several riders, all of whom were given anonymity, to share some of their stories. Turns out they've all worked for that person, too.
After training one day I was cleaning my bike in the garden and I had my phone on speaker. At the time my wife was heavily pregnant and about to give birth in the coming days, and my boss at the time called up and said I should seriously consider missing the birth of my first child in order to do a team time trial at a non-UCI event because there was a TTT in the Tour de France that year, and they thought I could do with the practice.
Like I said, the phone was on speaker, and my wife, in no uncertain terms, said exactly what she thought. It went along the lines of, 'Is this guy for fucking real?' with a few additional expletives thrown in there for good measure. I don't think he was happy with the timing of the birth of our child, but perhaps the underlying problem was that he didn't know how babies were made and that some things are more important than a team time trial.
About a decade ago I did a race in China with a small domestic team. We had a guest director, and on the US circuit there's this whole group of day-rate staff members who exist because they'll practically work for almost no money. This guy came away with us, and he was a complete hunk of shit. The only times we saw him were just before the starts of each stage and for five minutes after the finish. After that he was gone. He would just vanish.
At first we had no idea where he was going, and to be honest we didn't really care, but after a few days we figured out that after each stage he was sneaking off to visit the local brothels. It gets worse.
At the race there's always an assigned handler, or fixer. It's nothing dodgy, but just someone who can help you with the language barrier if you need water, towels or directions to the nearest grocery store. So, one night we, the riders, came into the hotel lobby where we were staying to find this director asking our fixer where the local brothel was by repeating the question: 'What's Chinese for whorehouse?' and pointing at a local map. In the end, our fixer, she burst into tears.
We decided to pay him back. A few days earlier at one of the stage finishes – and we were just a bunch of kids really – we went and bought a whole load of BB guns. So, when we came back that night and saw him making our fixer cry, we just started unloading fire on him from the second floor balcony of the hotel while he stood there holding his map. He had no idea where the shots were coming from and he was ducking through the hotel lobby taking multiple hits to the head and torso. It gets even worse because I think he caught herpes.
I had a boss who constantly told me I was too fat to be a bike rider. He would say it all the time, before any race I wanted to do well in, and he'd say it in front of everyone on the team. I wasn't the only rider he'd target; he'd say it to everyone. I'm not sure you would get away with that these days. He was probably right - in fact, he was right - but that just wasn't the way to do it. Not in front of everyone.
That same manager would also always make sure that a set of scales was at every race one particular rider went to. His nickname was Truffle Pig.
Hopefully this doesn't end up like the film Horrible Bosses and a team boss isn't murdered, but I was racing in Italy, and had this one director who I really didn't get on with. It came down to complete micro management. I wasn't Italian so they basically thought that I knew nothing about cycling. I'd be getting text messages such as, 'There's a TT at Critérium International so bring a skinsuit', or, 'It's cold at Haut Var, so pack your gloves'. It would drive me up the fucking wall.
Once, I was taken to a restaurant by the DS and allowed to order whatever I wanted. He ordered a pizza, so I thought it was OK to do the same. After the meal I got hammered for choosing what I did. There were two pasta options, but I didn't even think about ordering it. I don't know if it was planned, but it felt like a complete set up. I fucking hated him.
My partner at the time got a job on a team I was riding for. She was employed to look after the finances and take care of the books for a short time. The problem was that the team boss was skimming money from the operation. One night he comes to my partner at a race and says to her, 'Can I trust you?' And he wasn't just referring to the financial side of things. He also wanted clarification that if my partner saw him with another woman that she wouldn't tell his wife.
I raced an Under-23 Worlds on a really flat course one year. We didn't have a sprinter, and I have to say that our DS was a really nice guy, but he was completely exasperated with us because we had no hope of getting a result. We knew it was going to come to a field sprint with 800 metres to go, where there was a really tight turn and the peloton was going to bunch together and drop speed.
The night before the race, our DS comes to the riders and tells one of my teammates and I to hit the front with 800m to go. At the apex of the turn, the order was for one of us to slam on the brakes, crash and take out the entire field, leaving one of us to go on and win the race.
When our DS told us the plan, we all just looked at each other waiting for him to start laughing, but he was dead serious. Of course, we did no such thing. We made a token effort to get to the front in the final stages, but I was terrible at positioning and super small and skinny, so even the idea of me hitting the front towards the final was ludicrous. I think we drove him to desperation, so I almost take the blame for it.
My agent and my manager agreed to terms on a new contract for me and I was meant to re-sign with the team during the Tour de France. I went to the race and the team boss knew that my agent was going to be on holiday for a week and completely out of the picture. When I turned up on the eve of the race, the print-out of the contract from the team boss was half the price of the agreed terms. He told me to sign or go home. I tried to buy some time and stall, but I couldn't reach my agent and I had to sign on a reduced wage. That all went down just before the start of the Tour.
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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