the colnago carbon range is one of confusing perplexity. while the top of the range is ostensibly the italian built, lugged carbon c60, it is closely followed by the taiwan produced v1-r, the price of which is not that much less than the former. there is also the cx-zero and lower down the food chain, the carbon ac-r, punctuated by the revived colnago clx. the part that causes the perplexity is what i perceive to be the substantial overlap in ability and quality of each frame or bicycle.
though dropped from the range for a year, the clx has now returned in altered guise at a price that is hardly outlandish for contemporary quality and with uci approval for racing. many propsective colnago owners will be saving hard for a vr-1 or possibly, at a stretch, the c60, risking a lifetime of debt for guaranteed performance. but perhaps, at the risk of upsetting the cognoscenti, the lower-priced clx might conceivably fulfil every expectation without fostering brankruptcy...........................................................................................................................................................................................................
following on from the discussions we had about seasons during yesterday's little soirée, today's seasons are somewhat more definable, even though the specific instance under question has recently tended to creep slightly at either end. i am, of course, referring to the cyclocross season, one that commenced on america's east coast this particular weekend at the ellison park cyclocross festival in rochester new york. i cannot claim that this was definably the first 'cross race across the pond, but it's certainly the first undertaken by the richard sachs cyclocross team.
richard definitely fits into the class of individuals for whom the spring and summer's road racing season simply gets in the way of cyclocross. the team in its various guises has seen more than just a few seasons of mud and hurdles, so does richard ever get tired of the same old, same old?
"It's never gotten tiring, or rote, or boring. If anything, the entire project of keeping all the balls in the air has become more interesting and fun as the years pass, atmo."
there is a theoretical propensity for any form of cycle racing that adheres to a circuit to become repetitive. in road-racing, other than the placings in the bunch, nothing much changes from lap to lap. however, given that the greater proportion of a cyclocross circuit meanders across a variety of offroad terrain, depending on the weather, that circuit can alter radically from one lap to another. however, those are expected variables in any cyclocross race, while getting ready for the season must surely fulfil a similar pattern. Does Sachs vary his preparations for each season, or is it still a case of building an appropriate number of frames, kitting them out accordingly, accompanied by the administrative duties that a season's racing demands?
"Each rider gets a pair of matching bicycles. Once in a very short while, an older unit will be resprayed in current year colors, but that's becoming rarer as time passes. I feel better when I know the frames are new in August and that there are no underlying structural issues."
surely a part of the bigger picture as it relates to undertaking yet another season of cyclocross, is being aware of the technological developments that might conceivably impact the team's potential success. richard sachs cyclocross bicycles are surely relatively unusual in that they are still constructed from lugged steel, when much of their surrounds are of carbon fibre. and in an era when cantilever brakes are rapidly giving way to mechanical or hydraulic disks, does richard see a point when his frames will feature disks?
i recently watched a six part documentary on youtube concerning the stage setup for canadian prog-rock band, rush. the irony of a 40 piece road crew serving only three band members was not lost on me, but it did underline how and why successful artists have demonstrative need of those happy to serve rather than desire a place on the podium. a cyclocross team is essentially no different. muddy bikes have to be washed and clean ready to be handed over to a running athlete when required, duties regularly carried out by richard's partner, the lovely debs, aided and abetted by their little white terrier, buddy. will they be once again handling pit duties this season?
"Without question. Deb is an integral part of the organisation and no decision about the team, the riders, the schedule, or the sponsors, is made without her input. The only absolute here is that I decide where to park at the race venues. No one else gets a vote. It's all about the parking spot."
even in cyclocross, there is nothing so sure as change, not only in the case of the bicycles (which have once more changed colours at the expert hands of team sponsor house industries - see top photo - richard's is the yellow version), but in terms of team personnel. are there any changes this year?
"We've added Sam O'Keefe and Libby White, both of whom are U23 riders. To say their sporting backgrounds are overflowing with accomplishments is an understatement. And like their team-mates Dan Chabanov and BrittLee Bowman, these two riders are bright, engaging, and fun to be around. Deb and I expect nothing less than the most enjoyable five months ever."
i think i'd be right in saying that essentially, cyclocross is an individual's sport. though there may be more than one rider wearing the same jersey and shorts, it's likely that each will have their own expectations and objectives. we're very unlikely to see several team riders forming a sprint train in order to have their team leader reach the finishing line in first place. however, racing is one thing, training a distinct other. does richard get together with the team members for a pre-season training camp, or is everyone pretty much left to their own devices prior to race one?
"We did get together for two days in late July. That consisted of croquet games, swimming in the pond, comparing tan lines, and laughing over wonderful meals. The off-times we spend together are as precious and memorable as the long weekends at race venues."
i've a feeling that there are few world tour teams who would take a similar approach, but i know which one i'd be happier to sign for. this pre-season training, such as it appears to be, took place prior to the thirteen races that are listed on richardsachscyclocross.com, but is that the last word on this season's events, or might they add others, depending on how things progress?
"I'm pretty sure we'll pin numbers on at least thirty times this season. Our targets include the UCI C2 and C1 events. Sam and Libby have Worlds Team roster spots in their sights, and we'll do all we can to help them reach these goals."
richard's cyclocross team benefits from a number of sponsors who have been involved for several seasons, not all of whom have specific wares to promote via the team's participation and success in the races alluded to above. however, for the 2015 season, the logos and names on the jerseys have been joined by that of withings, a company providing digital ideas and products for the digitally aware. however, try as i might, i didn't see the connection between a french company sponsoring an east coast american cyclocross team.
richard sachs put me in touch with withings' mark prince to whom i put the above question. "Withings is, in fact, a French company, however our business is global. For example, Withings products are sold at the Apple Store worldwide and today, North America is our largest market.
"With regard to our relationship with Richard Sachs Cyclocross, we loved Richard's axiom 'technology alone is poor substitute for experience.' Our brands share certain values, such as the importance of design, therefore ultimately, Withings wants to see the team succeed and we're proud to be affiliated with the team."
that certainly answers my question regarding withings involvement richard sachs, but having peeked at their website, the product line doesn't exactly shout 'cyclocross' in any particular way. what brought the company into contact with richard in the first place?
"Withings is a connected health company; our products are designed to enable anyone to track their personal health metrics and then make good decisions. We play nicely with other apps cyclists might use. For example, it's easy to share Withings body weight/body mass/body fat data with MyFitnessPal, or Training Peaks, among others. Thus there is immediate value for cyclists who use these tools.
"Today we have over 160 different app partners, so there is something for everyone. Our own Health Mate app was recognized as 'Best of App Store' by Apple last year.
"Although Withings doesn't presently offer a cycling specific product, it's probably fair to say that we have a more direct connection to a cyclist's interests than a bank, or a lottery, or a telco, perhaps..."
it is a point well made, for there is many a sponsor involved in world tour cycling that exhibits a less than tangible connection with any form of cycle sport, yet there they are on the team car and riders' jerseys. however, as averred in my opening paragraph, the cyclocross season is definably shorter than the ever-expanding road-race season, so why did withings decide to match the brand with cyclocross as opposed to an arguably higher profile branch of the sport?
"Because it's cyclocross!"
with luck, it might be possible to feature a mid-season update on how the richard sachs cyclocross season is faring. meanwhile, here's wishing them all the best for a successful season.
many thanks to richard sachs and mark prince for their time and assistance with this article.
sunday 6 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'm assuming that the four seasons (the real ones, not vivaldi's composition nor the guys that used to sing with franki valli) were named for a specific reason. one must presume that, at some time in the earth's dim and distant past, those with the wherewithal to offer international diktats were able to do just that, placing an order for autumn, winter, spring and summer. or if you're across the pond, just substitute fall for autumn.
if that is truly the case, and we haven't just inherited the current setup from a janet ahlberg kiddies book, then in a leather-bound instruction manual somewhere or other is a list of the specific parameters that distinguish one from its subsequent neighbour. there surely has to be some means of determining just when spring ends and summer starts, and i'm guessing that this does not take the form of a specific date on the calendar.
my reasoning behind the latter conjecture is the knowledge that, in the middle ages, education was scarcely endemic in the human race at large. yet peasant farmers totally devoid of a doctorate in meteorological studies knew just when to sow seed, when to scythe the fields filled with corn or barley and many other annual agricultural necessities. of course, there's always the possibility that these things were done in line with natural observation that didn't necessarily coincide with the doubling of prices at center parcs during the school breaks.
commerciality has tightened up on these strictures, to the point of reducing seasonality to two distinct cupboards: autumn (fall)/winter and spring/summer. those are the preferred delineations favoured by the cycle industry's apparel providers, at which points they proffer one or two new garments midst revised colours for the rest. rather obviously, we are about to enter the first mentioned of those two seasonal partitions. winter garments offering enhanced showerproofing, waterproofing, windproofing and insulation of varying degrees that have been stored in a cupboard since february are now, or about to be placed in our direct path of purchase.
but what if they're wrong?
earlier this year, when all and sundry were illustrating the spring/summer ranges with sunlit images featuring short-sleeves and lightweight fabrics, temperatures in the hebrides were still in single figures and the rain was still conspicuous by its presence. many items were encased under winter clothing in order to complete a review, speedily divesting outer garments in the teeth of an atlantic gale in order to take photographs. quite blatantly, somebody somewhere had got the seasons quite wrong.
so when andy and mick at prendas ciclismo sent through a pair of their revamped aqua light overshoes at the end of august, they were in fact late, rather than too early. only the previous weekend, many of the velo club had worn overshoes and full-length bibtights. naturally enough, as a hardened, if occasionally mistaken scotsman, i wore bibshorts and got my feet wet.
for the latter part of 2015, prendas have added very in-your-face fluorescent yellow panels to these incredibly versatile items of footwear. these are overshoes that live up to their name with aplomb, being very lightweight and thus avoiding any propensity to cause overheating. yet that thin fabric had the ability to shield a deep burgundy pair of dromarti leather shoes from road spray and minor showers. and despite the ambient temperature being well above freezing, my tootsies never once over-heated. honestly, not once.
and one of the principal benefits of their fastening is a half-length zip at the rear of each shoe, accompanied by a large velcro flap that obviates any zip chafing if you happen to be wearing short-length socks. if this sunday's forecast is anything to go by, they'll be called into service on the morning ride during which, as is my wont, i will be unbearably smug. with warm, dry feet.
prendas aqua light fluoro overshoes are available from the prendas website at a cost of only £29.95 in shoe sizes ranging from 37 to 50.
saturday 6 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
there's currently an advert on national television for a cancer research charity that aims to sign up individuals willing to eschew any alcoholic beverages for the month of september. this has been cleverly entitled dryathlon and aired during more than one ad break on a single evening. it shows a cleverly conceived idea that has been just as cleverly implemented. and at times like this, i seriously wonder why the cycling world is so retarded in this respect.
yesterday was national bike to work day, a single day of the year on which the organisers have high hopes that not only regular cyclists will do the decent thing, but particularly those for whom such a notion might be a mere fleeting thought. was there a concerted television or press advertising campaign? of course there wasn't. was there any real point to a cycle to work day? if there was, it is totally lost on me.
it is hard to comprehend that a charity which relies on financial donations not only to exist, but to assist with and foster high level medical research has enough cash in the coffers to produce a quality television ad. those cost money not only to create but for the time slot in which they're shown. our cycle to work day is sponsored by cyclescheme, the national cycle to work provider which, as far as i'm aware does not vye for monetary donations. despite this, the only publicity material of which i am aware was the pale blue t-shirt and printed press release that arrived through my letterbox last saturday.
the contents of that press release, including printed colour photographs which are of no use to me in such a format, intimate that the talents of denise van outen have been recruited in an effort to persuade the great unwashed. try as i might, i couldn't find ms van outen's cycling palmares anywhere on google. she did, however, offer this as succour to the unconverted: "Cycling sets me up for the day with a clear head.".
however, had a concerted tv campaign featured as a part of their publicity machine, i'd have been criticising that too. for what on earth is the point of a cycle to work day? one solitary day at the beginning of september is going to make no difference at all. in the process of my wandering down bowmore main street to purchase my daily paper yesterday lunchtime, i quizzed a number of people as to whether they were aware of thursday 3 september being national cycle to work day. you will hardly be surprised if i relate that not one knew, nor particularly cared. i doubt i'd lose my house if i'd bet on that being the case across most of the country.
i believe i made mention only the other day that a wise man once pointed out that any process or activity undertaken for a period of 21 days becomes habit. it's a factor that most certainly doesn't apply to a single day. if the folks responsible for national cycle to work day figure that preaching to the converted by sending a t-shirt and a press release to someone who needs no encouragement to ride a bike at each and every opportunity is going to make one whit of a difference, then they're in the wrong job.
if somebody truly wants to see an increase on the existing 3% who admit to regularly cycling to work, then it would seem more prudent to put all their eggs into a cycle to work month. sure, a tv or press campaign would be nice, but to make sure it has teeth of some sort, incentives will be required for both participants and employers. folks like me telling others how great it would be to cycle to work just simply is not going to work. heck, even sandwiches have a national week
until that month occurs, to be perfectly honest, we're wasting our time.
friday 5 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
faff about on pretty much any website you care to mention nowadays (apart from this one) and you're likely to come across an ever-increasing line of obscure graphics, the meanings of which may only be known by those with a peculiar interest in such matters. under the global heading of social media, several of these confusing graphics refer to services such as twitter, facebook, flickr, instagram and pinterest and more besides. i'd be lying if i tried to give the impression that i knew what each and every one actually did; i figure i have acquitted myself favourably by managing simply to list them and spell them correctly.
i should qualify all of the above by mentioning that even in the arcane world of website statistics, i am but a mere passer-by. the numbers provided by my webhost are portrayed in so many different formats that trying to pinpoint to what they all refer is, quite frankly, more than my job's worth.
i joined twitter several years ago more or less at the behest of an article in bikebiz which stated that anyone involved in the bike trade (a member of which i, as a famous cycling journalist, consider myself to be) ought to be signed up to. i did this in the valiant hope that i might figure out what the heck it was all about. if i ever find out, you'll be the second to know. meanwhile, technological pace is scarcely showing signs of retardation and we've still all to invest time in comprehending the latest developments, just to keep up.
all the while, simmering in the background has been video, a technology that once required the simplicity and mediocre quality of a flip camera. with every smartphone on the planet now endowed with a video camera of superior picture quality than anything flip were economically likely to provide. add to this, the fact that in the intervening time, cameras such as the go pro have appeared, there really is little in the way of excusing a lack of video on the contemporary cycling website.
however, though i have dabbled with my own version of hebridean hollywood, the amount of time that has to be put aside to create even a couple of minutes is considerably more than i have available. and it seems only fair to point out that one not only needs appropriate technical and editing skills, but the ability to present oneself and the product(s) under review. and those truly ought not to be underestimated.
edinburgh's 2pure, distributors of bicycle brands ibis and eddy merckx as well as clement tyres and many another desirable item, have engaged the services of former professional rider and currently directeur sportif at one-pro cycling, james mccallum to present what has been tagged 2pure tv. episode one has jimmy talking to members of the matrix fitness women's team about their use of kinetic turbos and rollers.
though james mccallum is sponsored by 2pure in his cyclocross ventures (an ibis hakkalugi), how did the tv connection arrive?
"i'm not too sure of the exact workings of how it came along to be honest. I'm obviously a brand ambassador for 2pure, but the process was more of a conversation and went from there. No screen test or any of that jazz".
The last two series of the cycle show have benefited greatly from being presented by matt barbet, a consummate presenter himself. it'a programme that is half-cycle show, half talk show, the latter part at one time featuring mr mccallum himself, though i'd struggle to recall the reason he was sat on the couch. at that time, i remember e-mailing jimmy to suggest that perhaps his future lay on tv when he finally hung up his wheels. did that appearance provide the eye-opener that had him first consider on-screen presentation?
"It's not something I've actively pursued to be honest, more a case of being able to talk a fair bit. I must get that from my mother. If I was offered the chance I'd be daft to pass it up, but one thing at a time."
many years ago, as a member of a blues band led by a former manager of lagavulin distillery, we became the partial subject of a diageo-commissioned documentary concerning their whisky portfolio. this involved setting up in lagavulin's malt mill and playing one song more than just a few times over the course of three or four hours. the final movie showed us for less than 20 seconds. the first episode of 2pure tv lasted only a few minutes, but how long did it actually take to film?
"The Tour Series episode was a few hours at the event, but the trailer took about three days, as we had a few locations to cover. All in, a handful of hours."
quite frequently, those presenting any form of on-screen production are involved purely in that part of the equation. each subsequent feature usually only involves those who participate in the activity under discussion. however, jimmy mccallum had a reasonably successful racing career with several teams as well as a continued interest in cyclocross. so will he play an active part in future episodes, or will he 'simply' remain the presenter?
"The series is still in its infancy, but either way I'm happy to be a part of whatever they need."
one-pro cycling recently announced jimmy having joined the team as a directeur sportif and if you combine that with his involvement in the scottish cyclocross series, most of his waking hours would seem to be fairly well catered for. add a young child into the mix, and one begins to wonder how all this can be shoe-horned into a working week. will the recent one-pro recruitment restrict his fledgling 'tv' career or ultimately reinforce it?
"I should be work able between the two. The team is obviously a priority, however i need to get asked back to TV first, ha ha."
in the above mix of career duties, i failed to mention his association with trainsharp professional coaching, which was more or less jimmy's first post-race employment. is he still involved, or has that run its course?
"Not as of the start of my contract with One-Pro Cycling. I have to be exclusive to them. To be honest, it's a full-time job in itself, so I have to be very focused with the team"
i am constantly asked how i find the time to update thewashingmachinepost on a daily basis, but for me it all seems relatively simple, even if you take into account the number of hours on the bike actually reviewing all of the products about which i write. however, a wiser person than i once pointed out that if you can undertake any activity, be it riding to work, walking each morning or dieting for a consecutive period of twenty-one days, it becomes habit and thus far easier to accommodate into even a busy life.
however, since mccallum seems to be doubling his workload with alacrity and ease, is it possible he's a workaholic?
"Now that you mention it, yes, though Inever really thought I was. In my defence, I just love cycling and being in the bubble. Cycling has made me the person that I am today, so I'm not surprised that my work ethic hasn't changed after hanging up the wheels."
thursday 4 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
having just finished watching a short movie of sunday's stage of la vuelta, sent to me by martin of dromarti fame, a following e-mail from michele strazzer inadvertantly pointed out just how the years have rolled past rather more quickly than most of us, including yours truly, would care to admit. obviously though the act of pedalling in a forward direction as fast as possible hasn't altered that much, the technology certainly has. one only has to witness the state of the art carbon fibre crossing the summit in martin's movie to realise that.
the subject matter of the e-mail from which i seem to have digressed rather quickly was the first stage race victory by scotland's robert millar. i realise that this really ought to be placed on the robert millar pages, and in point of fact, that's just where this will end up, but for now, we celebrate this thirtieth anniversary on the main stage.
the race was the tour of catalonia and robert took the final leader's jersey on the final day after the time trial, beating sean kelly into second place. as to the accompanying photograph of a 26 year-old millar, michele says "Sadly, you won't find Robert in this jersey anywhere on Google Images. It's from a colour poster from the Sunday edition of a now defunct Barcelona sports paper 'El Mundo Deportivo'. The 'Millar el Millor' text means 'Millar the best' in Catalan."
with reference to la vuelta, a race we were discussing only a matter of moments ago, apparently millar's victory in the volta a catalunya (at that time raced in late april) was seen by many as appropriate revenge for the events that took place in the 1985 vuelta espana, where millar was worked over by the spanish contingent. since this was pretty much all before i'd figured out what cycle racing was really all about, i'll let michele strazzer take it from here.
"That was a strange Volta. There were lots of crashe and plenty of bad roads. The whole peloton went on strike in the middle of the queen stage! The racing resumed half an hour later and Robert eventually took second place, taking an option on the final GC.
"Millar only beat Kelly by three seconds and the Spanish press, never too well disposed towards Robert, tried to imply that Millar's victory was Kelly's gift, the Irishman possibly feeling guilty for letting him down at the worst possible moment in that penultimate Vuelta stage (yes, that ill-fated penultimate Vuelta stage) However the Mundo Deportivo insisted that Sean - the defending champion - looked totally shocked and dejected by the outcome of the 1985 Volta.
"Millar was intent on leaving Peugeot for Panasonic at the time. After the ill-fated Vuelta, the Peugeot team had imploded at the 1985 Tour, manager Berland was about to be given the axe and Robert certainly needed some fresh air to breathe.
"Peugeot's bosses had been their usual selves. "Robert, we're very disappointed. You're ungrateful, you're a traitor. How can you do this after all that we've done for you? Who do you think you are? All of which turned to "We don't need you. You want to go to Panasonic? You can go to hell for all we care"
Even in August 1985 there were rumours in France that Peugeot were about to sign a badger-weary Greg LeMond. "Who needs Millar if we can get LeMond?"
"However, when they saw Millar winning the Volta and when it became clear LeMond was staying at La Vie Claire, the Peugeot bosses actually sat, thought and realized Robert was being signed as leader by one of the three best teams in the world.The penny having finally dropped, Peugeot made a last-ditch attempt at keeping Millar; they crawled before him, they wined and dined him, they 205GTI-ed him.
"But it was too late."
i'm reasonably sure that robert has better things to do with his time than to read the post on a daily basis, but if you happen to have clicked in even for a moment robert, happy anniversary.
grateful thanks to michele strazzer for not only the unique photo, but the précis of millar's first stage race win.
wednesday 3 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the idea of commencing a career in sales was one that filled me with dread. i should make it plain that in reality, it was never really a serious consideration, but since that had been my late father's path to success, there was always a faint notion that i might be pre-disposed to follow suit. with no disrespect to those of you currently at the top of the sales tree, or even navigating your way through its branches, there seems the almost dreaded inevitability about its progress. though i put my hand up to a gross simplification: start as a salesman, prove adept and promotion to sales manager is all but assured.
after a few years as sales manager, play your cards right and suddenly a regional sale manager nameplate appears on your office door. and so on and so on. with each step on the ladder dependent on sales figures, either yours or those under your management, and no matter how much you sell, the powers that be will increase that for the following year. so there's never a chance to sit back, kick-off and bathe in the glory of what you've achieved. because whatever you've achieved, it will never be deemed enough.
cycling's not quite like that. yes, the value of each successive year's contract depends a great deal on the successes (or lack of) during the previous one, but there's no defined career path. possibly this is because cycling takes account of the physical abilities you were born with; if you ain't got it, there's no point in lamenting that fact. additionally, with one or two exceptions, a career in professional cycling is never going to last until you reach pension age. so what does an even moderately successful cyclist do when the time comes to hang up his/her wheels?
some have been fortunate and astute enough to earn and save sufficient of the folding stuff to never have to work again. a bike shop or drinking establishment purchase seems still to be a popular choice, especially on the continent, or perhaps a job with the sponsor of that final team, always assuming you've made enough of an impression during your time in the club. perhaps the occasional foray into tv punditry beckons or, if all else fails, you become a directeur sportif.
that latter remark is made firmly tongue in cheek, for a good d.s. can make the difference between a team that struggles to survive and one that hits the ground running each and every time. tom southam is perhaps still best known on these shores for having raced with rapha condor and appearing in more than one or two rapha catalogues and lookbooks. on deciding to find a seat more comfortable than a bike saddle, he split his duties between press officer for rapha condor jlt and occasionally taking charge of the team when principal directeur sportif john herety was occupied elsewhere. at the beginning of 2015, tom took on duties as directeur sportif with the australian drapac professional cycling.
aside from the previously mentioned events as d.s. with rapha, this is tom's first full career move into directeur sportifing (if i can label it as such). has it been everything he thought it would be?
"In many ways it is. I already knew by this time last year that I'd be coming to this job, so I started work trying to learn as much as I could about the job before I started. John (Herety) obviously taught me a lot, and I spoke to Charly (Wegelius) a great deal about it too.
"I read a lot of books on all sorts of things from sports psychology, team building, management styles, etc. Basically there are more parallels with managing a team of people than there is with the bike riding part. The experience that you've had as a bike racer is quite a minor part of the job. That's the finer details that you have to have, firstly to have any credibility, and secondly to understand what is going on in people's heads. The rest of it, if you are doing it well, should be quite separate to the experience that you have as a rider.
"Even now I spend a lot of time with other DSes at races, and very boringly we talk about the job and how it works. Guys like Charly and Mike Creed, who are similar ages to myself. We are all figuring it out, one way or another, much like life, really..."
at one point in recent history, buoyed by receipt of a never ending stream of management and information technology magazines, i figured my business card would be immeasurably enhanced by appending the words knowledge management consultant, a title that ought surely to allow the charging of an enormous daily rate while obscuring what it was i was supposed to be doing in the first place. after all, who amongst you could prove that i wasn't suitably qualified for a position that all but defied definition. to an extent, having directeur sportif on that business card leaves the individual open to similar lines of enquiry. so what exactly are tom's duties with drapac?
"I'm in charge of the sporting performance of the guys at races. I have to work out the best way to get the most out of what we have, and what I know the riders have, to keep improving results. Sometimes this means keeping someone happy (no brown M&Ms type stuff), and at other times it is implementing broader strategies to best use our resources in a particular race.
"Putting out fires is probably the best way to describe a lot of what I do."
i am not, nor will i ever be, a manager. i know many others for whom the same is true. i can just about get myself through the average week, making sure that everything that ought to be done has been done, or that i have a darn good reason as to why it hasn't. attempting to goad others into achieving what is necessary is/was simply a stage too far. others, however, revel in the challenge and opportunity to manage others successfully, adopting strategies even as they complete more mundane tasks with the other hand. the occasional downside for those being managed is the method of management being imposed. does tom lean towards the gentle cajoling of his riders, or has he adopted a more stentorian attitude?
"Every DS is different, and I think that you need to have all types of motivator in a good team. I'm not a real ball-breaker to be honest; it's not in my character. I like to encourage the best out of guys by making them the most confident individual they can be, and making sure there is an harmonious environment in the team, so these guys will sacrifice all their hard work for the greater good, so to speak. It's all about the Fuego! Getting everyone on the same page and working towards something."
as mentioned above, drapac professional cycling are an australian based cycling team. but the days of a team consisting of riders who all hail from the home country have long since gone. with the internationalisation of professional cycling, most teams are in the habit of signing riders from every corner of the globe. though many impose english as the language du jour, it would be so much harder to standardise temperaments and national customs amongst an international staff. does the existence of several nationalities amongst the drapac team make tom's job harder, or does everyone get along with each other just fine?
"Once you get to this level, everyone is a professional, and most riders have had enough world experience to enjoy getting on with different nationalities. That being said, we try to sign guys who we think will fit culturally in the team; without that it is hard work."
drapac rider wouter wippert won both stages one and six in this year's tour of korea, a race that featured as one of southam's first forays as a directeur sportif with rapha. was this palmares a direct result of tom's previous experience? had he coached wippert to those two victories?
"I didn't go to Korea this year, otherwise we would have won the whole fuckin' thing!
"Joking aside, it was actually a very different race this year, on a much flatter parcours, so it would have been a totally different challenge."
drapac professional cycling are constituted as a uci pro-continental team. such designations rarely depend on the talent evident within the team, but rely more upon the level of financial sponsorship and wherewithal available. moving up to the next rung and competing at world tour level opens the doors to not only the finest of one-day classics but those all-important grand tours. this may be the stuff of most cyclists' dreams but dreams that don't always equate to the depth of the sponsor's pockets. have this year's successes brought with them thoughts of moving up to world tour in the foreseeable future?
"Micheal Drapac (our team owner) wants to go to the Tour, and we are working our asses off to make that happen. He's invested a great deal of money in cycling over the years and to get there would be an incredible achievement."
as i and others have made mention on more than one occasion, the world of professional cycle racing is a very small, if high profile part of the world of cycling. there are folks all over the world whose need of a bicycle does not revolve around being first across an all but imaginary line, nor stringing out the sprint train as the bunch pass under the flamme rouge. there are several parts of the world where the lack of road infrastructure negates any use of motorised transport were there ever the money to fuel one in the first place.
while professional race team jerseys are often peppered with the logos of commercial products or sponsors, the publicity and pr that can be generated could surely be used to promote the plight of many who rely on the bicycle for their livelihood? according to the drapac website, the team have partnered with world bicycle relief; how has that manifested itself over the course of this year's competition?
"World Bicycle Relief is a great organisation, one that we've supported this year at a number of events (such as the Tour of California), by trying to help raise awareness for the project. Having spent time in Rwanda and studied the efforts that Tom Ritchey made there by creating the coffee bike, it's something that I'm really glad we can be a part of. Even when our guys - who ride bikes for a living - go to events, they come back blown away by the power of the bicycle. That is cool to see and I hope that we can continue to spread the word about the organisation in the future."
humanity has a great habit of needing to pigeon-hole people, items and happenstances, presumably because it allows us to better comprehend the world that surrounds us. languages naturally tend to compound and confuse this process; a tree, is a tree, is a tree unless it is an àrbol. drapac's website describes its individual members as 'athletes' rather than 'riders'. is this indicative of a more contemporary approach?
"The team's philosophy has always aimed to reflect Micheal's desire to help riders be more than just another moving billboard. We have recently employed a full-time Well-Being Officer, one who works outside the sporting environment to help the riders start thinking about their life post sporting career. All of the riders go through a 'Transition Program', where they can discuss their ideas for their future, post-cycling, or get any help and advice they need with what they have going on outside of races.
"Having been through the experience of retiring (twice) from cycling I actually see it as a hugely different and refreshing change from many other teams. Ultimately it could be the best preventative method for anti-doping in the sport, as we aim to give guys a bit more confidence that there is life after retirement from racing, and help develop them to the point that they don't think that life will end at 35."
that's almost the point at which we came in. drapac are experiencing what i believe can be regarded as a positively successful season, one that has no doubt been encouraged by tom southam's experience and management style, even if he figures he's still learning on the job. on this basis and the fact that he appears to be enjoying himself, will he be continuing with drapac in 2016?
"Certainly. I'd like to DS for five years, as I strongly believe it is a young man's game and done well, it has a limited shelf life. After that I, am going to write a book about long distance truck drivers."
many thanks to a very busy tom southam for his assistance with this feature.
tuesday 1 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................