Saturday, August 06, 2011

Why cycling really isn't a team sport

A couple of weeks after Cadel Evans has won Le Tour 2011 and I can confidently assert, not for the first time, that cycling is simply, definitely not a team sport. Sure, we dress it up like it is, and we cobble together a passing representation of a team sport at times - look at the team time trial for example - but when it really matters, when the winners stand on the podium, it's clearly, obviously, all about the individual: Cadel won. We glorify the man, who politely thanks his team. But his team, BMC, didn't even get the team prize at Le Tour. Instead they got one man standing atop a podium and a shared prize pool. 

This individualism is what appealed to me in the first place. You don't need a team to ride, or to train, or to race. You don't even need a specific time or even an agreed place - you just need you, a bike, some time to spare and some terrain to ride on. After all, it's far more like walking or running than like football or netball, isn't it? Sure, we wrap it all up in an organisation, 'cause people need to organsie things and make it all tidy and legit, but at its essence it's just you and a bike. You call the shots, you hurt, you suffer, you win. Or get dropped. Or whatever.

OK, the teams aspect is real enough at times, true. Cadel didn't win on his own, although at times it looked that way. He had a team behind him who protected him and kept him out of trouble. But when he had to ride, he rode alone against the other talented loners. All of these guys are used to riding long miles on their own. Sure it's great to ride with others, be they teammates or just a loose arrangement of riders you stumble upon. It's fun. It's natural to form a bunch and ride together. But it's neither essential nor the point. Just as surely as it's not about the bike, it's also not about the team, your teammates or your club. Or even your coach. It's about you. And deep down we all know that.