What makes one cycling team different from another? When I look at the WorldTour and Women’s WorldTour, I never see a homogenous list of teams, whose only point of difference is how strong each outfit is. Teams have riders, but they also seem to have an ethos. The more obvious examples are EF, who have always cultivated a quirky, kooky outlook, and DQS, whose ‘Wolf Pack’ schtick seems to resonate with some fans (though not with me). On the women’s side, SD Worx are intimidati­ng and businessli­ke,

FDJ look a lot of fun and Movistar just look totally different from the men’s outfit. It’s all good, and I think it really adds to the sport.

It’s why, when our regular contributo­r James Witts pitched a feature about ‘cultural architects’ in cycling teams (see page 96), I was immediatel­y intrigued. A cultural architect is a rider (in fact, any member of any team, sporting or otherwise) who sets the tone in a team. It goes beyond being a leader, and in cycling’s case it’s striking that the team leaders, maybe with the exception of Valverde at Movistar, are too busy being the race winner to do this job. It falls to the road captain, who tends to be an experience­d and senior figure in a team, who acts as a line of communicat­ion between manager and riders, and also has the authority to dictate tactics if necessary. They’re leaders, but they’re not the team leaders, if you see what I mean.

We’ve known about road captains for a long time, but the idea of riders going well beyond tactical communicat­ion to actually setting the ethos and soul of a team is a fascinatin­g one. Next time a cycling team does something, we should ask not only about the immediate tactical concerns, but understand the context and background.

It’s something that can add to our understand­ing of the sport.

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