Notes from the Grup­petto

What’s good for the team isn’t al­ways what’s good for the rider

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Bart Eg­nal

A chat with the fam­ily di­recteur sportif

Every year pros gather at train­ing camps in beau­ti­ful places like Tener­ife to eat only the ends of baguettes, ride up moun­tains and plan their race sea­sons. All of the rid­ers are called into meet­ings with their di­recteur sportifs and team prin­ci­pals. The ath­letes are asked what they want to race in the year ahead.

“I’d like to race the Clas­sics and peak for Roubaix,” says the young neo pro. The DS smiles and says, “We have you down for bot­tle duty at the Tour Down Un­der. Start fast­ing tonight.”

“If you are OK with it, I’m ready to take the lead in a smaller stage race, so I can prove my suit­abil­ity for Grand Tours,” says the five-year vet­eran climber who long ago won the Baby Giro. The DS ut­ters sweet noth­ings about the climber’s tal­ent and then looks at his sheet, “We had a few in­juries so you need to go ride the cob­bles. We’ll see how you’re do­ing when the Tour of Al­berta comes around.” His col­league leans over and whis­pers some­thing in the DS’S ear. “Oh, on sec­ond thought, maybe not.”

As a masters racer, I don’t get to go to Tener­ife and spend weeks rid­ing up and down the same climb while some ex-pro sits in a car and yells at me. But I do get to sit down with the DS and dis­cuss my race sched­ule. My DS mar­ried me 10 years ago when my ex­er­cise con­sisted of play­ing hours of World­ofwar­craft. In the years since the bike has in­fil­trated my life, she has borne me two beau­ti­ful chil­dren who are bi­o­log­i­cally suited to fit into a skin­suit and save watts at any speed. Like any strong-minded DS, she must bal­ance her pri­mary rider’s delu­sions and am­bi­tions with the broader needs of the team (fam­ily) and her own san­ity.

The dance between this rider and his DS be­gins as the On­tario Cy­cling As­so­ci­a­tion posts tan­ta­liz­ing clues of the forth­com­ing race cal­en­dar. Like a sub­ject in a psy­chi­a­trist’s ses­sion, I read the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s ev­er­shift­ing posts like the Rorschach ink-blot test they are, hop­ing to dis­cern some sort of fi­nal sched­ule. Will the provin­cial road cham­pi­onships be run­ning this year? Will the race cal­en­dar go be­yond July 1? As clar­ity emerges, I ar­range a ten­ta­tive sit down with the DS.

We be­gin care­fully, like two du­el­lists each wor­ried about be­ing struck by a mor­tal blow. I fend for my li­cence to ride. She en­deav­ours to guard her san­ity and min­i­mize the in­evitable ab­sences she is re­quired to en­dure, which are salved only by the balm of two hy­per­ac­tive chil­dren.

I make the first ten­ta­tive move, “So I’m think­ing I’ll aim for only 10 or

“Isn’t that the race you did on Mother’s Day a few years ago?”

so races this year…” Si­lence. The DS pro­cesses the in­for­ma­tion. I go on, “Well, my sea­son would nor­mally start with the Good Fri­day race, but I’ll be in Girona for a train­ing camp.” I re­al­ize this ar­gu­ment is not a com­pelling one.

“How about I do Cal­abo­gie, Spring­bank, K-W for provin­cials, Blue Moun­tain, Honda crit –”

The men­tion of the Honda crit pro­vokes a re­sponse, and not a pos­i­tive one. “Isn’t that the race you did on Mother’s Day a few years ago?”

I con­sider men­tion­ing I got a podium in that race, but her raised eye­brow sug­gests this would be a poor time to bring that for­ward. Like any DS, she quickly for­gets what you did for the team years ago.

I bar­rel on, even more ten­ta­tively. “I can try to race some crits on Tues­day, too. And maybe you guys could even come see one!”

Si­lence. The DS looks at the page where I have hope­fully (delu­sion­ally) sketched out my race pro­gram. She takes a red pen from the drawer. Then she looks up.

“Your race pro­gram will have to be ad­justed to meet the spon­sor com­mit­ments.”

Like a pro, I re­sign my­self to the re­al­ity that no race pro­gram is cre­ated in a vac­uum. The spon­sors must be sat­is­fied. The DS must be obeyed. And per­sonal goals must be sub­or­di­nated to those of the team. Only thus can a race pro­gram come to­gether and, most im­por­tant, can an­other year’s li­cence to ride be granted.

So it was. So it will al­ways be.

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