Spor­tif Stieda

Cy­cling and Busi­ness Share Com­mon Traits

Pedal Magazine - - Contents - BY ALEX STIEDA

icy­cle rac­ing is a team sport, and as such, it re­quires top per­form­ers who not only strive for their own ex­cel­lence, but also take on the role of rais­ing the ex­e­cu­tion level of their peers. The suc­cess or fail­ure of the team de­pends on these key play­ers to raise the bar higher than most think pos­si­ble.

The first trait that lead­ers of­ten look for in top per­form­ers is abil­ity. Can these in­di­vid­u­als per­form their given tasks at a high level and, more cru­cially, are they able to “think on their feet” and build suc­cess­ful strate­gies based on sit­u­a­tions “on the ground?”

Rac­ing in the 1988 Coors Clas­sic, a two-week stage race in the high moun­tains of Colorado, I was able to take the leader’s jersey with a cal­cu­lated move in an early stage. The next day was a moun­tain stage, not my spe­cialty. The Colom­bian team forged an early lead in the stage while I was hang­ing on for dear life in the main pelo­ton. Af­ter crest­ing the climb to­gether, Davis Phin­ney, our road cap­tain on Team 7-Eleven, brought our team to­gether and had our six men rid­ing hard at the front to bring back the early ag­gres­sors. Based on strat­egy that was planned dur­ing the race, the boys rode harder than I thought pos­si­ble to de­fend my leader’s jersey – pure sac­ri­fice in the face of mas­sive ad­ver­sity.

A sec­ond key fac­tor that can de­ter­mine high per­for­mance is so­cial skill, also called Emo­tional In­tel­li­gence. High-per­for­mance play­ers can man­age their own com­plex tasks with in­tegrity while at the same time build­ing and main­tain­ing co­op­er­a­tive work­ing re­la­tion­ships with their team­mates and other com­pet­ing in­flu­ences.

Bike rac­ing of­ten re­quires “co-ope­ti­tion” be­tween teams as they work to­ward sim­i­lar goals. The pelo­ton is full of Type-A per­son­al­i­ties all com­pet­ing for the same thing – win­ning at all costs. Dur­ing the

1989 Tour de Trump, a 10-day stage race, it be­came ap­par­ent that the Rus­sian team was go­ing to be hard to beat. Our leader, Dag-Otto Lau­ritzen, qui­etly went to a few other teams who were also threat­ened by the “com­mu­nists.” We formed a tem­po­rary al­liance with those teams and all at­tacked to­gether dur­ing the feed zone, leav­ing the Rus­sians far be­hind. With our full sup­port for our leader, Lau­ritzen went on to win the in­au­gu­ral Tour de Trump.

The third path­way to ex­cel­lence is drive. These in­di­vid­u­als are will­ing to sac­ri­fice to get the job done, of­ten to higher lev­els than pre­vi­ously at­tained. They are never sat­is­fied with past achieve­ments and con­tin­u­ally strive for im­prove­ment, both within them­selves and for their team. Mo­ti­va­tion is key here, and drive works as a force mul­ti­plier of abil­ity and so­cial skill.

At the 1988 Tour of Italy (Giro), our 7-Eleven team­mate Andy Hamp­sten took the pink leader’s jersey dur­ing a fear­some snow­storm that de­fied the imag­i­na­tion. Rid­ers fin­ished the stage in full hy­pother­mic con­di­tion. There was still one week to go in the three-week stage race, and ev­ery­one had to con­tinue rac­ing the next day. Our 7-Eleven team knew that the Euro­peans were out to beat us. No Amer­i­can team had ever won a ma­jor stage race, and we were not go­ing to go down without a fight. With our team leader Hamp­sten in pink as our mo­ti­va­tion, the 7-Eleven boys sac­ri­ficed them­selves fully to lead Hamp­sten to an his­toric win never done be­fore.

As­sem­bling a team of play­ers who have a com­plete grasp of abil­ity, so­cial skill and drive can be dif­fi­cult. How­ever, it of­ten takes only one key per­son to change the dy­namic of a team, and the bar will be raised to lev­els higher than what was pre­vi­ously thought pos­si­ble. They say that those who suf­fer to­gether, stay to­gether. To this day, the bond be­tween the 7-Eleven team is as strong as it was 30 years ago – some­thing that I will al­ways trea­sure.

The bond be­tween our 7-Eleven team is as strong as it was 30 years ago – some­thing that I will al­ways trea­sure.

Rookie crash on the Gal­i­bier in France in 1986.

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