by Marcus Leach
Sport is full of little sayings that, whilst at first glance may seem a little cliche, are in actual fact very apt. Take 'TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More' as a prime example. It's very cliche but also very true, especially when it comes to cycling.
To the casual outsider who looks in on cycling from time-to-time it would be easy to think it's all about the individual, after all we only tend to hear about the stage and tour winners in mainstream reporting. 'Bradley Wiggins Wins 2012 Tour de France', 'Froome Extends Tour Lead' and 'Cavendish Sprints to Victory at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne' are all headlines that would leave you thinking cycling was all about the individual. Yet, without the support of their team, both those riding with them and those working behind the scenes, their victories would never have been possible.
Teamwork is something that has been on my mind a lot recently as I continue my preparations for the Tour du Mont Blanc later this year. Everything I am doing at present, be it cycling or weight training, I am doing on my own - not that I am complaining, far from it as I actually quite enjoy the solitude. However, I am well aware that to complete a challenge as monumental as the Tour du Mont Blanc teamwork will be vital. One aspect of a cycling team that can easily be looked over is the role of the support car, as Ed Maxwell of Velocamp Performance Touring explained to me.
"The support car is key in keeping riders focused on their riding without worrying about nutrition, mechanicals, or simply getting 'cold' on a big ride like the Tour du Mont Blanc," Ed said. "This is where other operators often fail due to cost saving, leaving riders exposed on big climbs. We run with 'on the road' experienced cycle guides and close support vehicles on all our trips. With a long event like the Tour du Mont Blanc this can be the difference in getting round the course or not, as experienced last year with bad weather throughout.
"Our support drivers have good mountain knowledge, carry spare clothing, first aid, hot and cold nutrition, as well as mechanical spares. They stay alert to guide 'call-ins' for assistance while on the route. That said having a warm car to change in at the official food stops is often the main requirement, and to collect you if you if you withdraw, particularly in bad weather."
Knowing that you have that level of support as a cyclist really does give you peace of mind, as does knowing there will be others to share the workload with you. At present I don't have the luxury of sitting on someone's wheel as they do a stint at the front of the group, although that isn't necessarily a bad thing as it means I am pushing harder, and for longer, in training. I figure that if I can maintain a speed of 27 KMph over four hours riding solo, I should be ok riding at a potentially quicker pace in a group as I will have time to recover when not at the front.
"Riding as a team is key for all the riders on the Tour du Mont Blanc, as it's a long day and there is added motivation in riding as a group, sharing those long pulls on the front," Ed added. "Riders have the option of re-converging on the cols as we have the support car there for fast guys to wait in. It also means we have extra eyes at the scene if someone takes a fall."
At present I don't know who my teammates will be, but I do know that whoever they are I will need to work with them so that we all have a better chance of completing 'the world's toughest one day bike event'.
I will be riding the Tour du Mont Blanc, organised by Sports Communication, on Saturday 18th July with VeloCamps, and will be charting my journey as I go, so be sure to follow it on The Essential Cyclist. For those wishing to find out more about VeloCamps, simply head over to their website to see the full list of great organised rides that they offer. And to see more of my cycling challneges visit my website here.