I’ve been meaning to sit down and write something for a while, after several people encouraged me to give some insight into what it’s like running a bike team.
I should perhaps offer a bit of info on my background. I’ve spent most of my life on bikes, from a Raleigh Tomahawk to BMX then on to road bikes. My first cycling club was Beighton Wheelers, with whom I rode my 1st races on the road on my Dad’s bike. I spent 20 plus years racing in the UK and Europe, so I’ve been around the block so to speak.
Running a team is great. It’s hard work and comes with ups and downs like any job, but the ups can be exhilarating. The team came together very late for 2017, after being let down by a promising new sponsor. I decided to give an idea I’d had for years a go. The team was set to fold after 3 successful years, so I had nothing to loose. Having made the decision to launch project CYCLING SHEFFIELD, I spent a week on the phone feverishly bringing things together, confirming commitment from our existing riders (all of whom were chuffed to bits at the prospect of not having to go another team. no disrespect to other teams..) and new signings, along with support from our partners. Several of our partners went way beyond what was reasonable to expect, such was their support for the team. This gave me confidence and helped me believe what I thought was a good idea might well genuinely be a good idea.
It felt great to be giving the idea a go and have support for the concept. I’ve never been what could be described as a professional northerner, but I am proud to be from Sheffield. Proud of the city’s history, and proud of the city’s attitude to be bold and forward looking. The city is very much on the up, with so much development on all kinds of levels going on. I’m guess i’m now sounding a bit like a professional northerner…
Back to bike racing, we had a great start to the race season, with some very good wins and when we didn’t win we were on the podium. This run came to an end when Jake Tanner was brought down in a crash at 55kph in the 1st national series race. When race radio informs you of a crash it’s an anxious wait to hear the rider numbers and teams involved. Race radio were slow giving us the numbers, but when our mechanic hadn’t quickly returned to the vehicle after leaping out of the car with spare wheels, I knew 1 or more of our riders were involved. Then the anxiety worsens, you hope the rider is walking and it’s not serious. Eventually Jake hobbled back to the team car. He was immensely disappointed, I was immensely relieved. This illustrates perfectly the extremes of the job. From the excitement of our riders being in the finale competing for a win, to the fear of said riders being seriously hurt. Fortunately crashes are don’t happen too often, and the finale of a race is usually an exciting part of the job. Working with riders on a personal level is also very rewarding, not always easy, but I think time and energy invested in the relationships is what can make a huge difference to a rider. Some riders need a kick up arse, whilst others need a hug at times. The key in my opinion is dealing with riders as individuals.
The hard part of the job is finding support and the cash needed to do things properly. Supporting a cycling team for any company or organisation is not a necessity, however viable it may be and despite the unprecedented levels of interest and participation, cash is still tough to find. Add to this the economic uncertainty Brexit has created.. However, the response in Sheffield from the business community has been very encouraging and I’m convinced the CYCLING SHEFFIELD concept will work.
As the 2018 race season approaches it’s a busy time, shiny new bikes and products are a nice distraction from the business side of the job.
Running a team has taught me a lot of things, but I think the one thing I can take from 2017 on reflection is a reinforced belief that you can achieve a lot with a good idea, passion and loads of graft. Nothing worth having comes easily..
Thanks for reading. Dave Coulson.