Bobet and Anquetil showing off training camp chic. Those were the days
Secondary school, a PE lesson and a very different assignment: team building. We were informed that the floor of the sports hall was lava. Eight of us, standing on a wooden bench, had to get it to the other side of the building without our feet touching the supposedly scorching surface. If memory serves, I think we managed to do it. But it certainly didn’t make me any better at sport, or any more bonded with my classmates.
Why this strange recollection? It comes with the news that Tinkoff-Saxo are going up Mount Kilimanjaro next week on a four-day trek as part of their pre-season training camp. A great life experience, sure (albeit largely the reserve of gap year students), but how exactly will it make them better at pedalling bicycles faster?
On a practical level, remember that professional cyclists loath walking. Their maxim is: ‘Don’t walk if you can stand. Don’t stand if you can sit. Don’t sit if you can lay down’. They are adept at sniffing out escalators to marginal gain a way upstairs to their hotel rooms at races. Good luck finding one of those on Africa’s highest mountain.
Then there’s the danger. There’s a possibility Alberto Contador will slip on some scree, pull a hamstring and miss the early season. And what if the weather sets in? Headlines of “Professional cycling team airlifted off Kilimanjaro” is not the kind of publicity team owner-cum-provocateur Oleg Tinkov is after.
When did winter training camps get so complicated? (Actual answer to this rhetorical question: around 2005, when Bjarne Riis and CSC first started running around woods with the Norwegian army in November.) It used to be good, wholesome fun: Jacques Anquetil and Louison Bobet in natty jumpers on the pistes (see above), then heartily partaking in the après-ski plonk.
Now the competitive spirit of the WorldTour peloton extends into the off-season, to the point that team building is almost as onerous as the actual job: two years ago, OPQS went to Slovakia last year so its weedy charges could shoot guns and tackle assault courses.
Financially, it’s steep too. The alleged expense of 200,000 Euros for sending 80 members of Tinkoff-Saxo staff to Tanzania could be put to far better use – far better team building, in fact.
Oleg, here’s how to save 195,000 Euros: get the lot into a pub, put your card behind the bar, job’s a good ‘un. That’s where everyone ends up after any blue-sky team building season anyway, releasing hours of pent-up mirth after Thick Of It-esque sessions.
That’s where you find out who you and your workmates really are: at the bottom of the sixth pint of beer with your formerly-reticent new team-mate, loudly telling everyone his surprisingly offensive views, not at the summit of some African mountain.
STAT’S THE WAY, UH HUH UH HUH
14 – Number of kilometres of individual time-trialling in the 2015 Tour de France, the lowest since 1936.
109 – Kilometres of individual TT in the 2002 edition, won by Lance Armstrong. Sorry, NOT won by Lance Armstrong.
From Yorkshire to Paris: all the highlights from the 2014 Tour de France as next year’s route is announced.
Dutch mastery: Jan Janssen wins the 1968 Tour de France on the final day.
Tenuous, admittedly, but any excuse to play The Teardrop Explodes. From their 1980 album Kilimanjaro.