Archive for January, 2009

Extreme Preparation

Posted in No "I" in Team on January 30, 2009 by bethleasure

38Everyone is together and that’s what’s so important, so we are learning about each other, learning to work as a unit…We are trained in extreme situations, so we become a better team when we are faced with these situations. We know it’s going to be hard and we are prepared for it.”

                Bjarne Riis on training camp


Aah, January! The team gathers again by way of training camp. When Team CSC set the standard for its trio of training camps, others followed with camps that worked as much on building trust among team members as on fitness and preparation for racing. A trend has emerged in cycling used by military and corporate organizations for teambuilding and to develop leadership qualities, such as tenacity applicable in racing scenarios. From paintball to perilous snow journeys, group dynamics reorganize through dissonant circumstances that require each participant’s adaptive coping and problem-solving. When equilibrium is regained, a sense of competence and mastery is transferred, as well as greater understanding of one another’s abilities. In addition, personality testing tools can supplement a team’s knowledge of resilience, behavioral style, and core leadership 39preferences. Cohesive teams coordinate the diversity of its individuals into a complementary unit as part of developing unique team culture. Team culture is also influenced by sponsor-driven considerations, and camp is often the place for equipment distribution and testing new gizmos. There’s good old fashioned training but not always for fitness; sometimes camp is about group skills in scenarios relevant to racing. Camps can also be used for selection of rosters for impending events or determining roles and pecking order. Crafting our highly individual intense racer personalities into a compliant working unit requires care for the team’s structure, as well as for the concerns of each rider.


Prayer for Teambuilding/Training Camps

“Blessed are those who persevere under trial,

because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown…” 40James 1:12


We are grateful for times and circumstances which teach us interdependence. We confess selfishness sometimes obstructs the power of team spirit. We ask for opportunities to come together for days of quality teamwork.


Ponder Am I hindering or helping my team by the force of my personality? Affirm I am myself and sensitive, modifying my choices for the common good. Watch for ways to serve uniquely.

38“Camps Bring Best Out of Riders—Even if It Hurts,” News Articles February 22, 2005


39One of my favorite tools for discussing how varying personalities can learn about and appreciate and utilize each other’s core strengths and therefore comprise a stronger group dynamic is found in Leading From Your Strengths, by John Trent, Rodney Cox, and Erik Tooker, published by Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005.


I also like inventory tools, such as the Myers-Briggs personality test:


40Today’s New International Version © Copyright 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society




All-In versus Approval Ratings

Posted in No "I" in Team on January 29, 2009 by bethleasure

36“…athlete’s impact on the team and a history of strong teamwork: cohesion, consistency, unity and dedication…” USA Cycling’s Olympic athlete selection procedures


Trying to motivate everyone to get along is one of the top attributes of a leader. If it were easy, we’d all live in peace with little relational stress. If we didn’t maintain this kind of order, our interdependent societies would collapse. In American cycling, our ranking system upgrades a rider based on individual performance. A rider can earn their way to the top category looking out for one’s own interest. The strong earn spots on elite and pro teams and are sometimes faced with a novel phenomenon of thinking about others. One of my coaching priorities in neopro development is to ensure team-ability by emphasizing group values and teaching team skills, strategies, and tactics. Beyond the ethics and spiritual nobility of selflessness, there are many practical benefits of acquiring a mind-set that thinks like a unit. No matter how great you ride, few situations allow for an insufferable selfish arrogant loner. It’s best to help others help you, plus it’s more fun to have friends who like you! Performance expectations are exceeded with a sense of fun, and professional riders know that serious money still must be earned by a love of the process and its people…keeping it fun. Deep within a healthy psyche is a need for belonging. Fulfilling that need through serving others outlasts and rewards beyond seeking approval. The latter is disillusioning, because when you get approval, its shallow and short-term satisfaction doesn’t reach the depths of our souls – souls that are meant to give. If you want cycling to improve, think about who you can serve with it, remembering:  Together  Everyone  Accomplishes  More


Prayer for Teamwork

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts;

and though all its parts are many, they form one body…”  371 Corinthians 12:12


We are grateful for the many strategies for serving team in cycling. We confess we sometimes choose the good of our own interests over the better of influencing many. We ask for hearts that serve.


Ponder Do I recognize the time to take personal responsibility for carrying my own load and when I’m able to assist others? Affirm I can learn when to sit-in, and when to be a pace-setter. Watch your role as servant-leader contribute to team fun and personal satisfaction.



36USA Cycling/USAC Athlete Selection Procedures: 2008 Olympic Games Beijing, China,” document of January 10, 2007. This is under the Coach’s discretionary selection, where demonstration of teamwork is considered in relation to specific performance criteria.


37Today’s New International Version © Copyright 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society



Top Down

Posted in No "I" in Team on January 28, 2009 by bethleasure

34“Managers, fans, press, everyone needs to look at what they ask of riders…If the peer pressure is to ‘get the job done’ because that’s the implicit message, it will get done – in a bad way. Don’t force athletes into decisions like that. Don’t force ethical people to make poor decisions. Instead allow for some humanity. Allow for ‘we did our best.’”

Jonathan Vaughters, Pro Team Management



Winning professional sports franchises are characterized by unified purpose and teamwork among owner, general management, team director, and coaches/trainers. When strong riders are professionally coached, properly directed, and free of the details of management, the road before them seems flat and limitless. In addition, a consistent, cohesive philosophy by the team’s owner adds a tailwind to rider success. An owner needs to set the pace from the top down, allow management to administrate and a director to call the front-line shots. Also essential is bringing a performance director or coaches/trainers into the process of determining group periodization compatible with team goals and culture. Conversely, top pace setters of team management are influenced by each man in the rotation when individual rider development is reinforced. In this way, fluidity of issues, ideas, and solutions flows back and forth yet with an ultimate accountability by ownership. Time and again, I’ve seen this hierarchy disrespected, always to the detriment of the riders. Problems are felt by the rider if management is in the way of a coaching or directing decision or if mistrust misaligns hierarchy of roles or duties. One example is of an owner threatened by the celebrity of the director who reduced his team’s success by hiring a kowtow replacement. Ultimately, this director was unable to consolidate the team’s interest because a bully squad of riders pushed a self-interested agenda. Even the best champions need the strong handed guidance of an objective leader backed by the top. Top management in pro cycling need assertive moral courage in these times and hence our prayers.


“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” 35Romans 12:2


Prayer for General Management/Ownership

We marvel at the brave few who attempt the awesome task of organizational development in pro cycling. We confess we sometimes cave to public opinion. We ask for courage to change pace.



Ponder Am I respecting the roles of others? Affirm I can renew my mind for positive change in cycling. Watch original action follow righteous thoughts.



34“Vaughters asks all for a change in mentality,” By Anthony Tan in “An Interview with Jonathan Vaughters,” November 28, 2006

35The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.

The Right People

Posted in No "I" in Team on January 27, 2009 by bethleasure

32“…[cycling] will survive and thrive…[and on] the competitive side, you have to have the right people making the right decisions, in terms of who runs the team, the riders they use, the training they use, the tactics they employ – you hope that person comes along and knows what they are doing, otherwise you are just pack-fill.” Lance Armstrong on the ending of Team Discovery Channel


Surrounded by some of the best in team direction at the inaugural Tour of Missouri, it was fun to compare the differences in leadership style. My desire to become a pro team’s director led me to seek apprenticing opportunities and gain exposure during this international caliber event.  Sitting in the team car beside some of the well-known and respected directors, I was able to conduct an informal analysis. It was easy to predict the team’s results on the day, not so much based upon a given rider’s ability, but upon the depth and caring exhibited during interactions between management and riders. Without exception, what was aimed for was achieved and the day’s goals were formed often with rider input and careful listening by the person calling the shots. In this way, the successful direction was less about telling the team what to do and more about helping them discover what they already knew. Once discovery was made, a specific game plan which challenged the team to reach a bit beyond proved the winning scenarios. Aim at nothing, that’s what you get. The leaders who proved they knew their riders and were skillful in directing known strengths while minimizing weaknesses, enjoyed laurels of a stage’s podium ceremony. Those riders benefited from the distinction that comes from knowledge and how to use it.


Prayer for Team Leadership

So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart,
         And guided them with his skillful hands.”
33Psalm 78:72


We acknowledge the examples of fine leadership that surround us and are grateful for their honesty and capability. We pray for skilled leaders in cycling who will care about long-term considerations for their community of riders, sponsors, and supporters. We pray that decision-makers will grow in character and wisdom, and that sincere, smart guidance will increase in cycling.


Ponder How can you become an honest, skilled leader? How can you help and thank the gifted advisors that you have? Affirm I can be a great leader by becoming a truthful and accomplished follower. Watch what happens when you work on your own candidness and expertise.


32“Tailwind discusses end of Team Discovery Channel”, August, 2007.


33New American Standard Bible, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995, The Lockman Foundation



Plein Air Professionals

Posted in No "I" in Team on January 26, 2009 by bethleasure

30“…you have to split the year into different parts. When it’s time to start really training hard, like now, ALL that stuff goes away. All sponsor obligations…all functions…all non-profit work. There’s one focus and that’s racing the bike, and training and trying to be the best.”   Lance Armstrong


When hard work, much talent, abundant opportunity, and friendly assistance turn what can be imagined into reality, the glorious in cycling assemble in the world’s sponsored teams. Three levels of sanctioned professional squads announce rosters, schedules, and aspirations for the new season about this time. And while most riders will never participate in the sport at these levels, access to our athletes is guaranteed. This sense of global community sets us apart from all other sports. Only a few races cordon riders off from spectators, but riders still grant autograph and interview time to any fan willing to wait. In general, there’s no one you can’t get a ride with, especially during an athlete’s favorite charity event. Imagine that kind of access to a leader in any other field and we can celebrate our openness and liberality. While there is elitism, an attitude factor, and a competitive intimidation psyche, there’s also an everyman sense in cycling. It’s a fellowship of suffering, as well as an endorphin festival. However, there’s also a common awareness of privacy and solid boundaries in our open-air playing field. Times not to approach a rider: when in their zone, during serious training, while racing, difficult moments, or when eye contact is not made. Cycling’s form of noblesse oblige warrants peloton etiquette, positive influence, altruistic causes, even more available information about whereabouts and practices as far as racing clean. Yet there’s a time and a place. Now is the time to turn inward and focus on that tight knit core of comrades within one’s racing or riding battalion. There’s no “I” in team, but there is ME, where the best chance for success exists from within the bonds of your unit and where you’re accountable for your focused loyalty.


Prayer for Pro Teams

Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other.” 31Romans 12:15-16


We are thankful for the best in competitive cycling. We pray blessing on each pro team and each pro rider preparing for another year of racing.  Specific prayers for team: “Teams Database”


Ponder Is my accessibility periodized? Affirm I can give what my team needs. Watch a private focus enjoyed in a public forum.


30“Lance Armstrong UnPlugged: The PEZ Interview Pt1,” by Randall Butler February 03, 2004

31New American Standard Bible, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995, The Lockman Foundation.




Magic Carpet Ride

Posted in World-Wide Welcome Back on January 24, 2009 by bethleasure



71“Cycling [in Israel]…has been developing at an impressive rate – at both the amateur and competitive levels…Anyone seeing this for the first time simply cannot believe the immense popularity of the sport.”      Itzik Hoffman, Israeli cyclist

My first encounter with cyclists from the Middle East was with Israeli racers in Belgium. Like other non-european hopefuls racing in 72diaspora, they had come for the conditioning and initiation to the bike racer’s holy land. Kermesse means, after all, church mass associated with village feasts, due to the “race around the church” circuits in the Low Countries. Now euro-elites return to Eden for cycling paradise. Lance Armstrong visited Israel to open a new cycling route to commemorate Israel’s Independence Day. The nation is also host to: a pro mountain bike training camp to enjoy temperate climbing in pre-season, and an elite espoir team that races in Europe.

As an interesting twist on the Middle East peace process, a bicycle rally to save the Dead Sea saw Israel in cooperation with Jordan. ASO, the Tour de France promoters, also organize the early season tune-up Tour of Qatar, the most prestigious race in the UCI Asia Tour. Getting this kind of international and inter-organization cooperation seems to take a genie in a bottle, or should I say bidon. Where these paths cross was an ancient trade route which now emanates to the ends of the earth not on camels but as oil geopolitics. Now top teams use the desert tour as preparation for Spring Classics in Europe. A bit different from camel caravans of old, this modern magic carpet ride puts lycra next to burkhas while top sprinters test fresh legs. Foreign policy rhetoric with war-like tones is put aside when American pros line up next to a fully-kitted Iranian squad, for instance. If we could just work out our differences from the perch of a saddle, many lives and a lot of resources of energy could be reallocated to peaceful uses.

Prayer for Middle East Cycling

“…in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”73 Acts 1:8

We are amazed by increasing world-wide opportunities in high-level racing. We ask for politics to be put aside for the sake of cycling’s universal esprit d’corps and blessing upon cycling in the Middle East.

Ponder Can I schedule time in ancient lands into my cycling itinerary? Affirm I can discover the magic of the old spice routes. Watch cycling’s peace process.


71“Riding Along on a Pushbike, Honey,” by Ronny Linder-Ganz posted 11/10/2005 on Israeli news site

72Diaspora means “the scattered.” The term diaspora (in Ancient Greek, διασπορά – ‘a scattering or sowing of seeds’) refers to any people or ethnic population forced or induced to leave their traditional homelands, the dispersal of such people, and the ensuing developments in their culture.”

73The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson




Off To See the Wizard

Posted in World-Wide Welcome Back on January 23, 2009 by bethleasure

69“The Tour Down Under traditionally marks the beginning of the professional road cycling season. As well as enjoying warm weather conditions during the early months of the year [and] European cyclists of the highest level…[it’s] a celebration of cycling to welcome the new season in style.”

To the land of Oz, Australia of Oceania territory that is…this ain’t Kansas anymore nee the Koppenburg either. The Tour down Under has become the race of initiation for the professional racing calendar. Warm weather, great competition, and the kangaroo way of being serious and laid back simultaneously works its charm. You may have never visited there, but its competitive cycling citizens ride on international teams in increasing number. Australian Institute of Sport has managed a great coup d’état by revolutionizing the traditional euro talent pool to include its cultivated athletes. Evidently there’s some wizardry in their methods as they clean up on the track as well. Australian women were in Europe back in the day with me, when I was a lone ranger American female and only our national team came occasionally. The Aussies and Kiwis were there not for national-team invited races but for elite development and international competitiveness. Somehow they managed to outrace me (not always) while keeping me continually in stitches with their quaint English expressions and wise-cracking humor. This tendency toward being jokesters is deceptive because you’d be hard-pressed to find a tougher mindset for the challenging conditions of road racing. Grit coupled with cognitive and geospatial fearlessness makes for great road racers. No wonder Australian cyclists have created a bit of wake across the waters. Like Dorothy clicking her red heels together and chanting, “There’s no place like home,” now the world is coming home with them, and the Tour Down Under is the first ProTour event outside of Europe.

Prayer for Australian and New Zealand Cycling
“Send your grain across the seas, and in time, profits will flow back to you.” 70Ecclesiastes 11:1

We are glad for our mates down under. We confess we envy their resiliency matched by raucousness. We ask blessing upon cycling in Australia and New Zealand.

Ponder What can I learn from these mates? Affirm I can laugh with new friends while racing with grit. Watch for increasing cycling opportunities in this region. advertisement for Tour Down Under coverage, 2008

70Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust