Archive for the Championship Strategy Category

Championship Strategy: Segmentation

Posted in Championship Strategy on June 18, 2010 by bethleasure

Break It Down

26“If you’re there at the end, no matter what went on in the rest of the race, you made it to the end and must go for the win.” Tania Smith, Champion Strategist

Boonen is one of the Great Segmenters

How well you compete in the race finale may determine the result but is incomplete as championship strategy. You can win without having the best day because a winner breaks the race down into phases of effort and puts it together at victorious moments. Segmentation is a means of coping with pressure. Segmentation gives power in real time. It enables a proactive and reactive vigilance and response in the moment.

Race reports of segmentation specialists are rich with detail and keen with insight about what really happened in the race. The consistent winners often have a dynamic interview presence because they can recall and relate the characteristics of each segment of the race. Time trial specialists may be shooting for a certain time split per kilometer. Stage race specialists may set a periodic alarm to eat during the day’s stage to recover for the next day. Classics segmenters know when the fight comes for each marked segment of cobbles, climbs…whatever.

One technique for segmentation involves several championship activities: course preview – marking out key features in distinct portions for pacing, tactics, power application, safety; weather as it relates to route – planning for cool descents, rainy technical sections. Most importantly, great segmenters understand the race rhythm.

Many great performances happen from simply contemplating the many variables associated with outdoor routes and applying multiple tactics to address each segment. There are self-tricks for segmentation. Coping with a lack of confidence for an overall win, a champion may instead think about near perfect execution of this first hill, then surviving the hard surge expected next, etcetera, instead of starting a race with only the finish in mind. Some parcours are so difficult, segmentation is necessary. The king of such courses, Paris-Roubaix is overwhelming but positioning for the few kilometers into key segements, which  decide the winner is over in minutes. So segmenting that course into what it takes to get to that point, executing that and leaving it behind once accomplished, leaves energy for the next critical fight. In Paris-Roubaix, this must be done for each cobbled section or about 3 dozen times!!!

A great segmenter says, “Done deal; just ahead, another hard section – over. Now finish first!”

Prayer for Segmentation

“Little by little…until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.” 27Exodus 23:30

We ask to see the portions of a greater whole.

Ponder Am I breaking down courses, events, and strategies into enjoyable parts that aren’t overwhelming? Affirm I set goals within goals. Watch successes mount with each passing mile.

26Conversations with Tania Smith. Leave it to a mom-wife-nurse-community minded-athlete to figure out how multi-tasking ability can be translated into victorious race scenarios. Tania and her husband Darryl lead the Bay-area Spoke of International Christian Cycling Club.

27The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Championship Strategy/Solo Strategy

Posted in Championship Strategy on July 11, 2009 by bethleasure

Sole Survivor

30“I like to win alone.” Eve Stephenson, World Champion 


Jeannie wins a lot and often alone

Jeannie wins a lot and often alone

Breathlessly the wheels of a solo winner slink away with a whisper as if spoken by 31Garbo from Hollywood’s Golden Age, “Ihh vant to bhe alooonn.” This is a strategy worth employing for a stage, a Classic or a one-day championship. Solo breakaways are the most spectacular of champion strategies. They are the most winsome to work and the most expensive to claim. A champion plays this Ace like high stakes poker held close to the chest and revealed as a final hand.

The mentality of sole survivorship must accompany every champion in every race. Even with the strongest team in the world, a GC leader must still position wisely and ride their best personal performances on key stages. Further, a winner outnumbered in a breakaway must revert to self-preservation. Those amateur days of individual focus for results to secure a pro contract must be utilized occasionally.

It is possible for an unsupported individual to defeat teammates working against one alone. Two are stronger than one but don’t always ride like it. A clever soloist can sometimes capitalize on confusion. Solo strategies forced with the help of team can succeed, but a soloist is often pegged. Often other developing soloists win by outwitting the watched soloist.

In certain events like national championships or Olympic qualifiers or races, riders may not have teammates or behave like teammates even if in the same jersey. Everyone may be riding for the win and tactics used for these races vary greatly from team racing and even from negative local racing where the stakes are not so high. Having a teammate to work with may be a rare blessing, and this is where certain national teams have dominated international events selflessly riding for country. Even then the mentality for one-day championships shifts between team tactics and the awesome responsibility of the solitary winner.


Prayer for Solo Situations
“And so, each of us must give an account to God for what we do.”  32Romans 14:12


We are thankful that we each ultimately stand alone for our deeds and misdeeds. We ask to be strong individual thinkers capable of switching between interdependence and self-reliance.


Ponder What if I’m without help in a target race? Affirm I do what I need to do with or without help if need be. Watch and think as you encounter situations sequestered from team or support.


30Conversation with Dorrie Bowley Martel, who was a rare racer able to defeat Eve Stephenson using similar solo tactics.

31Greta Garbo is known as a reclusive star of the screen during the Golden Era of Hollywood. Her reasons for isolation are mysterious. Mystery mixes well with solitude.

32The Bible, Contemporary English Version Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Championship Strategy/Roster Selection

Posted in Championship Strategy on July 10, 2009 by bethleasure


23“The hardest part of coaching collegiate cycling is selecting the team that goes to nationals. It’s so hard to leave behind that kid that doesn’t make the cut.” Jim Young, Coach-Penn State University Cycling, multi-time National Champions


Coach Young is perhaps the most beloved coach in collegiate cycling

Coach Young is perhaps the most beloved coach in collegiate cycling

One of the most important strategies formulated by a team director is roster selection. Winning programs are created by champion riders. Champions associate with winning programs. Occasionally, a winner signs with a team as the lone star to upgrade a team culture. In general, this doesn’t last. A winning rider still needs winning structures as a launching pad to race wins. A winning rider needs other winners as teammates. Great teams don’t require as much motivation because its great riders are already motivated. Great teams instead need leadership capable of making tough choices – facing brutal facts – and having exceptional faith – possessing vision.

Rosters evaluated per season and per goal must fit with team mission; but another 24commonality in great organizations, ones that outperform competitors, is that mission is formulated with personnel in place, not prior. In other words, great organizations get the right people on the bus before they figure out where to drive it.

In cycling terms, this means that great teams decide goal events based on rider capability. Too often in cycling, we see team goals formulated before riders are chosen. Frequently, the goals are never met because the wrong people were on the bus for that destination or more kindly, the wrong destination was chosen to serve those riders. Once rider capabilities are realistically assessed, choosing which riders go where then becomes another series of critical decisions. Striving for excellence then involves coordination of individual goals and training programs with team targets and team periodization. More scheduling flexibility characterizes the great teams because a roster has more depth and breadth of talent – and everyone understands the destination.


Prayer for Roster Selection
“… no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” 251 Corinthians 12:25-26


We recognize that choices, which are exclusive, leave someone out. We pray for those left behind and ask for wisdom in selecting who goes.


Ponder Am I so focused on goals that I’m ignoring who is with me to accomplish them? Affirm I am selected for a unique mission. Watch as teams accomplish goals based on who is involved. 



23Conversations with Coach Young. What’s remarkable about this streak of success is that this program is student-run and accomplished with little funding from the school. It competes with other schools whose cycling programs have budgets and resources with varsity status, recruiting, and paid management. Coach Young is a volunteer. Typically he’s “invisible” at races not drawing attention to himself but huddling in a stadium coat with a group of riders around him. He’s created a legacy of national and international stars who were grounded under his mentorship. He is the definition of Good-to-Great leadership, as defined by Jim Collins, as well as what was accomplished based on amount of resources.

24This concept is from Good to Great by Jim Collins published by HarperCollins Publishers Inc., NY Copyright © 2001 by Jim Collins.

25The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Championship Strategy/Coping with Pressure

Posted in Championship Strategy on July 9, 2009 by bethleasure

Steam Engines

21“The pressure makes me focus.” Sammy Sanchez, Olympic Champion 


Golden focus in Beijing

Golden focus in Beijing

Clutch players are the pressure-meisters of sport. These are the great ones who rise to the occasion when all odds are against and nearly every second of play is gone. When the pressure is greatest, this is the player who gets passed the ball when down points and nearly out of time; this is the one judged second place in semi’s who starts the final round with the hardest feat; or the come-from behind speedster who moves to the front when the big fight begins. Champions cope with pressure by utilizing its vapor not to steam like a cooker but to cook like a steam engine. Forward positive force propels in self-controlled momentum. Fear is turned into focus.

A culture of discipline is essential for cultivating this strategic capability. Mastering strategic fundamentals before engaging in forays of high-risk or complicated tactics produces not just skills but confidence utilized in high pressure situations. Big events create tension that makes simplicity a premium. Back to the basics often works for podium performance. It may be a fancy, well-funded, high profile event, but fundamentals are enough to win because pressure causes most to make subtle errors of judgment. Pressure riders focus on simple strategy, skills, and self-awareness to pull out the win. At lower level events where pressure is lowest, these same athletes master primary skills that require focus and self-control instead of the easiest way to get results.

For instance, lead-outs are a more advanced skill that builds on podium performance through sprint wins. Being 2nd wheel in a final corner to clinch a mass sprint win puts more pressure on a novice than hanging out and figuring somewhere in a final surge. Championship strategy starts early where pressures are applied to skills formation, strategic experimentation, and realistic but challenging goal-setting. Ego and anxiety miss the mark.


Prayer for Coping with Pressure

“While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!” 222 Corinthians 4:12


We are grateful for opportunities to turn up the heat little by little to teach us coping skills necessary to succeed. We pray, not for troubles, but that we ride facing challenges with aplomb under pressure.


Ponder Can I execute when under pressure? Affirm I cope with pressure or I find ways to relieve it for achievement. Watch how pressure performances occur and see the translation into triumph.



21Sammy Sanchez 2008 Olympic Men’s Road Race Interview by NBC Sports Television, August, 2008

22The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Championship Strategy/Winning Skills

Posted in Championship Strategy on July 8, 2009 by bethleasure

The Victory Continuum

19“I’m less concerned about the availability and temptation to use performance-enhancing drugs in sports than I am about the dangers faced every day by teens who aren’t involved in sports at all.” Chris Carmichael, Cycling Coach


Truth is performance drug users are vulnerable to street drug use also

Truth is performance drug users are vulnerable to street drug use also

It may be true that some are born winners. This means that all the elements of winning come easily to those people. An infant isn’t going to win a KOM – but a child with natural abilities given the right mix of experiences, motivations, tools and opportunities could become a champion climber. He could also stand on street corners smoking crack.

There’s a package that comes with being a winner that born losers could practice to learn to win. Who’s to say who is either? Just attempting it raises your level from street to podium. After these weeks of preparation of champion character, psyche, presence, and emotions, working on winning strategy will seem like being in the slipstream. But even in the slipstream, one must pedal. To win requires an effort. It is not magic. It doesn’t suddenly happen or come about due to luck. A rider doesn’t go from 67th to 1st just like that. It’s true a rider low on GC may win a stage or a great performance can follow a poor performance. It’s also true that breakthrough can occur, but usually as a result of continued incremental momentum. It’s finally put together by the winner and isn’t by everyone else on the day.

Inviting spirituality into the package of skills is critical – for the awareness to see cycling through eyes of faith into hidden systems and secret strategies. I was often puzzled at how the race went – what I’d missed or what worked, until I prayed for strategic insight. I remember that gestalt moment when strategic insight was granted. It was a bit like slow motion. In the victory continuum, what I could imagine I could finally execute. What I could sense, I could now see and anticipate and capitalize upon to move from consistent seconds to victory. More importantly, I could now multiply this from me to we and teach others what, when, where, who, and how to see and sense. This week isn’t about mastering the fundamental skills of bike racing. It’s about mastering the fundamental skills of championship strategy.


Prayer for Winning Skills
“Strength and success belong to God; both deceived and deceiver must answer to him.” 20Job 12:16


Teach us to win O Lord.    


Ponder Do I know what it takes to win? Affirm I can learn to win. Watch practice make perfect for first place.


19“Cycling’s Hope: The Sport Has Hit Bottom,” by Mason Kelley posted July 1, 2008

20The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Championship Strategy/GC Tactics

Posted in Championship Strategy on July 4, 2009 by bethleasure

True Disciples

28“There must be one leader and eight men ready to die for him.”  Jens Voigt, Champion Domestique, converted Soloist, on Tour de France team-of-nine strategy


Jens Voigt willing to suffer

Jens Voigt willing to suffer

What we would accomplish in life if we had 8 people ready to die for us! Even one or a few dedicated to our success is empowering, particularly if one of those is one of the world’s best winners. Even with this knowledge, the rarity of total team commitment to this principle distinguishes great performances. Riding for oneself is an incredible urge to fight and valid temptation for the best pros capable of individual glory. Yet a complete team totally sold out to one winner creates a greater glory.

Protecting the leader is the first rule of team strategy for individual GC contention, with various tactics applied from keeping the jersey to helping others take it…for a while. A team committed to GC may also practice the ole “bait and switch.” This tactic is riding for one whose strengths play in certain stages while planning to ride for another in later stages to take the overall win. Sometimes this is planned and sometimes it turns out that way. Dominating GC teams tend to not worry about other jerseys or prize categories, although occasionally a team is so dominating it can sweep a lot of booty while pirating the peloton.

Often the championship quality for GC tactics is being willing to lose to win and its companion attribute of knowing when to work and when not. Egos that helped achieve a position in the peloton and win a spot in the event are bridled to then rightly estimate competitors and energies and work for the leader. If you want to experience real race suffering, do the work of champion domestiques: shield wind, keep the leader in the sweet spot, keep pace high, chase and block. These are tactics that play well with love motivation: the force behind true discipleship – martyrdom if necessary.


Prayer for GC Tactics
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 291 John 3:16 


We are thankful for an example in Christ of willingness to lay down life for another – even adversaries! We confess it’s difficult even to sacrifice for friends. We pray for championship tactics for stage racing.


Ponder Am I willing to be dropped for a team win? Affirm I can go to the front even if I go off the back to save my leader. Watch your leader and serve however is necessary.



28Stage 21 CSC Feature on Versus Channel: Tour de France coverage July 27, 2008

29The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society