Thursday, October 27, 2011

Project Rainbow Jersey

The two articles highlighted below lend some insight into the process that went on behind scenes of Mark Cavendish winning the elite mens World Cycling Championships in Copenhagen back in September.

The Inner Ring has a excellent piece with some perspective on all the elements that needed to be in place  leading into the race over the past years, to give the team the best chance to win: "The moment Cavendish won the Worlds "
"Above all there is Mark Cavendish, a phenomenal athlete who is so good he can win without a plan."
Cav has proven he can win in many circumstances, but is usually quick to credit his team, which the last years has demonstrated brilliant organisation, delivering him to the point where he could execute time and time again. But the World Champs is different, with the teams made up of riders whom many work for different teams/employers in their 'day jobs' the majority of the season, and therefore this team is not purpose built to deliver Cav in this same way. On top of that, Cav came into Copenhagen as the heavy favorite, on a course that everyone knew suited him, and in road cycling which involves teams working together, and often against other teams and favorited riders. Consistently great performances are about controlling what can be controlled and limiting how much luck is involved in achieving a result, i.e. making an unpredictable result more predictable through better preparation, knowing what really matters and doing those elements better than everyone else.

More interesting fact than the fact that Mark rode in a skinsuit, or used a plastic film over his helmet, is the process that went into the win, some of which is highlighted back in the "Project Rainbow Jersey" piece dating back to 2008 by CyclingWeekly, where coach Rod Ellingworth detailed the approach that British Cycling would put together to form the winning team over the course of three years, the challenges he knew they would face, and how they'd approach them.

There is rarely is much of that process and planning towards achieving world class performances out in the public domain.  It's easy to focus on the training plans, the physical preparation, looking at 'key workouts', recovery protocols, innovation and technology, but the elements that resonate in these two articles are how much success is about getting the human factors right, the motivations, familiarity and ease of working together as riders and staff, the riders working together and arriving in good form, and even the plan to get a full team on the start line.
"If Cavendish is to pull on a rainbow jersey, or win the Olympic road race title in London, it will owe everything to the work and planning started in the cold air of north-west England in November 2008."
Indeed: Process, Process, Process

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