Goal Achievement – Successful Cycling Systems!

The Great Gordino Lizzie ArmitsteadJuly 29th 2012, and Lizzie Armitstead wins Team GB’s first medal of the London Olympics, a silver. That medal is the result of a system, and that goal achievement lesson is a good one to soak up…

For the main foundation you can look to a man called Dave Brailsford. He’s the performance director of British Cycling. As it happens, I hate all the jargon and multi layered coaching, but it’s been the way of top level sport for a long time.

The theory is that all the coaching comes into line with the strategic aims of the relevant sport, and that’s the case with Brailsford. Starting with the track, he decided that all the top level cyclists needed to base themselves around the same velodrome.

In short terms, that was the start of a bucket load of success – the British cyclists became feared in the cycling world, and won a big haul of golds in Beijing. After Beijing, Brailsford turned his attention to the road, and as head of the newly formed Sky team, he proclaimed that a Brit would win the Tour de France within 5 years.

That was in 2009, and in 2012, only 3 years into his 5 year plan, Bradley Wiggins became the first Brit to win the biggest race in road cycling. That success came from fully committing to the idea of team cycling, that one rider would be picked as the main challenger and the others would be used tactically to support the one.

Road cycling is a hugely tactical affair, and trying to win it individually as a top rider is a forlorn hope.

Back to the Olympics, and road cycling, at the Athens 2004 Games, Brit Nicole Cooke was a red hot favourite, but she was on her own with no-one to help her tactically, and the other teams with more riders used that to spoil her chances.

That was noticed, and in 2008 Cooke had a full set of supporting riders, who could ride their races in a way that supported Cooke. The result? Cooke took the gold.

Fast forward to 2012, and this tactic was expected to deliver gold for Mark Cavendish. After all, it was the same set of riders that had won Le Tour for Wiggins, so it should work, right?

Well, no, it didn’t.

Partly due to one mistake of judgement by the Brits, and another mistake by other teams, Cavendish’s challenge was taken out of the equation.

In the women’s race though, a different story with Lizzie Armitstead. The team rode their tactical race to perfection plus they had the support of other teams at just the right times, and Armitstead had the best race of her life to get a silver.

Superb, and yet another demonstration that by learning from others, and putting a system in place, you can achieve the most amazing things! Your goal may not be to win a cycling medal, but whatever your goal is, is there a system you know you should be following?

Do let me know what you think – leave a comment or get me on facebook!

‘Til Next Time,
Health & Happiness,
P.S. Don’t forget to take a look at my motivational book ‘Transform Your Life in 21 Days!’

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  • Great stuff! Gave me the shivers all over again just like watching the finish earlier today! I love to know about the thinking and planning behind sporting achievements, and cycling is particularly interesting and unique. I didn’t know anything about it until I read Lance Armstrong’s books; now I find it fascinating.

    • Thanks! It was a great race, and I was so pleased for Lizzie. Also, enjoyed watching Emma Pooley doing all her work in the race, knowing full well it was with the sole aim of getting Lizzie into a medal winning position. Seeing Emma smile as she came across the line and spotted Lizzie had got a medal summed it up.
      I love the one off road races – the races with stages don’t have the same effect on me, but the tactics of theone off Olympic race is so exciting!

  • I don’t think the men made a mistake. Logically, the Germans and the Australians should have been looking for a bunch sprint as they had sprinters capable of getting medals. But neither joined in the chase until it was too late.

    • You’re right Pearson about the Germans in particular, they road an awful race, and their total lack of joining in the chase harmed the Brits. I just think the Brits could have realised it and made a race decision to change their game plan.

      Having said that, it seems in both races that information was sparse to say the least to the riders, so maybe the Brits assumed the leaders would come back to them?

  • Rigid systems for coaching ignore the unique qualities of the person in front of you i.e. the ‘protege’.

    Making it up as you go along also is equally unsettling.

    I think some basic structures provide a discipline but leave you free to address the person on the end of the coaching. See my post on this at http://www.hrzone.co.uk/blogs/peter-cook/musings-peter-cook-rock039n039roll-hr-blogger/growing-me-growing-you-aha-coaching-u


    • This is a peculiar example – the medals are won by individuals, but really it’s a team sport. So, the rigidity is necessary – when all the riders go as individuals, if they are a favourite, they have no chance. Going as team, all the riders ride in a way which will scupper their own medal shots, in order to put one nominated rider in the best position. That’s what happened with Armitstead, and if you aren’t signed up to that system, you won’t get in the team. It’s one case where individuality is a hindrance. Cheers, Gordon

  • This is an incredible post and I think it embodies what I experienced in the QSC and have been since. All of a sudden to have so many people working together for each other going for the gold.
    It’s funny because I had just been thinking of a teamwork theme that has to do with Gingko biloba and cherry trees they are both examples of trees that need others to be successful… i.e. you can’t get cherries unless there is another cherry tree nearby and gingkos have boy and girl trees;)

    • Thanks Elisa! I think there is another point that can be related – with road cycling, not only do you need your team to work together, you need to work with your opponents. The 3 that broke in the cycling knew they would only stay away if they worked together. From 3 different countries, they shared the work load until the end, until it’s each woman for herself!
      With the QSC challenge we may be often going after the same traffic, but by working together and helping each other, we all move forward! Cheers, Gordon