It doesn't take long for my complete and undivided focus to change from the 2011 season to the 2012. Less than 24 hours in fact. Saturday saw Team RadioShack's last race of the year (Giro di Lombardia) and the next morning, the sports directors of the 2012 RadioShack-Nissan-Trek Professional Cycling Team had our first meeting together in Milano. Kim Andersen, Jose Azevedo, Dirk Demol, Alain Gallopin, Luca Guercilena, Lars Michaelsen and I were joined by technical manager Ricardo Scheidecker and logistics manager Barbara Van Maeldergem. As the professional cycling community is quite small, we all know each other from the races and meetings, but working together is something entirely new. When I first walked in, I could sense there was a bit of nervousness. It's not a feeling of fear, but more similar to the first day of a new school year. You know everything is going to be okay, but until you get seated in the classroom there's always a period of wondering "What's it going to be like?".
So what is it going to be like?? Well only time will tell on how the team will perform on the road next year, but based on our first meeting with the directors, I have a great feeling. The nervousness is gone, replaced with excitement for the new season, the formation of a new team and the dreams and possibilities of achieving goals. It is a motivated group of directors, mixed with experience (myself, Kim, Dirk & Alain) and "youth" (Lars, Jose & Luca). And when I mean youth, I'm referring to those directors that haven't been behind the wheel as long as some of the "older" guys (I put old in quotations, because I want you to think I’m still young!!). These younger guys can usually connect with the riders better. Being a rider is fresher in their minds. They know and remember what it's like to suffer. In past teams, I've always believed that having a diverse group of directors is best. I don't want directors that all think the same. Don't get me wrong. I want them to be united, but I also want them to bring different attributes that will help the team. And I'm confident that the group we have in place will be just that group.
A big part of my job is to listen. And I felt this meeting, more than ever, was a time for me to listen and understand, especially from Kim, Lars, Luca & Ricardo. What they thought went well last year. What they think needs to be improved upon. How can the team be better, stronger and more successful. It's not something that will happen overnight, but listening and understanding are the first steps. We also discussed the calendar and what races we think make sense beyond the required World Tour races. Hopefully, we'll receive invitations to many of the ones we'd like to participate in.
Our next get together will be next week - October 25, 26 & 27th - and this time it will include all the riders. We'll gather in Spa - Francorchamps, Belgium without bikes. Just meetings & team building activities. Many of you know Spa - Francorchamps from the Formula 1 race. We'll meet as a group, as well as individually with each rider to talk about the past 2011 season, what they liked about their program and then some of their goals for the coming year. We'll take all this information, mesh this with our team goals and objectives and have our first draft program for each rider by December's training camp. I say "first draft" because in the world of racing with crashes, injuries, sicknesses, family emergencies, etc. a rider's program is never final. And for those of you wondering when the final roster will be announced … Well you will certainly know by our first meeting next week.
After our October meeting, we'll have two training camps. One in December in Spain and one in January on the Spanish island of Mallorca.
And we're not the only ones with 2012 on our minds. After our directors meeting, the 2012 Giro d'Italia route was announced in a very eloquent presentation. As many of you know, the Giro will start in Denmark, which is exciting for some of our Danish riders and directors. Also new to the Giro is the race boss, Michele Aquarone, who I had the pleasure to meet a few weeks ago, and who seems to be a man of change, progress and flexibility. The Giro presentation was followed on Tuesday with the unveiling of the 2012 Tour de France route. Well technically it was leaked last week, but Tuesday was the formal presentation where we filled in the gaps, learning the actual route between the start & finish towns. With close to 100 km of individual time trialing, no team time trial and not many big mountain top finishes, it's a very different Tour. But we're not discouraged. We'll go with a very strong team, make the race hard and go into the time-trials in the best position possible. Knowing what happened in last year's final time trial and knowing the amount of time-trialing in 2012, I think we'll see some improvements from Andy. It's a big focus of ours. But as I said the other day and every year, the riders make the race, and we have good riders. We know our strengths - strong team, strong in the mountains and strong with our strategy. We will maximize these strengths. And we will make sure our focus remains unchanged: Yellow in Paris.