The fruits of your labour

Tom Palmer

cycling,tom palmer,drapac,national road series,development,sport,Asia,Tour de Taiwan,pathway
Even the best riders don't make it to the finish without a lot of help. The difference between winning and being at the back of the grupetto might be one team-mate's effort in bringing forward bidons that you don't have to do, or another bridging a critical gap, or someone else prepping you for a sprint. You can't understate the role of your team-mates in your own success. (Tour de Taiwan)
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After an unforgettable day on the bike in Taiwan, Tom Palmer waxes lyrical on how sweet the feeling of victory is within a well-oiled team, even if it's not your own personal success that you're celebrating.

Being part of a cohesive team is perhaps the most rewarding part of being a bike rider.

There's something rewarding about being a domestique. Cycling is obviously a team sport but I guess it is hard to comprehend what that really means until you've experienced racing for a team.

It has always seemed to me that teamwork is supercharged with an element of sacrifice and injustice in a sport where only one team member crosses the line, salutes and stands on the podium. In reality, the dispersal of that success is really dependent on the dynamics and relationships in the team.

You're don’t get a medal when your team-mate wins. It rarely earns you praise or helps your career but in my experience it has always felt almost the same.

Over a season on a small team like Drapac, you get to know your team-mates and staff well. After being in one team long enough they even start to feel like family. You identify with each other, they help you through the hard moments and you work harder so you can help them when they need a hand.

Of course as an athlete innate ambition, competitiveness and a drive for personal success are critical. But when you get the dynamics right in a team, even where every member is individually driven this causes is no conflict. In the best teams, mutual objectives, reciprocation and a whack of goodwill mean that ambition and cooperation are easily compatible.

Being part of a cohesive team is perhaps the most rewarding part of being a bike rider.

I often find myself glad when at races my team-mates are the ones sitting together on the bus or arriving at dinner together, conversing and laughing while other teams skulk away with their headphones on or stare into their food in silence.
 
Those are the teams you'll see raising voices at each other in the race, bickering over tactics and bullying each other into line. Peer-pressure might get the job done sometimes but traditional mateship is a priceless advantage in any team.

There is something commendable too about riding selflessly, something you can take pride in and something that makes this sport less like a game and more like a vocation.

You can justify more risks, bigger sacrifices and dig deeper when it’s for the good of the tribe. When you have genuine respect and admiration for your teammates is when you find another level under pressure.

Sharing the accomplishment and seeing your mate thrive after executing a supporting role is a satisfying experience. To be the winner then is inspiring and humbling beyond words.

In my years with Drapac I have always felt like part of such a tribe. I have never perhaps felt this as an asset more than I have this week.

Today at the half-way point at the Tour de Taiwan, we rode Bernie into the yellow jersey.

Sulzberger sits half a minute ahead of the next best. This is at the end of an impressive three days on the podium but to put that in the context of our whole team, just today Hucker was tour leader on the road early, Goesinnen and McCauley rode away later, poised to ride full gas against the peloton to hold the gap when Bernard climbed across on the main climb.

Thus creating the classic cycling scenario to test a team’s mettle: defending the jersey. This means warding off the whole bunch’s attempts to snatch a few seconds, with only five riders and the whole second half of a hard tour still ahead of us.

In the sport, being a domestique is not the degrading back-up option it may seem. It makes the sport unique and is perhaps its most rewarding aspect for riders.

The challenge ahead of us over the next three days and what is asked of us as a team is what I believe being a bike racer is all about.

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