Thursday, September 09, 2004

Learning from Lance - Part Trois

The list of business-applicable lessons gained from watching Lance last summer kept on growing. Then I was busy celebrating the history-making Win #6. Then an armadillo ran across the road, sidetracking me for months. Really.

Are you ready for the rest of it? I hope so!

The thing that really pulls it all together is that Lance is a terrific all-around package. The rest of the list just goes to prove some of the ways that's true.

Why is this "total package" thing important? It's because riding well isn't the whole of it. Sure Lance can time trial well and ride up hills like a monster. More than that, though, he uses his head as well as his legs. Lance is a great interview and has the respect of highly rated riders. These qualities and others like them make Armstrong the one other great cyclists want to ride with and it earns him valuable sponsorships. When you are able to assemble a great team and get top of the line equipment and all the other kinds of support you need in a competition as fierce as the Tour de France, it's a tough combination to beat.

Lance uses who he in addition to how well he rides to attract the support he needs and a top-notch team that help him to be competitive. Here's some of the "who" and the "how":

  • Think strategically - Lance and his coach have a plan every day he goes out to ride. He knows where he wants to be in the pack, who to watch for and how he wants to finish.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare - Sometimes it's simply a matter of preparing better than the next person. When you've done all your homework and prepared for everything you're likely to encounter, success is bound to be yours.
  • Execute well and be a strong tactician in the field - Executing a well-made plan is an important component. Not only does Lance execute well, he reads changes in the field like a master and adapts accordingly.
  • Be able to read your team and your adversaries - Lance gets the most out of his team that he can because he fully understands what they're capable of and how well they're doing. He's also reading the other cyclists, figuring out their strengths and weakness along the way so that he can pinpoint the moves he wants to make, when, and how.
  • Understand and plan for your adversaries' strengths and weaknesses - So many times during this Tour, I came away with the idea that Lance understands his rivals even better than many of them understood themselves and clearly he used that to his advantage whenever possible.
  • Work with your adversaries when it makes sense - When other riders refuse to join up and help each other out simply because they are rivals, no one gains. Lance seems to understand that lesson very well and always has been willing to work together when it furthered his own game plan.
  • Minimize your weaknesses and capitalize on your strengths - When Lance was so sick during the 2003 Tour, master that he was, he actually turned it into a strength, playing down his actual abilities even further and fooling rivals into believing that he'd be easier to beat. In 2004 (as in others) Lance concentrated primarily on the mountains and the time trials where he knew he could gain a time advantage, leaving the flats to the sprinters.
  • Try not to make enemies - As Filippo Simeoni discovered, making an enemy means there's now someone who's heart and soul is devoted to making sure that whoever wins, it won't be you. It's not a good place to be so do your best to avoid it. Rivals are good. Enemies aren't.
  • Don't let your enemies take advantage - Once you have an enemy, it's wise to not ever let them get the upper hand. There's a difference between being "easy to work with" and being a doormat.
  • Pay attention to the details - Even small things count. Lance works hard to make his riding stance the most aerodynamic possible. He sheds every ounce of unnecessary weight and nothing that can impact his ability to ride goes unaddressed.
  • Stay healthy - Simply put, you can't win if you can't play. All that preparation is meaningless if you overdo it during the training or during the real thing. Pacing yourself has to be as much a part of the formula as knowing when to dredge up that extra juice to make it more than 100% effort.
  • Stay with it and don't give up - Voeckler should have been handing over the yellow jersey much earlier than he did. Sheer will-power kept him in the game and now he's created a bit of history of his own. Who knows, perhaps when Lance is done taking home the yellow, we'll be cheering on Voeckler in future Tours.
  • Watch for the right time to make your move - Strike out on your own too early, and you run the risk of being reeled back in by the peloton... delay too long and you may miss your window of opportunity. Hopefully it's no surprise that market timing and understanding whether the conditions in the workplace are conducive to supporting a new initiative work the same way.
  • Sprint for the finish - Winning usually requires that you give it your all right through to the finish. Slacking off means running the risk that there will be someone else just behind you ready to beat you just at the end.
  • Be driven - Find out what drives you and use it to your advantage. For Lance, it was going for the yellow jersey and it wasn't just for the winning; the yellow jersey is what inspired him to go on living and so that proof of vitality is probably a big part of what yellow is all about.
So, did I leave anything out? If so, it's probably because you haven't yet contributed your thoughts on the matter to - While I've got lots of other topics clamoring for space, it's not too late to add more to this one.

What drives you and how much is that helping you get what you want?