As the season progresses, team dynamics evolve
My personal approach changes a lot throughout the season. With every passing race, I can feel that everybody relaxes a little more — not in the sense that people stop caring about improving and getting good results, but rather there is more calmness and confidence. The start of the season is always very intense, we have many important races squeezed into a couple of weeks, and you never know, coming off the winter preparation block, how good you are and your competition is. It definitely takes everybody some time and a few races to settle.
Staying flexible and responsive is key
Once that happens, though, it is critical to stay responsive to each performance. After each race, we have a team meeting to discuss and analyse what we could have done better or what still needs improvement. The team has three coaches that monitor everybody’s shape and communicate with the rider’s personal coaches, finding a way to achieve the best possible performance.
Races and trainings are evolving extremely fast, and to keep up with the best in the race, you have to follow what others are doing. For example, going to an altitude camp became very popular and important in a rider’s preparation. We used to do it once yearly to get into that great delicious magical form that allows you to win races. Nowadays, riders go up for the thin air 3-5 times a year, prioritising one specific event, racing, and then returning up! This means you spend very little time at home, which is how riders gain an advantage over others. You sacrifice your private time for more altitude time.
Different parts of the season bring different concerns to the table
The first part of the season is heavily focused on the Classics, which are one-day races that happen mainly in Belgium, Holland, and Italy. That means you only have one day to make weeks of preparation count. Of course, you might be in incredible shape, yet during the race, you crash, which is very likely as the classics are hectic, dangerous, and stressful. You might also miss your chance or opportunity, and then you must wait a whole year for another chance.
As the Classics finish up, we move into stage races — races with multiple stages from 3-10 days. That brings some tranquillity and calmness to the peloton, as it’s no longer one single go but more about consistency and energy saving. The peloton is calmer during stage races, and the vibe is more relaxed.
We always go in with a plan, but we aren’t afraid to change it up
Of course, with multiple races and events occurring throughout the season, teams must prioritise and allocate resources carefully. Most of the teams count 13-17 riders, so each of them can specify what race they want to prepare for and what race they are happy to work for others. Before the season starts, during one of our training camps with coaches and sports directors, we set goals and pre-plan our ambitions. We create racing training and recovery blocks to get a general overview. Once everything starts, we make minor changes after each race and constantly look for details that could be improved.
It is important to remember the role luck plays and focus on the bigger picture
No matter how well you prepare or adjust, though, anything can happen. The constant threat of injuries, illnesses, or something that happens out of our control forces us to change all our plans and race tactics to turn the situation into something positive. Luck is so important in racing and just impossible to capture. My team always ensures everyone is well looked after and gets the help she might need by having open, honest conversations and rescheduling the upcoming race calendar.
This is critical because as the season progresses, every team will be forced to face unexpected circumstances or factors that can influence team dynamics and race outcomes. That said, the more we race together, the better we understand each other. Every year team roaster changes, meaning some riders are leaving, and some are joining. In order to know how to race together, we need to practice. We need to make mistakes, listen, and be open to criticism.
As the weeks pass, teams grow closer, and you make memories together. You go through ups and downs that bring you closer to your team. Unexpected circumstances happen daily. It’s about allowing yourself to see the bigger picture and sit down with your management to deal with the situation at hand.
You’ve got to be ready for when the stars align
Reflecting on past seasons, I can definitely think of Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift last year, when we won the team classification, as an example of team dynamics playing a crucial role in achieving success or overcoming obstacles. From the moment I arrived in France, I knew we would have a good race. Everyone was in a positive mood, despite all the media and commotion around us. We went through some very long, hard days, yet nobody complained or spread negative energy. It was all about having fun and being present in the moment. I still remember the second last stage that took the life out of my body. Arriving back to the team cars after the finish line, I received so many hugs, smiles, and good energy that made me feel like I recovered from the hard effort within minutes. That, in my opinion, is an example of team dynamics at their best!