The newspapers and internet archives will say that Cadel Evans won the Tour de France in 2011, becoming the first Australian to ever win cycling’s most prestigious race. Those reporters going into further detail will say that he won it thanks to his astonishingly rapid pace (second overall) in the twentieth stage of the race, a time trial in and around the French city of Grenoble. They will say that this victory vindicates his career as a cyclist, previously dogged by near-misses and numerous second place finishes.
But there is a lot the reports will not say about the Tour de France. They will not say that the yellow jersey is only one of a large variety of jerseys worn by people. They will not talk about the team race, nor about the large number of specialists and domestiques it takes to have a successful Tour de France campaign. Certainly Cadel Evans will (and already has) given a lot of credit to the people behind the scenes, as well as to his fellow teammates (including the super-domestique George Hincapie, who has shepherded his team captain to victory in nine Tour de France campaigns—7 times with Lance Armstrong, once with Albert Contador, and now with Cadel Evans) .
For example, in the Tour de France alone there are a variety of jerseys that are won by racers. The most famous is the yellow jersey, worn by the overall leader of the race. But that is far from the only one . The green jersey is worn by the best sprinter and time trialist, often won by a specialist that has no hope (because of poor mountain racing skills) of winning the overall title. A red polka-dot jersey is given to the “king of the mountains,” who wins the most points on the Tour de France’s often tricky climbs. A white jersey is given to the best youth rider, the fastest time for a racer under the age of 25. And there are even red jerseys given for “combativity,” which sounds like one jersey color I would be very qualified to wear personally. The racer who has won the previous year’s world cycling championships wears a rainbow jersey in addition to that, though most cyclists who have won the Tour de France have done so on a lighter schedule so that they can prepare for cycling’s toughest and prestigious race, and not allow themselves to be distracted by training hard for lesser ones.
Why is it that in cycling so many people focus on the individual? Cycling is a team sport like race car driving where one face gets all the fame but where a lot of people need to be successful for the team to win? Why is it that in looking at success we look at people, expecting people to be successful on their own? No one ever became successful individually, without the help and support of a group of others. This is true in cycling and in everything else and yet we still give the focus to the individual without examining the whole health and importance of the team around that individual. Even in team sports like football we look for stars—quarterbacks, running backs, defensive backs, wide receivers, and the like. In baseball we look for glamorous home run hits or dominating pitching performances, not for the mundane little plays that make a team successful. We fail to see the whole system because we are focused on the flashy and the superficial.
This problem of looking at the individual and neglecting the team aspect carries on to other endeavors. For example, we celebrate successful writers, but do not understand that before anyone can be a really successful writer they need to have an agent and an editor that believe in them and that help promote their works. Finding that is not a remotely easy task, as I can personally attest to. I have searched for years for both of those, without personal success and profit yet. We might ask why a team is necessary for writers, since writing is often a solitary art, of people hold up by themselves with a laptop or a notebook scribbling their thoughts down. However, while writers are good at writing, many of them are not good at copy-editing. Most of them (myself included) are often a bit shy when it comes to marketing, and most of them (myself included) would rather be writing than dealing with logistical and clerical details. You need a team because a lot of things need to be done and it is most efficient and effective to have everyone doing what they do best and not burdened with what they do poorly, if at all. Success for the individual depends on having a successful team. And that is precisely the lesson we learn from cycling. I’m looking for my team to help me succeed—are you in?