The title of this post could also be: “How does a 50 year old married man who has six children, at least two full time jobs, is the Chairman of a Pro Cycling team, sits on the board of a charitable foundation and only started to ride a bike at age 43 get ready for fourteen days of racing in a fifteen day period in August 2014?” The answer: “Plan, find a way to measure progress and be accountable to someone.”
And what kind of event can that be? The answer: The Haute Route in Europe which the organizers describe as the Highest and Toughest Cyclosportive in the World. Although that is true, in reality, for guys like me who already spend their days on the climbs the Haute Route is the only Grand Tour for amateurs in the world. Wanna find out what it feels like to ride a stage like a Pro? Try the Etape du Tour and the countless similar events in Europe and North America. Wanna find out what it feels like to live and ride like a Pro for one week, two weeks or even three weeks? Haute Route it is.
Personally I will be doing two weeks of the Haute Route in August 2014: “The Haute Route Dolomites” followed by the “Haute Route Alps“. The Haute Route also offers the Haute Route Pyrenees but I can’t do that third week next year as I have to work sometimes. The Haute Route Dolomites is a seven day event from the Adriatic Sea (hopefully leaving from Venice) to Geneva which will cover approximately 9800 kilometers and include about 20 famous mountain passes for a total of 21,000 meters of ascent, including the Stelvio, Gavia and the Furka. After one day of rest, I will head down from Geneva to Nice in seven days covering about the same distance as the preceding week and climbing most of the famous Alps cols. Although I completed the Haute Route Alps this past August and I know what to expect, doing two weeks of the Haute Route back to back sounds like an interesting challenge to say the least.
I used the word “race” earlier to describe the Haute Route as this is the approach I intend to take at the event (at least for the first week). The Haute Route is a timed cyclosportive and there are plenty of participants that do not race it and view completing the event as THE goal for them. In other words the Haute Route is the right challenge for a very wide range of riders.
As this blog is meant to not only document my various cycling trips but also to share my experience as a time crunched cyclist and hopefully motivate others to live a healthy lifestyle and a balanced life let me expand on my answer to the question posed above regarding how an everyday amateur rider with a pretty regular (and busy) life like me gets ready for a challenge like Haute Route. Here’s the long answer.
My cycling adventures have taken me to many places. I have biked throughout Canada, the United States and Europe. I have met dozens of people: entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, retirees, CEOs, CFOs and even ex-pros turned businessmen. I would say that on average the people that I meet through my favorite sport are professionals or people in senior positions in business, people who either run their own company or are part of a large organization or professionals such as doctors, lawyers and accountants. Some manage businesses with billions of dollars in revenues, one manages a business with a billion dollars of profits per year and the majority are executives of mid-size organizations or professionals with a long successful career. Most are married, have kids and all of them live extremely busy lives, including the nine teammates who joined me at the Haute Route this past August. I know the profile of the ambitious amateur cyclist very well.
And if you run a business, work in a law firm, a hospital or run a construction or a software company fall means planning and budgeting for the upcoming year. I imagine that most of my cycling buddies are currently having meetings with their staff and superiors to ensure their business in 2014 is even more successful and profitable than in 2013. Whatever plan my cycling buddies put together in their professional lives for 2014, three items will be required from them: “Planning, measuring success and accountability.” They are planning now and their plans cannot contain soft and non-measurable business goals such as “I want to do better in 2014 compared to 2013.” What does that even mean? Finally, they have to be accountable to someone. They may be accountable to their boss, if they are the boss they are accountable to their board of directors and investors and if they are on the board of directors they are accountable to the shareholders. There is no way around it.
This is what I am doing at work, including at our cycling team called Team Novo Nordisk. I was at our head office in Atlanta two weeks ago working with our team to prepare the plans and budgets for 2014 and I am heading over to Denmark tonight for a board meeting to get those plans and budgets approved. Just like any other successful business we have very clear goals for our organization for next year and management will be judged by well they do in surpassing very clearly defined and measurable goals. The annual plan of a professional cycling team includes finance, staff, training camps, race calendars and dozens of other items that we plan carefully, execute on perfectly, and hopefully surpass our objectives. It is just like any other business.
Just like I have been doing recently for the businesses I am involved in, I have invested some time during the last two weeks planning my own 2014 biking season and that exercise is not much different than planning for a business: “How do I measure progress, what are the costs, which races/events do I want to do, how do I prepare for these races/events and who I’m I accountable to?” And the results are posted here in the form of a detailed timeline of activities.
Who better than a coach to be accountable to as an amateur cyclist? My coach Jason Tullous and I have just agreed on the timeline referred to above and we have mapped out the dozens of details and micro-goals necessary to ensure we can measure if I am on track or not for my main 2014 goal: “The Haute Route”. Personally, I couldn’t do what I do in cycling without a coach. Just like in business you need to delegate and I personally delegate the planning of my training to Jason. He is competent, I trust his advice and I know he cares about me delivering on the plan. I am also accountable to him. Since we have both agreed on what the main goal is and how we will achieve that goal who better than my coach to point out when I am getting off track and finding solutions to keep me on track. A bad month or quarter in business doesn’t mean you will not meet your objectives for the year it just means you will have to work harder and smarter for the rest of the year. Same in cycling.
So there you go. My main cycling event for 2014 is nine months away and I now have a very clear road map to get me ready for it. I am pretty relaxed knowing I have a plan, plenty of time ahead of me to get ready and I have left myself a lot of room for error and the possibility to make adjustments to accommodate family life and business imperatives. See you in Venice.