I caught up with Ben Day of Pegasus Racing and Fly V Australia to get his take on just how “mateship” and teammates played a part in their successful 2010 season. As the team is in the process of applying for a UCI ProTour license, I also wanted to know how that philosophy will play out as the team moves over to Europe to compete in the 2011 season.
When we think of a cycling domestique, we usually think of individuals. Those cyclists who ride in the peloton giving shelter to their GC rider, bringing food and water and pretty much being the unknown force behind the pro-peloton.
But… what if an entire team could be that way–sharing the responsibilities and promoting a culture of just that: TEAMWORK. Might it not be a driving force on the cycling scene, one with a very special team solidarity?
There is a team that has done just that, and done it successfully. That team is Pegasus Racing’s FlyVAustralia. In fact, during their time on the US domestic scene, they’ve ridden together so successfully, this year alone they have scored 84 wins; that they have now made application to the UCI to head to Europe and ride there, hopefully as a ProTour team.
Tell us about “mateship” on FlyV and how its actually helped you and the guys be so successful this season? And also how you see it working as Pegasus Racing takes it to the next level?
Ben Day: The whole mateship ideology, we kind of garnered out of how in Australia we call each other “mate” all the time. It lends itself for us to be a lot more friendly to each other, I guess you could say it’s teamwork Aussie style. But in this context with the team, it just reinforced the importance of what it means to work together as a team and sacrificing yourself for the sake of the team. It’s teamwork with no personal agendas, as is often the case in other systems. I believe we have 84 wins so far for 2010 with one more tour to go, so you have to say its working really, really well. The challenge will be going into next year with the new ProTour team. For us going in there and bringing in some foreign riders and staff, we’ll be trying to teach this method to them as well, and see if they can take up where we’ve left off.
You guys have had such great success here in the USA. With the team dynamic that we’ve seen, you all have something special. How do you think that’s going to translate to the new team? Tell us a bit more about that.
Ben: It’s going to be a bit of a challenge in itself. You know, these guys we’ve hired, we’ve hired them with the intention and foresight that these are going to be great people to have involved with the team. It’s a process, not one that just happens naturally though. In the beginnings of 2010, we did some helicopter crash training to help bring the group together and to be in some stressful situations together and learn more about each other. And that helped us with the rest of the season, where we had a lot of success.
But we kind of operate on a very honest platform. And when someone’s done a good job, like when someone wins a race, they’ve done a great job and they don’t really need a lot more pats on the back. But guys who’ve sacrificed themselves for somebody else to win the race, those moments, they’re the ones that are the most important to say, “really good job, well done, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have won.” You really need to appreciate that kind of thing.
We have a very honest and open communication with everybody on the team. But at the same time, if somebody doesn’t do their job we also hold them accountable. So I think having that is… to put it bluntly… a no bullshit platform to work on, people are held accountable. If they’re good, they get congratulated; and if they don’t, then we sit down and talk about it. It’s not just left for people to figure over or for people to talk behind other people’s back. We’re open and honest with each other and we genuinely care about the bloke next to us. When we celebrate, we celebrate together. When we lose, we rally together to support each other for the next feat.
You’ve also signed alot of Aussies for 2011. Like you said, you call yourselves “mates”, do you think it’s in the culture and might make it a bit easier to fit into the team?
Ben: Yeah, it’s definitely in the culture. We’re just like that – Australians are very laid back people and don’t get worked up over small things. You know we’ve signed 11 riders, and so far there are also 11 foreign riders with still spaces to fill. So for the moment, and we will always be, an Australian team. I think that Chris White’s spent a lot of time making sure that he finds people who are willing to…….people who have similar mindsets, the personality of working hard, being laid back willing to comeback and do it for the team. They are going to be our mates and we’re all going to have a great year next year I’m sure.
For next year, we’ve heard that you’ve already got Robbie McEwen and Robbie Hunter. They’re both veterans, but they also know how much hard work it is and how much they have to depend on the team. Are you looking for more guys like them, or more all-rounders, GC, or what?
Ben: At the moment we’ve been able to get a really, really good Classics team together. For now we’re a little bit short when it comes to GC guys, people who are capable of performing in three week tours. But you know when you look across the peloton, there aren’t a lot of teams that do have GC contenders in these 3-week tours.
Looks like you have got some nice young riders, and you have some on the roster who are coming with you, like Jai Crawford and Jay Thomson to name a few. So you should have good development on the team then?
Ben: Yeah, we still have a few spots left and we’re going to see who’s left on the marketplace, but then we need to develop as well. We’ve got some young, very talented riders on board, and in a year or two, you never know, these riders might be knocking on the door of the biggest tours in the world.
You mentioned that you had a good Classics team, as well. Do you think you’re going to do a lot of the Classics or focus on development and some of the shorter tours?
Ben: For sure, but the whole process, the ProTour process is still pending. We don’t know, whether we’ll get the license – it gets in there anywhere between Nov 1st and the 15th. But we have some guys who are very, very established in the Classics already. And they are excellent cyclists and they have great reputations. I’m sure we’re going to have starts in a lot of the biggest Classics in the world. So I think that will kind of be the focus in the first year, and where we’re guaranteed to have some people up there getting results.
But then, still as well, there are people who come out of the woodwork and we’ll be at tours and trying for stage wins and just trying to better ourselves all the time. We haven’t been in Europe for a while and we’re going in there with the realisation that it’s not going to be easy. But, you know, doing what we’ve done in the US, we’ve proven we can win races and we’ve got that experience already, so now we’ve got to get over there and amongst it and I’m sure there’s going to be alot of surprises next year.
You’ve been a GC guy on the domestic tour here in the US, but these are mainly one week or shorter tours. Are you looking more at the Classics or the shorter tours or straight towards the grand tours?
Ben: The shorter tours. I’ve been in Europe for 6 years previously, so I’ve raced alot of those big tours over there, just haven’t done the 3-week tours. The week-long tours, I’m more than confident that I can handle those and that I will have some good results in those in 2011. But when it comes to the three week tours, I’m humble enough to realise I don’t have the experience yet–there’s alot to learn about recovery… and it’s very rare for a first time Grand Tour rider to come in there and really take the world by storm. It’s happened, but they are really super-talented athletes. I’m just taking it step-by-step and I’ve got quite a few years left in my career and hoping by the end of things, maybe we’re having a different conversation. But let’s wait and see.
Anything else you think you might want to share with us about the new additions and larger Pegasus Racing and “mateship”?
Ben: It should be a good fit, but it’s not going just happen naturally–we’re going to have make sure we put some emphasis on it, as well. We’re planning a training camp in Outback Australia in November. It’s where we’re all going to get together for the first time. I’m sure we’re going to have some “interesting” little activities out there – get to know each other better, be at one together. It’s like a bit of a different concept to Saxo Bank’s survival camp. We do other things, but this is more to bring each other together, to learn more about each other, and it’s worked really, really well so far.