Making magic happen in the business of pro cyclingBlog
Working to achieve an audacious goal
Many people think I have the best job in the world. ‘It’s the Tour de France, you only work 21 days of the year, how hard can it be?’ My reply is that Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka is like a train that leaves the station in January and doesn’t stop until the end of the pro cycling season, in October.
We’re not just competing in a sport, we’re also competing as a business: a business that has stakeholders who invest in it and expect returns, and individuals whose aspirations and achievements are what deliver value to stakeholders.
We have a clear purpose: to develop and showcase African talent, and raise funds for the Qhubeka charity. We have long-term goals. We want to see someone who started riding on a Qhubeka bike competing in the Tour de France one day. We also aim to have 100,000 bikes distributed to communities across Africa through the Bicycles Change Lives campaign.
Gaining a competitive edge
Achieving all of this requires us to perform at a high level so we can remain relevant to our partners and sponsors and continue as a sustainable business.
Being relatively new on the scene, we’re open to using technology to give us a competitive advantage, whether it’s by helping our riders to reach the highest levels of performance or improving our logistics management so every aspect of our operations is slick and polished.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka is a new team striving to maintain its position on the world stage.
Breaking through to the next level of performance
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka is Africa’s first pro cycling team to race in the first division of world cycling, and each year we fight to retain our position as one of the top 15 teams in the world.
In Africa, cycling is not a part of our cultural DNA the way it is in Europe. Yet, in the last five years, we’ve taken the world by storm in this sport. We have a unique culture and focus, and we seem to be a team that likes to do things that have never been done before.
We use technology, data, and high-performance coaches to bring our riders up to the highest level as quickly and efficiently as we can. We know how some of the world’s best cyclists perform because we have the likes of Mark Cavendish, Bernie Eisel, and Edvald Boasson Hagen on our team. We take their performance data and compare it with our African riders. This helps us develop a strategy to build their endurance year on year and bring them up to that level of international performance.
I believe we’re one of the few teams in the world to be using technology in this way. We’ve had other teams ask us how we do things because we really are optimised in many ways.
Eyes on the prize
Technology gives us a better chance to win and if we have a better chance to win, we’re close to achieving our goal. We’re now looking at how we can use technology to predict outcomes based on previous performance. If we can put the right riders in the right races with the right support to get the best result, we are well on our way to helping them grow as individuals and sustaining our position as a first-division team.
By using data on its top riders, Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka can help other team members develop their potential.
Uptime and logistics apps
In addition to team performance we need to be a professional outfit if we are to attract sponsorships. We now have two apps, developed with Dimension Data, that we see as being a part of the team: the health and wellness app and the operations app.
Uptime is really important in this business. The health and wellness app helps us pre-empt and address issues that may affect a rider’s performance. Management knows what’s going on with our riders, physically and mentally, at any point in time, and riders have a sense of comfort and belonging, knowing we are here for them.
You can imagine the logistics that come with managing a team of 70 people and a fleet of 22 vehicles that are on the move for 270 days of the year. The travel arrangements alone are a full-time job: we bought 990 plane tickets last year. The operations app has taken the guesswork out of this aspect of the business. We know exactly what we have, and where it is. This also helps us be specific with our sponsors about what we need.
There’s a lot of pressure to keep it all together operationally and at the same time make sure the team is connected, motivated, and performing optimally. We now have a connected virtual space where we come together and make it work. When we do win, we know it’s been a complete team effort – and that’s when the magic happens.