Last night saw the start of the London six-day cycle race at the Olympic Velodrome. For long term cycling fans, an exciting return to the UK since 1980 when Wembley last hosted the Skol 6 race on a purpose built track just 160 metres long.
It’s only in recent years of course that the sport of cycle racing (and cycling) has won the attention of a much wider public. Thanks to the considerable resources and talents within British Cycling – lead by Sir David Brailsford – these UK athletes seem almost certain to bring home medals from every Olympic or World Championship event.
But six-day racing is different. This isn’t like road racing where large teams and countless support vehicles flash past in a few minutes. Instead, this fast-paced event is designed to thrill the public for some 20 hours – often more at European sixes. It’s less about medals and world records but much more about providing the viewing public with a colourful and entertaining spectacle.
For six days then, two riders come together as equal partners for a rather special project. Against all the other pairings, their prime goal will be to complete more laps over the whole period’s racing than any other team. In the words of chess champion Gary Kasparov, they will need to ‘explode the game, to upend the opponents’ thinking and, in doing so, unnerve them.’
In a sense, they will resemble the most entrepreneurial of empowered co-workers we see today: highly skilled and self-led collaborators, strong communicators, able to adapt to changing circumstances, learning each day and really focussed on outputs.
Most of all – given the risks of six-day racing – they will need to win the trust of their co-workers, especially when they sling each other safely, every few minutes, during each night’s Madison race!