I’m often asked this question and no better equipped to answer than now after just competing in the Tour of Southland. Riding for Subway Pro Cycling we finished with a mixed bag of results. The writing was on the wall however when team mate Sam Horgan crashed badly in an earlier tour ruling him out of racing. This did improve the potential for a personal result as I was now team leader. However, in hindsight I vividly see now how my best riding and results have been when I’ve been surrounded by strong(er) teammates (even when I’ve sacrificed my own ambitions for them).
Without having a strong teammate last week; without their presence at the ’business’ end of the race, getting a result was always going to be difficult. Having a present teammate means ‘owning’ a position in the bunch (directly behind and/or to side of them). This is so vital at the Tour of Southland where not just gale force winds but gale force crosswinds create mayhem and a peloton fragments into small groups. Hiding not only behind but also to the side is necessary to benefit from the drafting effect in a crosswind. In this case there is only a finite number of spots across a road to gain shelter.
There are a plethora of other reasons why having teammates present in the front group helps, including chasing your competitors when they ‘attack’; providing a spare wheel if you puncture and drink and food for longer stages. And finally it was for the first reason mentioned that the leader of this tour changed on the final stage just kilometres from the finish when Carter Jones’ (Bissell Pro Cycling) teammates weren’t strong enough/present and New Zealander Mike Northey (Node 4 Subaru) took the win. I can unequivocally say yes – road cycling is a team sport!