Steps in professional cycling: Engaging staff

Theo Maucher

We are often asked how we will go about starting the pro team. Theo Maucher, one of the founders of BEAT who has a wealth of experience in professional cycling, will address these issues in his blog series. Today we would like to explain the procedure of engaging staff.

A tremendous share of the success of a cycling team is due to the experience of the staff members and the quality of their work. Most staff members work in the background, unknown to the public, with only the race coaches getting a bit of publicity alongside the riders.

The bigger the team, the higher the ratio of staff members to riders. In WorldTour teams there are usually two staff members per rider, while in some smaller Pro Continental teams, one staff member has to look after two riders. Staff budgets are often cut in favor of riders’ budgets. Road cycling is a team sport, and while only one rider achieves the result for the team, the other riders are indirectly involved, as are all the staff members too. 

A clean and problem-free bike allows a rider to save some watts during a race, while a balanced diet, a structured training and race schedule, minimized travel time, and other factors also contribute to performance. However, these are broad topics, and the team has to break each of them down into smaller steps to reach the level of marginal gains. At this level it’s mainly trial and error to figure out what’s a positive contribution to the team and what’s a waste of time or money.

The basic setup of a professional team consists of race coaches, trainers, mechanics, soigneurs, physiotherapists, physicians, drivers, chefs, a logistics manager and a warehouse coordinator. These well-known staff members are becoming more and more qualified and are becoming specialists in their field. In former times having a history in the sport was sufficient, but nowadays a professional education is required. For physicians or physiotherapists this has always been the case, but now a race coach also needs the right qualifications. As a result, teams often start with further education programs especially for the more entry-level staff positions.

As a team progresses through the ranks, a steadily growing army of experts joins the basic staff set-up, many starting as freelancers before becoming full-time staff members. Bike fitters, aerodynamics and bike engineers, nutritionists, psychologists, data analysts, various paramedical support staff – the list can be long.

And that’s only the primary support staff, without considering the marketing and media departments. Sports, marketing and media are converging, resulting in new positions like sponsor liaison or rider liaison.

This is how cycling teams are currently organized. With BEAT, we want to take it a step further.

The BEAT professional team will consist of two groups of riders and staff with different areas of focus: one group of classics/cobblestone riders and another group of climbers / stage race riders, each with their specialized staff. Each of these parallel groups will be composed of two to four experienced riders and six to eight young talents, with the goal being to develop success from a solid base in BEAT style. And it’s not only the rider who will be developed according to his talents but also the staff members who are dedicated to their field and aim to become experts. In this way we will provide better and wider support to the riders, for maximum improvement.

The whole team will still race as a unit at major races, but the two groups will have different training sessions in different areas during the season, and different race programs with different bike setups and specialized staff. With the focused work of each group, the outcome will be better.

We will treat staff members and riders equally, with the same amount of dedication and with the same possibilities to improve and succeed.

BEAT pro team staff members will have additional tasks related to the club members. They will become a major link to the club in transferring know-how from the professional team to BEAT Cycling Club members. Bike clinics and knowledge and experience transfer sessions will make professional wisdom available to the members to help them reach their individual goals and improve as cyclists.