For all the popularity of sports teams, at least in the states, cycling is not particularly prevalent. It seems that generally people who are interested in following professional cycling are some form of cyclist themselves. Like other sports, generally referring to a professional cyclist also includes mention of the team they belong to. But what is a team really in a sport like cycling?
The only truly dynamic form of a cycling team takes place in road racing. Road racing teams have an actual race time function. Riders have specified roles that are crucial in delivering the climber to the climb, the sprinter to the finish and providing the pivotal racers with preserving energy or acquiring food. Team presence has effects on other riders and tactics are often dependent of the strength of collective team members.
But aside from road racing, teams are abundant in the cycling community of endurance and gravity mountain bike and cyclocross racing from the professional to the regional and local levels. With no true purpose during the competition, these teams function more to serve the sponsors and athletes.
On the professional end, the support system a team provides plays an important roll, from deciding on types of equipment for particular race conditions to having a team area to warm up in and a crew present during the race to help swap and repair bikes in case of mechanical issues.
A local and regional team generally requires a buy in of some sort, usually in the form of clothing or a sponsor’s brand of bicycle. Members get discounts on product and in return get to experience comradery and belonging. While minimal, to amateur racers this can be the difference in confidence and a better result.
While I have been a member of a cycling team for over ten years, I have always viewed myself as an individual athlete. There comes a point however as I become increasingly competitive that I realize I couldn’t be doing this without a team.