As a one-time track athlete it is tough to acknowledge that cycling will now be the number one Olympic sport and much of that is down to one man, Dave Brailsford, Director of Team GB’s cyclists. The tenet of his philosophy is the “aggregation of marginal gains”, a simple desire to seek tiny improvements in many areas that add up to a significant gain.
It is a philosophy that should apply to the competitive pitch where winning margins are also often by inches and not the proverbial mile and it starts with an attitude, in his case “We are driven by not wanting to lose more than wanting to win. We’re not bad losers, we just hate it.”
For Brailsford selecting the right team and then fostering team spirit was a key. He spent some three years identifying the perfect team to support, protect and deliver Bradley Wiggins to the Yellow jersey,while managing highly competitive egos, like Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome. The resulting teamwork won the day. How often in the business pitch do the egos stumble over each other?
When it came to preparation Brailsford took nothing for granted. Wiggins was already a proven Gold medal cyclist and fit beyond normal doubt. This was not enough and no other team approached the Tour so clinically and this included bringing innovative training regimes from outside cycling, notably the GB swimming team.
It was Brailsford’s ‘aggregation of marginal gains’ that was the platform for success but it was the genius of Bradley Wiggins that delivered. Trying to explain what makes him so special Shane Sutton, his coach, said “he digs deep”. But said the interviewer “don’t all these cyclists dig deep?” A pause, then, “He digs deeper than the rest. When he shoves his hand in the coals of a fire, he holds it there longer!”