YT Mob Log: Entry #1.18
Words by Martin Whiteley // Photos by Isac Paddock
Column Sponsored by Fox
Alright guys, it’s almost that time of year again! World Cup racing is right around the corner and we’re kicking off our second season with exclusive YT Mob Log Presented by FOX. It seemed fitting in this first installment that we ask team owner and legend, Martin Whiteley about his off-season work to prep one of the world’s best teams for 2018 racing. We also asked about some UCI rule changes, race qualifiers and what race he likes best. Read on to learn a bit more of the behind the scenes detail that goes into making your favorite riders go fast.
Ah, the famous “off-season.” Yes it’s true, for the most part, we’re not racing between October and February, but for team owners and team management, this is actually our “on” season. This is when we’re laying plans for the execution of our next season. A smooth and efficient team relies on a massive amount of logistical work. While most of our hotels are booked well over a year in advance, we still need to fine-tune things as we work out our day-by-day plan for Season 2018. Things like, what day everyone arrives on site, what day everyone leaves, syncing up with flights, airport shuttles, rental car drop offs and so on.
I have a myriad of files and check lists I use throughout the off-season for logistic planning. The control panel for my planning is an excel file that shows where each and every team member is on any given day. I can see their flight days, their driving days, their rest days, race weeks and so on. From that, our famous ‘blue sheets’ are created. The blue sheet is essentially what some people call a running sheet – showing the activity plan for every hour of race week. We print them on blue paper so they stand out in our pits and in hotel rooms since we’ve never had blue as a team color on any of our race teams.
Blue sheets get done in December, double-checked by my road manager Paul and evolve until print day since small changes always happen along the way. These two things form the skeleton upon which other checklists are created. These include delivery sheets for all sponsor product and bike build sheets. We create one sheet for every bike to be built, showing all the individual components for each athlete. We have three bike build locations for 2018 so we need those sheets for each bike build manager. There’s also an event booking logistics file, which includes hotels, vehicles, team space bookings and rider entries.
For all this to work, the whole project needs staff, athletes, and partners to pay for it. Contracts need to be renewed with most staff and athletes during our off-season, and most sponsors either need to be renewed, and or new sponsors need to have their contracts created. Payment schedules need to be calculated to ensure income is arriving before expenses need to be paid. Sounds simple, but if you get this wrong you’re screwed. We pride ourselves on never having paid an athlete late, and reputation gets around if you’re a sloppy payer of staff and/or athletes. The excuse of waiting for a sponsor to pay means you didn’t schedule your payments correctly. Build a financial buffer and you won’t ever have that excuse.
Now, we’re in March and the World Cup starts next month. Everything needs to be syncing up for a seamless start to the year, so we can be sure that our athletes, who’ve been hitting the gym and getting the miles in, have all they need to go racing. This off-season has also seen me working on some other projects. Our EU rig, the big Scania we call the Viking, or Sven (because Scania is a Swedish brand), has been a great asset. His motor is very young in truck terms, but the body of the truck, where we have our race office, kitchen, athlete chill-out room and bike storage, has had some water leakage issues. This has resulted in us having to replace the entire right side of the truck. It was a massive undertaking, but Sven looks greats now and I can’t wait to show off the new work to our mechanics when they fly over in April. Later this year we’ll be doing some interior upgrades to our awesome Peterbilt rig in the U.S. too!
We’ve also got a new mechanic joining us this year, Patrick Eckl, who was actually one of the Local Support Crew members last year. He impressed us so much that he was an obvious candidate to come on board as Angel’s dedicated mechanic, while John will continue to work with Aaron and Ben with Neko.
We have some new sponsors too. Kogel Bearings have come on board to supply state of the art wheel bearings and ceramic-bearing bottom brackets. Joe’s No Flats have joined us too, and so has Flat Tire Defender in a more official role this year.
2018 Racing and Rule Changes
For the upcoming season there are a few new rule changes that all of the teams will be adjusting to. Due to alterations in the race timing for the top 60 in the Men’s Elite Final we’ll have a shorter program on Sunday and finish an hour earlier. From a Red Bull TV point of view it doesn’t change much for the viewer, but this along with some other changes is a big deal to us.
The vast majority of spring and summer mountain thunder storms in Europe have happened at or just after 4pm– just when the top riders are hitting the hill. Lourdes and Fort William 2017, Andorra 2016 and too many others to mention here were all altered by rain. The earlier ending also gives the teams time to pack up their rigs before dark. XC races have always finished by 3:30pm, and it makes a big difference for us if we’re still tied up with press and podium commitments after 5pm. It also helps the fans get on the road too, as they often have multi-hour drives home.
With the reduced number of Elite riders will it be harder to get into the final? I think the UCI cops a hard time for this elitist tag, and unfairly so. This is the pinnacle of our sport. It should be tough to race on Sunday. Teams like ours also have development riders who, if they have a bad quali, risk missing out on Sunday. We know that, but it also makes you work harder with these riders to ensure they don’t miss out. Plus, no-one is forgetting about the rest of the field. There needs to be more racing like the iXS Cup and the Pro GRT at a national level. Give the independent riders more races on the calendar where they can improve their race craft, score points and aspire to race Sunday at World Cups. To argue we are not a participation-based sport like EWS is missing the point. We are, but not at the World Cup level. World Cup is a spectator-driven series, much like the pinnacle of motor sports competition. However, like motor sport, events exist at grass roots and national levels that can be as participatory as the tracks can handle!
I often get asked what race I’m most looking forward to, and my smart ass answer is always, “The next one.” Fort William will be my 200th World Cup so I’ve seen my fair share of race venues. Croatia is going to be new and therefore challenging and exciting, but for my staff and me, we always like going to Leogang. It’s a great hotel, has top-notch venue accessibility and our guys tend to do pretty well there!
Bike wise, there’ll be something new for everyone to see in Croatia, and Aaron has been instrumental in this. I can’t say much now, as the official world release will be in Croatia. This makes the first race even more exciting!
Looking forward to the good times.
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