Team Jumbo-Visma continues to want to get better every day, even in uncertain times

Team Jumbo-Visma continues to want to get better every day, even in uncertain times

Because of the coronacrisis, Team Jumbo-Visma also had to adjust their daily routine considerably. In conversation with Edward Swier, editor-in-chief of NLCoach, sportive director Merijn Zeeman shines his light on the current situation of the cycling team. “Every day we think about how we can get better, even in a crisis like this.”

Behind the scenes, Team Jumbo-Visma is working hard. “As a team we are in constant contact with each other. I have one call and online meeting after another. As team leaders, as leaders and coaches, we quickly get around the table to decide how we would go about this. To make sure the motivation is high when the competition is resumed.”

The personal development plans of staff and riders have also been reviewed - there’s time for a lot of things at a time like this. “Every rider has a personal development plan, which is regularly discussed with his coach. We drew up those profiles after a personality test at the Joost Leenders Academy of Talents. We first worked with the coaches, and last winter with the riders as well. If you want to get out of this situation stronger, it’s good to use the time and challenge yourself further on a number of points. We make digital groups, go through situations, expect input from the rider himself. The latter is important. In this way you, as a coach, can further strengthen the contact with your rider. This way you understand each other even better.

In the article in NLCoach Zeeman sketches the position of being a coach within a cycling team. “You are the link between the riders, the nutritionist, the specific coaches, the physios, the strength coach. Everything goes through the coach.”

At Team Jumbo-Visma each coach accompanies a number of riders. These choices are partly determined by the personality profiles of the riders and coaches. “That contact, that attention, is important. Of course it’s often about sporting matters, about training, about pain. But in these days, more than ever before, you also ask for personal things. It’s true that many riders find this difficult. Some of them live in Spain or Andorra and can’t take to the streets. They train on their Tacx in the living room or on the balcony. Others have too much time. You have to keep them from spending their days in the saddle all the time. Tony Martin, for example, is having a great time at home, he said. Everyone around him is healthy. He cycles a lot every day. Nice weather. No problem at all. But there are also guys who follow the news online all day and get very restless.”

"If you want to get out of this situation stronger, it’s good to use the time and challenge yourself further on a number of points."

Sportive director Merijn Zeeman

It’s not nice for top athletes, and therefore also for riders of Team Jumbo-Visma, to have to deal with an uncertain situation. “When will the competition resume? How will the team continue? They also hear the stories of other teams where salaries are being cut and where there is a lot of uncertainty. Moreover, and make no mistake, as an athlete it is terribly difficult not to have a goal. That is exhausting. It is difficult to work towards something now, almost impossible to think of goals that are very far away. So let’s take care of the condition of the riders. On the other hand, of course, we as team management are also working on plans, working out scenarios. And in all those plans, the intention is that we will be there when it starts again.”

More than ever the trainers and coaches of Team Jumbo-Visma put the brakes on their riders. Training results have always been analysed in depth, now there is even more monitoring of periodisation, in a restrained way of training. Zeeman says to Swier: “It is of the utmost importance that the immune system remains strong, especially now. Anyone who starts training very hard for three consecutive days is much more susceptible to illness. In particular, long endurance training sessions, with a lot of volume, have an impact on the immune system. Moreover, as a team we also have to look ahead. Suppose at some point we can start racing again, then there will be an adjusted calendar. And the season will probably only last until November. Normally riders at the beginning of September think it’s pretty much over. So it’s important to keep some reserves, in case it all goes on after all.”

Of course these are turbulent times for the other staff as well. “The cycling team has about 130 members of staff, of whom only 27 are riders. Most of them are permanent employees. We don’t have many self-employed staff, or what you call freelancers. There are a number of people with a zero-hours contract. At the moment everyone still receives their salary, and I have high hopes that it will stay that way, but in this situation you can’t give any guarantees. However, I can bring our core values document to the attention of everyone, including our partners who collectively pay those salaries. It says what we, as a team, as a company, consider important. We want us to take care of each other, to be a good employer for our people in all areas. That is leading in this crisis. It gives us the confidence that salaries will continue to be paid in the times ahead.

"We want us to take care of each other, to be a good employer for our people in all areas."

Sportive director Merijn Zeeman

There is now a digital drink every Friday afternoon for all those employees. “If you feel like it, please log in so that we can see each other from time to time and give each other some attention. And since mid-April there is a Group Ride, where we give our riders the opportunity to take a ride together on a digital platform. They can chat in the meantime, so you can create something of a being together.”

Zeeman also gives his riders reading tips. “Well, not all of them. I give them to the guys who are open to them. Tom Dumoulin and Steven Kruijswijk did get some suggestions from me. Those guys want to work hard, but they want to be meaningful. They look for satisfaction, see where there are still opportunities for growth. Zeeman doesn’t come up with pulp or popular reading material. No, his tip: Legacy by James Kerr. The book explains the lessons you can learn from the approach of the All Blacks, the successful New Zealand rugby team. “That book has also helped us as a team to build our knowledge values. When the riders read it, they understand even better what kind of team they are riding in.”

He also puts time into his personal development these days. “Cycling may be my sport, but I follow all sports, all coaches. I try to keep track of what’s going on in top sport, I like to hear from colleagues how they view things. I try to become as good as I can in all possible areas. I want my athletes to strive for that, so I think you should want that too. As Jumbo-Visma we want to become structurally the best team in the world. If you express that ambition, you have to do everything you can. Then you have to think every day how you can become better, even in a crisis like this.”

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