Team Tactics at the Tour de France

July 25, 2009 Max Isaac

As I write this, the riders in the Tour de France cycling race are climbing the last big mountain of the race: Mont Ventoux.

There has been a very interesting team dynamic within the Astana team.  The team has two contenders for the overall race winner: Lance Armstrong, and Alberto Contador.

These two cyclists (and the rivalry between them) have been in the news throughout the Tour, as it is quite unusual for one team to have two potential winners.  The team manager, Johan Bruyneel, has had a difficult job in managing the team’s overall goal: are they riding to support Armstrong or Contador?

This situation has created team conflict: without a single goal the team became split between supporting two different riders.  This split could have decreased the overall effectiveness of the team, and therefore decreased both Armstrong’s and Contador’s chance of winning.  The Astana team wasted a lot of energy talking about team dynamics during both internal meetings and interviews with the media.  This would have been the ideal opportunity for Bruyneel to show his leadership skills and provide a direction for the team through a unified goal (it is usually strong examples of two Belbin Team RolesShapers and Co-ordinators – who do this for the team).

However, as we can see on this penultimate day of the Tour, both Armstrong and Contador seem set to finish on the podium.   The team is likely to end up with the result they desired, but it could have been accomplished with an emphasis on team effectiveness that would have led them to team success, not individual achievement.

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