why some runners are so devoted to their leader

At the top of Peyragudes, Fabio Jakobsen collapses under the gaze of his colleagues. The Dutchman crossed the line at least 16 seconds ahead of the time limit on Wednesday 20 July. In this Tour de France, the sprinter crashes against every slope that is offered to him, and he has to ask himself every evening on his pillow what is the point of continuing.

But he persists, and narrowly crosses the finish line every day, harangued by his colleagues. The latter have no other mission than to take him to the next stage, even if it means failing. For a long time it is no longer about personal ambitions for them.

However, some within the team could legitimately imagine winning a stage in this Tour. But they accept their fate, with pleasure. Within the peloton, riders capable of winning prefer to throw themselves body and soul into the service of a leader. This is the case of Daniel Oss, the guardian angel of one Peter Sagan since his first professional years at Liquigas in 2010.”One day Peter Sagan arrived and I understood that he would become a huge champion. It’s great to be by his side during my cycling life, because he gave me the option to be part of something bigger.”reveals the Slovakian’s partner in TotalEnergies.

The arrival in a team of a driver with a rare talent forces everyone to think about their position and make decisions: accept or leave. “There will always be a guy who will have better intrinsic abilities than yours. Putting yourself in the service of a leader is great. We don’t ask you for his requirements, but instead you stick with him all the time”explains our consultant Yoann Offredo. “I won a lot when I was young. After a few years, you understand your place, what you can achieve or not”continues Daniel Oss, who left this 109th edition after hitting a spectator on the pavement.

Some drivers, such as the world champion Michal Kwiatkowski, who became mainly a lieutenant with Ineos Grenadiers, Michael Morkov, the racing car thrower with Quick-Step, or the Belgian Dries Devenyns, who even refused out of friendship to competing against Julian Alaphilippe in the world championships, are other examples of this much-loved notion of dedication to cycling.

Dries Devenyns and Julian Alaphilippe after their victory in the 1st stage of the Tour de France 2021. (THOMAS SAMSON / PISCINA)

In this career path, how to choose the alpha runner to pamper? It all starts with the clear impression. “It is important to have a charismatic leader, who recognizes the work of team members”explains Yoann Offredo, followed by Maxime Bouet, ex-leader who became Nairo Quintana’s partner at Arkéa-Samsic. “There’s something about Nairo that’s a bit magical. You’re around him and you feel a certain aura”he told the climber on the set of the France Télévisions program “Vélo club” on Saturday.

“Peter Sagan is the most charismatic driver in the peloton. There’s one thing I love about him: he’s not a liar, he doesn’t play any part. Sometimes he’s funny, sometimes he’s crazy, but he’s always professional.”

Daniel Oss, TotalEnergies broker

in franceinfo: sport

For this dedication to last, recognition from the leader is essential for these shadow men essential to any victory. “You have to have a leader who can stand out to his peers. They do it in interviews, but also financially, with the distribution of bonuses. Often the guardian angel dwells with their leader, so there is a link that we share everything except the podium”Offred explains.

Often the last to accompany Peter Sagan in the sprints, Daniel Oss savors the bouquets of his sprinter every time with 121 professional victories. “We suffer at the same time, it’s hard to win races, to get the job done. When I see him win, it’s like it’s me!”, says who has protected the Slovak for eight of his 14 professional years. But being a good leader is not given to everyone. Talent and wins aren’t everything.

“You have leaders, they do shit, they don’t know how to do it. And besides, they don’t last in time. While the guys who manage to federate around them, who come to motivate the troops, it’s very important.”

Yoann Offredo, former runner

in franceinfo: sport

The former adventurer of the Française des jeux (FDJ) recalls an anecdote that illustrates the concept. “When Marc Madiot [le manager] he gives us our contract at the FDJ during his briefing earlier this year, there is hay with two donkeys: one pulls it to one side, the other to the other side. Then we put the two donkeys on the same side, we get together and manage to return the hay to our side”. Offredo recalls. “Cycling is exactly that: we have to pull from the same side. The idea is above all to shine the team and the sponsors who give us money to live from our profession”, the consultant remembers.

Peter Sagan (left) and Daniel Oss congratulate each other during the Giro d'Italia 2021. (FABIO FERRARI / PISCINA)

No frustration then? Really? They all see their place as an opportunity rather than a demotion. It signifies that dedication is not an empty word for those who give their all for one’s glory. “It is not difficult to sacrifice my ambitions for Sagan. Of course, if the opportunity arises, I can get results. But in the big races, Peter is Peter. He is a winner, he deserves to be “to have the best team to win . . Today it is very difficult to win, we have to put all the help available for a specific goal. But only one can win. And that person is Peter.”developed by Daniel Oss.

No remorse for Maxime Bouet either. “It really gives me great pleasure to be a teammate of great champions, like Warren [Barguil]to be born [Bouhanni]Nairobi [Quintana]Julian [Alaphilippe] where [Michal] Kwiatkowski. It is mental strength to become a member of a team and work on yourself. I’m getting old and coming off the bottle, I don’t have the ability to win a really big event anymore but I know I can bring other things to the group”analyzes the corridor of the Breton formation.

At 35, Maxime Bouet is the archetypal fellow model.  Arriving in Arkéa-Samsic in 2017, he talks about his daily life alongside his leaders Nairo Quintana and Warren Barguil.  The Frenchman in particular says driving with a broken rib from Denmark.

The bond between a leader and their guardian angel may be such that separation makes them understand the need for each other. “At Bora-Hansgrohe in 2018, Peter wanted me with him along with Maciej Bodnar and his brother Juraj. not only during the races, but also in life”smiles the Italian Daniel Oss. “Being a good team player is better than being a bad leader”, summed up Laurent Jalabert on Saturday in the program “Vélo club”. Many pilots in the peloton have integrated the idea, but some have even made a priesthood out of it.

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