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Dan Waluszewski: Being part of a NZ trade team
Aug 27th, 12. NZ rider Dan Waluszewski talks through the expectations, responsibilities and benefits of being part of a New Zealand trade team.
Waluszewski is a 26 year old Wellington based elite rider who has raced with NZ Trade Team Mico Protrain since its inception in 2009. He represented New Zealand in 2006, 2007 and 2010 and won a stage at Tahiti's Tour de L'Amitie racing in NZ colours.
The bronze medallist in this year's NZ Club Championship Open Men's TT race is currently off the bike with his leg in a cast thanks to a non-cycling accident.
Over a coffee catchup with RoadCycling.co.nz last week he kindly offered to write an article sharing his views on what it is like racing for a New Zealand Trade Team.
Being part of a NZ trade team
By Dan Waluszewski
What is a trade team
A NZ trade Team is a licensed cycling team that pays BikeNZ a fee at the beginning of the year to allow riders on the team to wear the team jersey at all races throughout NZ.
If you are not part of a NZ Trade Team you cannot wear your local bike shop's colours at races such as the Elite and Club Nationals.
Funded by sponsors - a two way relationship
Trade Teams only exist in NZ because local businesses are interested in promoting their brand throughout the cycling community locally and nationwide.
When you wear a sponsor's jersey you are entering into a partnership.
It is not all about riders putting their hands out and receiving all the free stuff, it is about a sense of belonging and pride and presenting yourself in a professional manner so that the sponsor gets value for the money they have invested into the sport.
Without the sponsors investing money we would have no teams and no quality bike races.
Once the funding has been approved, which I might add is not an easy task, a team is formed of riders throughout NZ. Each NZ Trade Teams budget varies from one another.
Selecting riders for the team - personality not just results
On Mico Protrain, Richard Aitken and Steve Elden select riders for the team not based on talent alone, but on personality and what each rider has to offer the team.
Results are important because you have to be able to do your job within the team but personality is also important because you have to be able to work with other riders on the squad.
A team is as strong as its weakest link.
When times are tough it is important that everyone on a team gets on so they can help one other get through the tough times.
Whether it is going back and collecting drink bottles from the team car or giving the sprinter in the team a push up and over the last climb so they can contest the finish or make the time cut. (I need a lot of pushes up the climbs)
The best way to describe wearing the Mico Protrain jersey is racing a bike with mates and having a lot of fun. If we win that's great but we also enjoy riding with one another helping each other achieve success.
Giving back to sponsors
When the bike racing is done for the day, depending on the results, local or national media require interviews. This is a great opportunity to repay the sponsors and thank the efforts of your team mates in a public arena.
Giving your sponsors publicity is worth its weight in gold and I can assure you sponsors are quicker to notice the things you don't do before the things you do.
A little appreciation and thanks goes a long way.
Behind the scenes
Once the bike racing and media obligations are completed team managers and helpers assist the riders with packing up all their kit and making sure all the riders are fed and warm before travelling back to either airport or to a hotel where it will be all done again the next day.
A sense of purpose and belonging - teammates and fans
As a rider on a trade team you have a lot of things to worry about and to consider.
The first thing would be putting on the kit and fronting up on the grid. When you are part of a NZ Trade Team, whether it be Subway Pro Cycling, Pure Black Racing, Benchmark Homes or Mico Protrain there is pressure to perform.
The pressure comes from the media, members of the public, friends and family, everyone wants to win.
Each team has their loyal fans who expect a lot from their riders.
There is nothing quite like suffering up a climb and having loyal supporters dressed in a team jersey running alongside you encouraging you to get back onto the group you have just been dropped from or yelling encouragement at you because you are putting other riders under pressure.
Another great example of this is the Elite Nationals in Christchuch. This has an amazing atmosphere on the dreaded Dyers Pass, each lap you look forward to the encouragement you get, it really helps. Trust me, being a sprinter you will take anything you can get to get over the climbs when the skinny climbers are puting the hurt on at the front.
Overall - camaraderie wins the day
But overall the best part about being a part of Mico Protrain or any other NZ Trade Team would be the camaraderie within the team and the memories of both achievement and disappointment that we all experience from doing the thing we all love, racing our bikes.
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