Whether it’s Cadel Evans winning the maillot jaune (yellow jersey) in last year’s Tour de France, or the endless array of gear to buy and upgrade, cycling in Australia is experiencing a surge in popularity that can only be good for the sport and the workplace, say business professionals entrenched in the local scene.
Sean Tully is deputy general counsel at food manufacturer Goodman Fielder in Sydney. He’s also done three Hawaii Ironman Triathlons, the gut-wrenching pinnacle of his sport, and is on track to qualify for his fourth later this year. For the uninitiated, an ironman triathlon comprises a 3.8km swim, a 180km ride and a 42km run a real marathon, and that’s just the run leg.
Training partner and friend John O’Leary is a recruitment consultant at international finance and accounting recruiter Robert Half. He’s aiming to qualify for his second Hawaii Ironman later this year, which shouldn’t be too hard given he’s already gone the distance 10 times.
Both have noticed an “explosion in popularity” since Evans’ win. “Our network of friends has increased,” O’Leary says. “It’s quite a contagious sport because it’s quite social as well.”
You find yourself getting more done at work, because you want to finish at 6pm so you can fit in your ride. Sean Tully, Goodman Fielder
They ride for the health benefits, the thrill of competition and the break it gives them from work.
“Often it’s that complete break you need,” Tully says. “When you’re back at work, you’ve done something for yourself. You’re refreshed, your day hasn’t been 100 per cent all about work. I also find going by on a long ride you can get some clarity you can work through things you wouldn’t be able to do at your desk answering phones and emails.
“It’s also a self-esteem thing. You’re fit, you feel good about yourself, you feel healthy, you feel like you’ve got good energy levels and that builds confidence, and that confidence translates to work.”
Paul Peters, business development leader, government, at Ernst & Young in Sydney, says he’s been riding for 30 years for three reasons it helps minimise work-related stress, he’s “into all the gear” and because he has always wanted to avoid poor health as he aged.
“I’ve had a gym-type set-up in my house since my children were born [28 years ago] and I now own four bikes,” Peters says. “There’s a big payback [in the office] in general alertness. If I miss my rides for even a week, I start to feel grumpy.”
Says Tully: “If we want to get our downtime in, we have to create it. You find yourself getting more done at work, because you want to finish at 6pm so you can fit in your ride.”
O’Leary says his sport opens doors for him. It has an upside in the office, too.
“You’re organised, you’re planned,” he says. “I thrive on the structure, knowing where I’m going to be at what time. I know I’m going to be on a run at a certain time, so I can’t be faffing about at work talking to mates, I have to get my head down. I thrive on being competitive.”
Peters says one of the best benefits to his professional life from cycling is the discipline. “I get up two to three times a week at 4.20am. I’ve been doing one particular pack ride on and off now for 20 years.”
Downtime dreaming became a reality late last year when Tully and O’Leary were asked to join a charity ride for Evans in Sydney, an event organised by Peters’ firm.
“We sat here last July until 3am, watching that guy [Evans] do the Tour de France and if you had said to us then that we’d ride 70km with him …,” O’Leary muses. “He’s a really good guy. I had to sit on his wheel and make sure no one hit his bike. It was an awesome day.”
“Cadel was really down to earth,” says Peters, clearly delighted that he managed to ride with Evans in the lead for a few kilometres.
Gear up, ride on
Sean Tully and John O’Leary say cycling is an expensive sport, but it’s much more affordable than when they started.
“You can get away with A$1500 for an entry-level carbon fibre bike,” Tully says.
“Then there’s the accessories that go with it,” O’Leary notes.
“You could spend anywhere from A$500 to A$800 on your shoes, helmet, bike computer, clothes and bottles.”
A top-end bike, encompassing the latest technology like Shimano’s Dura-Ace Di2 electronic gear shifters, will set you back closer to A$18,000.
The athletes each have at least two bikes a road bike for training and a triathlon bike for competition.
Tully has a Pinarello Dogma “as good as it gets”, says O’Leary plus an Argon 18 time-trial bike.
O’Leary rides a Trek, the same brand used by Spaniard Alberto Contador when he won the Tour de France in 2010 (Contador was later stripped of the title for doping).
His newest bike, just six weeks’ old, is a lesser-known German Storck Aero 2, complete with electronic shifters.
Peters owns four bikes and his 18-month-old Colnago M10 is his favourite. For now.