NTT Pro Cycling’s recently appointed Technical Partner Manager, Michael Rogers, is no stranger to cycling fans. As a former three-time world time trial champion and multiple Grand Tour stage-winner, a decorated career saw him ride for the world’s biggest and most successful teams.
To go with the expertise he provides to our team, ‘Mick’ is also a devoted family man and so has drawn on his unique experience to pen his thoughts on the current state that not only cycling finds itself in, but the world at large.
OPINION – There are many lessons we learn from extreme situations. Ordinarily, my introduction to the NTT Pro Cycling community would be about what brings us together, cycling. It’s something beautiful and it bubbles with energy, emotions and memories.
Professional cycling is on pause to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the riders are still training. On bikes in virtual world’s, connected to online platforms that – curiously – engages audiences, as well as participants, in a new-world era of sport.
When I was chasing world championship medals and doing all I could to succeed in races like the Tour de France, I thought of nothing else. Cycling was my world and nothing else mattered.
I’ve grown up in cycling and although I understand why I felt this way then, I see it with a different perspective now. The pandemic has stopped a lot of what we know to be normal, but we humans adjust quickly. No one has the answer to the great: what-comes-next? But I’m doing my best to continue to be positive as I navigate my way through this extreme situation.
My family has been at home since mid-February. My three young daughters do their schooling online, and I stay in touch with people around the globe, as everyone is doing; conference calling has come of age and, within weeks, it’s clear that our kids aren’t missing too much of their education. And me, at work at home? I’ve never been busier.
We all have our stories. Many of us are confined. Many are confused. Many are concerned. We’re all looking for solutions. And, I know we are becoming more united – in my new role at NTT Pro Cycling, it’s obvious, but I also hope that unity is gaining momentum elsewhere, in our communities, cities and countries.
It is easy to feel lost when you’re isolated. And hope vanishes even faster when goals have been taken away or ambitions supressed. To use a sporting analogy, where’s the motivation in doing the extreme work required to be ready to compete? Without an objective, it’s logical to feel confused.
But I’ve seen my family in action, even while they need to be more idle than they’d like. I’ve seen them find a way to keep moving, to stay healthy, to exercise and keep learning. It can be difficult but there are also huge rewards.
In the professional realm, I’ve engaged with my colleagues and felt part of a community that, thanks to logical adaptation through technology, is even more united than before. Perhaps because of the commonality of the broader issue that limits our movement, we are even more connected. Distance separates us but the problem brings us closer together, emotionally.
I learned things about life when I raced my bike. Some of these lessons served me well in the years since I stopped competing. I understand the value of teamwork, good communication, and physical toil; if you combine these elements with some clever thinking, good support, attention to detail – and maybe a hint of luck for good measure – you move mountains.
Great. That’s fantastic, but then what?
Again: without an objective, it’s logical to feel confused.
It was cycling that paid my wages for over 20 years. Then I stopped racing and it would have been easy to get confused.
For so long, the goal was to go from one line to the next. That’s it: start, finish. Job done. Next race.
Under the shadow of something like the novel coronavirus that has changed the world in a few short, dramatic months – something that truly requires teamwork, good communication and enormous emotional, physical and even spiritual toil to overcome – it’s easy to feel lost, aimless, lacking objective, and craving a goal.
But it’s also possible to feel inspired and capable and proud. How do I know? Because I’ve been lucky enough to have seen my family for a couple of months, and observe their resilience, watch them grow, listen to their arguments or join them in debates. This is a positive from a negative. And it’s enormously valuable to remember that it’s an experience we’re all going through, so you’re not lost or isolated because everyone is doing the same.
We may not move around like we did before but, at the end of each day, I look up to see the stars shine brighter than I remember them to be. And that’s not all I’m seeing differently.
At home and at work, I’m fulfilled. I’m not lost and there is a goal.
Cycling is on a pause, but at NTT Pro Cycling team we’re using this time to prepare, to better understand each other and find new ways of improving performance. We listen, we speak, we learn. I believe they are core elements of unity.
Personally I consider myself fortunate: I’ve learnt from my wife and children that the real goal in life is to experience what is right before us, to savour it, to understand that when we have unity, we are collectively stronger, and we go longer and faster than anyone of us could alone.
I have a new job now. I’m part of the NTT Pro Cycling team. There is a chance for me to pass on the knowledge I’ve acquired from my years in professional cycling, racing with some of the best athletes on the planet, in all manner of conditions – with lofty highs and dreadful, soul-destroying lows.
I’ve decided to look forwards. There might not be a wheel ahead of me – or even a road at the moment, but I’m confident that there’s a slipstream on offer. I might not see a team with the same perspective as in my previous profession, but I know it’s there with me during this ride. And it’s nice to feel united.