Friday, June 6, 2014

Cannondale HQ

Cannondale HQ

Here is a little piece I prepared many moths ago and forgot to post. It's a rundown of my time visiting the team behind the team behind the team in bethal Connecticut in October. 

With the 2013 racing season wrapped it's time for a little rest and relaxation. Well at least that was what I had planned on. I decided to start my off season vacation with a trip to New York to see some friends and also check out Cannondale HQ in bethel conneticuit  for a few days. I now know why they say it's the city that never sleeps! Surfice to say after a week there I feel exactly as the city feels! I had never stop of in that part of the world before and thanks to my friends and the cannondale clan in bethel I certainly had a jam packed day/night schedule for the 5 days I was in town.

Throughout the season we get the opportunity to meet the odd representative from cannondale at races around the globe. This is fantastic but when I went to the cannondale event in park city back in June I learnt there is an extremely dedicated passionate team of people working full gas back in Bethel ensuring that we are able to have such an awesome cycling team to ride for. There are so many details that us as riders take for granted that goes on behind the scenes before we get to through our legs over a Cannondale rocket ship. Things like the bike research development and design, the paint scheme, marketing and image of the team, tour groups that visit us during races, and to the way the team uses social media to ensure as many people as possible know as much about whats going on the team as possible. This is crucially important for our team being Italian at it's roots but becoming increasingly international every season, we have a very large demographic of fan base that need to be kept informed of what's going. To be able to witness how much work is going into all these things on a daily basis was a big wake up call for me. 

As a rider it's so easy to just role along and enjoy the spoils of being a professional athlete, you seem to be in an environment where everything simply just happens!  Personally did not appreciate enough just how much work goes on behind the scenes at Cannondale HQ to ensure that our team runs so smoothly with so much success. Also I often wonder if those who work for cannondale in the offices even have much interest in what is going on in the team. Its and American company after all and therefore dominated by football, baseball, hockey, and Basketball, do the staff really have any interest in cycling?? Absolutely there is nothing that goes on in the team and indeed the sport that all the staff at Cannondale HQ don't know about. They are super passionate about the sport and the team and therefore my trip to bethel gave me a greater understanding of why we have such incredible support from our major sponsor cannondale on all fronts. They will simply do whatever they can to ensure our wheels role as smoothly and successfully as possible.

In all honesty I had such an incredibly enjoyable time in park city earlier in the year with the cannondale clan that I had a pretty strong hunch that visiting HQ would be no different. Like in Park city Jonathan Gerran was my tour guide, the man it turns out that was in charge of ensuring we crammed as much into those few days as possible! As soon as we pulled into the parking lot I knew it was going to be a fun few days. All the cars in the lot had bike racks or ski racks on the roof and basically looked equipped for having a fun active lifestyle. Once I set foot inside the building those observations from the car park were confirmed, the place was a party house. Plenty of noise, laughter and people genuinely having fun doing what they were doing. I immediately thought that one day when I hang up the bike this is exactly the place I would like to work. So once inside it was time for a tour of the office. This would last a few hours!

The office is a very open space with booths and cubicles all over the place. As such if someone is being a little noisy then pretty quickly everybody knows or is hearing about it. I have a pretty load voice and I have been told it travels a fair distance on more than one occasion so I don't think it took long for entire office to know I had come to visit. I got see to all the familiar faces I had had such a great time with at park city and catch up on what had been going on since then. Everybody was naturally interested in the ins and outs of what's happening in the team and being someone that loves talking I was more than happy to answer every question that was fired my way. This was certainly an office filled with smiling faces and as I had already felt when I drove into the car park one that would be awesome to be apart of. I decided there and then for the next few days I was going to enjoy doing as many things as possible in the office over the following couple of days. I wanted to understand as much as possible how things happen at cannondale HQ and learn from as many staff as were happy to have me crash there desk space throughout the day. So with the tour done and dusted it was time to get to work and build up a prototype synapse road bike that would be my weapon of choice for a couple of rides checking out the sights of bethel.

Day 1 had given me the chance to meet and greet and catch up with everyone. Also the chance to learn the layout of the office and also set out some appointments with those whom wanted to have a bit of a chin wag with me. So with that said I hit office running on day 2. 

My first objective was to choose my desk! Fortunately the one I wanted happened to belong to Big Peter who was conveniently in Italy for a couple of days. All booths have wheely chairs and I quickly learnt have crucial they are as everyone is constantly scooting around all over the office. Infact it is a great way of getting about in thte office as if your looking for someone and there chair is not at there desk you know they are no more than a desk chair scoot away!

When you enter the office from the staff car park you are greeted by a giant blackboard. On it is all sorts of info regarding what's going at cannondale and GT (GT also share the same office building). Be it MTB, CycloCross, BMX or Road Bikes, if cannondale or GT are involved wherever in the world the blackboard keeps the staff updated as soon a study enter the building. This was the first realization that the staff definitely take a huge interest in what we are up to and no doubt when its littered with success's which it seems to be, it give the staff a real sense of satisfaction knowing the part they have played in the rider or team achieving the result. Basically the bike we through our leg over has literally had 100's of people's ideas and hard labor involved in its creation so to hear the excitement in the staff's voices when discussing the respective teams success's was so cool to hear. Aside from the blackboard there are pictures everywhere of everything involved with the team so it would come as no surprise that not only are all staff members updated with all that is happening across the disciplines but also have a real genuine interest in what we are up to in all corners of the globe.

I have always feared the prospect of having a full day in an office but not surprisingly this one went by in a flash. The morning was taken up with a few meetings  with various departments within the office and gave me a chance to get to know better those more directly involved with the team. These were all very intriguing and with my nature of talking to much every single meeting went way overtime and it was lunchtime before I knew it! Lucky cannondale don't pay me by the hour!

The afternoon was set aside for a little bit of a ride and a bit of fun. It's a little chilly at that time of the year in connecticut so I was impressed that anyone was keen to venture outside in the 5 degree's to pedal with me! Anyways as always happens with an enthusiastic group we had a great little ride and in the fun and games spirit of cannondale the ride culminated in a little race! I knew that I am flat out sprinting my way out of a paper bag at the best of times so once I was a ware of the finish location i decided to attack everyone a couple of km's before and hope to hang on and avoid embarrassment! Fortunately my plan worked and they will never know that many of the staff members would have well and truly given me an absolute flogging in the sprint! 

Once back in the office it was time for a bit of fun. The staff were very complimentary of my attack and seemed to enjoy trying to chase me. They said they could not really comprehend how we can open the gas so much when required!! Well I guess we dedicate our lives to the sport so we should be good at it just like anyone is relatively better at there job than someone from another field. I came up with an idea that I should try and do one of there jobs. One of the sales guys was particularly interested wanting to know how much power I was pushing when I attacked and how long I sustained it for. Therefore I decided I would have a crack at his job and show him how difficult it was for me to get m point across. We can't be good at everything unfortunately! So on the phone I went still fully kitted up and the phone headset safely tucked under my helmet. Suffice to say the way a video camera summoned to document me making a fool of myself. Sure enough I had no idea what I was doing or what I was talking about, I was inventing parts that don't exist and definitely was not taking an order for extra bikes! My point had been made, the staff at cannondale do an amazing job in there roles and it would be best if I stuck to racing the bike and trying to do a good job of that! By days end I was totally spent, it had been full gas and gone by in the blink of an eye so m first ever full day in an office didn't turn out to be as scary as first thought!

Day 3 was an exciting day for many reason. Firstly it was Friday so the weekend was just about upon us. Secondly it was the day when all the staff would be loaded onto buses to go and check out the new offices being built about 20km away. And finally Friday mornings is bagels for breaky day! I love bagels! It was decided that being the new by in the office I would be on toasting and speeding cream cheese duty. So one by one the staff rolled in and I took there orders of type of bagel and type of cream cheese to spread ontop. I was literally up to my eye balls in bagels and cream cheese for a couple of hours so the staff enjoyed watching me keep up with the frantic toasting and spreading required to keep everyone happy. It's important I think in any new job to earn your strips and I have found when I have been in new environments that it's best to do this by showing your happy be starting at the bottom. No body likes an upstart so I think it was a absolute genius masterstroke by PR to put me on bagel duty as everyone certainly approached me in more of a normal manner than cam the cyclist! This attitude toward each other in the office is certainly very evident as in reality you would have no idea of the rank of individuals as you role around the offices in bethel. Everybody are simply cycling sports group employees in cool trendy casual clothes. Its really nice to not feel intimidated by anyone and only enhances the great environment in the company. Was another interesting little exercise and one I obviously greatly enjoyed. 

With everyone's tummy's full it was time for me to taste test the 6 different varieties of bagels and cream cheese for myself. After this feast I don't remember being hungry for a week but was definitely worth it and I made sure I washed it all down with a massive cup of American coffee, I wanted to have the whole experience. So my tummy now full was time for a little more fun with the video camera. After making a fool of myself as part of the sales team it was decided that I tackle a few more tasks with the video camera in hand.  Was starting to realize seeing me make a fool of myself was something everybody was enjoying seeing. Next up was the tour of the new offices.

We all boarded the bus and it's was seriously like a bunch of school kids going on a school excursion. The naughty ones were up the back and the sensible ones at the front, with the exception of me that is. I was peer pressured into being a back seat bully and distributing the contraband beverages that had been smuggled onboard. Not surprisingly we all arrived in high spirits and were shown the ins and outs of the new state of the art offices. Naturally the theme of the already vibrant office in bethel was being maintained with some tweaks and moderness thrown in. The basis of the office was again interaction between different departments and all questions regarding space usage seemed to directed in the way. Pretty nice to here questions being asked about ensuring the interaction between employees is as simply as possible in an office, much better than the contrary! But after almost 3 days hanging out with the cycling sports group I was hardly surprised, it was truly an environment that I never imagined could exist in a office work place. With the tour done and dusted we were bundled back onto the bus were the usual de brief of such an exercise takes place like, PR has more natural light than us, and marketing is closer to the coffee machine! All fun and games but was obvious that everyone was excited about the impending move to the new facility.

Back in the office and being Friday early afternoon was decided by Bob Burbank that work could be abandoned and we could all go for a ride followed by traditional Friday Arvo beverages. Again it was freezing so to stay warm it was decided that was just race each other here there and everywhere. Fortunately I managed to play my bluff game again perfectly and survived the final obstacle of saving face as a cyclist in the eyes of the team behind our team. Once back in the office teamwork was taken to a level I had never witnessed before. When I had my first tour of the office 2 days before I had spotted a snow ski Cannondale'd up and bindingless. I had inquired as to it's function and was simply told it was the shot ski and I would be shown how it works when the time was right. Well mr Burbank decided upon returning from the ride that it was to introduce me to the "shot ski".

The shot ski as I said has no bindings. The blank ski is instead fitted with 5 pieces of velcrow around the size of a gambling chip. The accessories to the shot shit are you guessed it, shot glasses also with a piece of velcrow on the bottom. This instrument was another fine example that the office always works as a team! In this case 5 employees line up holding the ski level and on the count of 3 have to simultaneously raise the ski and subsequently the shot glass into your mouth. No room for backing out, once you pick up the ski your committed to enjoy the shot with your colleagues. Naturally it does not take long for everyone to be in a very jolly mood and the working week is finished of in fine style. For me was another amazing and perfect way to wrap up my time in the bethel offices to see even in enjoying themselves the cycling sports group ensure they do it all together. Was certainly the most amazing few days in an office I could ever dream of having so will keep all my fingers and toes crossed that should I one day switch my office from the outdoors to the indoors it has an environment just like the cycling sports group in bethel Connecticut.

So a amazing few days regrettably had to come to an end. I guess when I arrived in bethel a few days earlier I had expected to enjoy myself but certainly not as much as I did. Not only that had no idea that a company could make a work environment so motivating and energetic to be in. I think it was an important visit for me to make as it gave me an even greater appreciation for what everyone at cannondale does on a daily basis to ensure that all the bills of the team get paid and Roberto amadio and his men can continue to run out hugely successful cycling team. To witness the passion and dedication of all the staff in bethel and to know how interested they are in what we get up to and how excited they are about our successes was hugely motivating for me as a rider. There is never no "I" in team and my few days at cannondale HQ certainly must me appreciate so much just how important all those back there in bethel are to the road show that is the "Cannondale Pro Cycling Team".