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Professional cycling is a continual rotation of innovation where the smart use of technology and information helps firms develop better bikes for both racers and consumers.
Luca Guercilena, general manager at racing team Trek-Segafredo, says his organisation is using systems and services to collaborate and gain a competitive advantage on its rivals. Trek is a major cycling manufacturer and took its own ProTeam racing licence from the world governing body Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) in 2014.
“As a team – and as a bike company – innovation is the base of our business,” Guercilena told Computer Weekly in Madrid ahead of the final stage of La Vuelta in Spain, one of professional cycling’s three Grand Tours, alongside the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. “Innovation is what makes us great. We can produce two new bike models each year and we invest a huge amount of money in new materials.”
Professional cycling provides the perfect arena from which to craft these high-quality products. New ideas, including for materials and designs, are refined and perfected in the sporting environment. Amateur cyclists can watch the developments take place in the Trek-Segafredo racing team during the racing season and then take advantage as the benefits filter down to consumers.
“The rider is the first tester of our equipment,” says Guercilena. “Going for a professional racing team was a huge part of the development of the wider Trek business – it provides us with a new level of innovation that we can then pass on to customers. Our attention to detail in sport helps us produce higher-quality bikes for our clients.”
And technology plays a crucial role in this innovation process, says Guercilena. Trek-Segafredo signed a partnership with CA Technologies in 2016 to help optimise team performance. Guercilena says the relationship is already delivering business benefits, so much so that the contract was recently extended to 2019.
“Through CA, we are changing the team model,” he says. “The sport is fully committed to using technology and our partnership is helping us, as a team, to get better and faster. The more we share information, the more likely we are to win races.”
Trek-Segafredo is using two key systems. CA Flowdock is a secure collaboration application that allows everyone in the organisation to share information in real time. CA Project and Portfolio Management builds on top of that platform and enables the firm to hone its strategic use of resources.
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The team uses this combination of technologies to track budgets, projects and race requirements centrally through a single cloud-based app. The aim, says Guercilena, is for the team to use technology to ensure the right projects are given the highest priority and the best resources in the fastest time possible.
“We need to react quickly during the races, so that our riders can just focus on performance,” he says. “They don’t need distractions. When we have an answer to one of their questions, we need to be super-fast. We must be agile and this rapid reaction must be achieved in a secure environment.”
Trek-Segafredo needs to record secure communications as part of its audit by the UCI, says Guercilena, and the team must provide any communication records as requested. Security is also more than just a matter of good governance. Rider data, medical data and biometric data is extremely sensitive information that represents a potential competitive edge.
“We need to be secure because we are continually developing new equipment and new ways of working,” says Guercilena. “A professional cycling team is a like an efficient small company. We employ 60 staff and 30 riders. I have a budget and I need to create great results.
“Each stage of a race provides a very public note on how the business is performing. The key difference with our business is that it draws heavily on emotion. Sport is anything but ‘business as usual’, and that’s what makes our day jobs so different and so fascinating.”
Boost operational efficiency
Guercilena recognises that many of the recent developments in professional cycling are closely connected to technological change. He looks back on his time in the sport and remembers that making key decisions, even 10 years ago, involved a lot of educated guesswork.
Now, Guercilena – who became general manager of Trek-Segafredo in 2012 after a lifetime dedicated to the sport – says the impact of technology on the sport is “incredible”. Advances in technology represent a significant change for professional cycling, the teams and the riders.
“We started with a cycle computer that simply showed how many kilometres a cyclist had ridden,” he says. “Today, the evolution in technology means we can analyse all data live. We can monitor a rider’s training by phone. I can log into the app from any location and see how a rider is performing.
“We have coaches that analyse cadence, watts and heartbeat daily. This level of reporting helps us to ensure the performance is right and that we’re not over-training. With analysis, we can now really avoid making critical mistakes. And for coaches, this means we can analyse performance and help ensure the riders in our teams fulfil their potential.”
The combination of data, software and technology is therefore now crucial to the sport of cycling, and Guercilena is keen to use the partnership with CA to create further innovation. He is aware of ongoing developments in terms of automation and mobile applications, and he aims to use the power of technology to help the firm become more operationally efficient.
“We are very demanding and we want to become even more agile,” he says. “Right now, we spend too long on processes and the goal for me is to have an automated view that helps us supervise all the changes we make before, during and after a race.
“We want all the biometric, medical and training data in a single platform. If you’re not attentive, and you miss a part of the communication, there is a risk that you can miss the start of the race. We want software to make sure we have everything under control. That will help us meet our primary goal of boosting performance and winning races.”