Handing over the baton


When Mark arrived in Australia he had a full new team around him, Tony Humphreys Team Lead for the stage, Claire Guthrie Physio/ Performance Support, Ry McGrath mechanic, Tim Spiteri and Fleur Royds support staff and drivers. From stage 1 it was just myself along with Johnny and Helmut film crew, that travelled with Mark to provide the handover.

Claire Guthrie is a Physiotherapist that works out of a clinic in Exeter and is currently completing her MSc in Sports Physiotherapy. She cycle races herself and has worked on Tour Du Force for the last couple of years. Claire fitted the bill to step in to this role for a number of reasons, having the Physio qualifications is one thing, plus personal cycling experience and interest, but personality is key to this and can make or break a team in such a small and close environment. Claire is kind and caring, proactive and adaptable to put her hand to anything. She’s got a positive and fun personality regardless of environment and situation, which is exactly what Mark needs when he’s struggling. If that’s not enough for him, she’s Scottish! So I figured that would win her some brownie points regardless! 

Over the last week since we arrived in to Perth, Claire and I have been working closely together to provide an adequate handover and gradual transition for me to step out for a week of recovery and Claire to get a chance to build familiarity with Mark. Claire has been great and very patient. I can only imagine that she wants to make this leg her own and not have someone following her every move or jumping in over her shoulder. The hard thing with this, is that there can’t be a stop and start, the way I see it, it is like someone driving at 60mph and you need to swap drivers without losing the direction or speed of the car, so it needs to be gentle and controlled as the driver eases off the accelerator the person swapping in is accelerating. Claire has been awesome in getting stuck in straight away and taking on board like a sponge, all the processes/ routines plus the quirks of how to get the best out of Mark when he’s in different mood states. What I didn’t realise is how much intuition or feel you use when you’ve been working with someone for awhile which isn’t as easy to describe how you figure out what he needs.

The Physiotherapy delivery takes up about 10% of this job role, the rest is nutrition or medical, with 60% playing ‘mum’ and being known as a ‘nag’ around timings. It’s basically thinking for him constantly and trying to be one step ahead all the time, so all he has to worry about is pedalling and the PM role can be thinking about the weather, wearing a jacket before it rains, changing the visor if it’s not sunny, getting thicker gloves as the sun goes down, wearing suncream as the sun comes up etc. etc.  So none of it is rocket science. I’ve already pre-warned Nicci his wife, that unfortunately she’ll initially have another toddler returning to the family when he gets back ;)! 

Seeing the stage 2 team working so well together and all really focused on making it work for Mark, is a massive relief. It’s crazy to think that three of the crew we’d never met before so there was a slight risk in the unknown, but Ry, Tim and Fleur are absolutely perfect team members who have all got stuck in from the out set. Tony looked after me and my team when we rowed across the Pacific a couple of years ago and having trusted him with my life I knew he’d be the perfect person to lead this team in supporting Mark. He is one of the most conscientious people I know and will do his utmost to ensure things are delivered.  I feel ready to step out and know I can relax and sleep like a baby knowing Mark will be well looked after. So for me I’ll be jumping out tomorrow in Adelaide and flying on to Sydney to stay with friends. I'll be returning back in to support on the flight from Brisbane to NZ, at which point I’ll be back on the road through to the finish. 

Note this article originally appeared here and is reproduced with Laura's permission.

All photos courtesy of Johnny Swanepoel