It’s an ambitious plan for the squad, and one that Sutton doesn’t have the time or energy to directly oversee. But Bok says all TBB brand extensions—be it through dealer incentive programs, a blog network or coaching—are what will help the squad prove its value to sponsors, and ultimately survive.
“Just buying top athletes doesn’t sell more bikes,” Bok said. “We want to provide hope and opportunity to age-group athletes.”
The model of hope is working. Since Wellington’s victory, Sutton’s been sought out by an army of young pros and age groupers, and he has developed a system for weeding out the chaff. He asks for a racing résumé and a detailed history of their athletic past, all the way back to high school. (“The guy was a champion swimmer? I can knock the rust off of that.”) He wants to know about their current training, their hobbies, even their personal life. (“Married? With a 2-year-old? Sorry mate, it’s never going to happen.”)
Athletes who survive the weeks of communicative scrutiny are invited to a two-week trial period in Leysin. Sutton sends the recruits on crushing rides up the nearby Col de la Croix Jura and the other monster passes dotting the surrounding Alps. He says the coup de grace usually involves a lengthy running session at the track, followed by a run back up the mountain to Leysin.
“They turn up here and after two days they’re gone,” Sutton said. “They tell me this type of riding isn’t good for them. They say, ‘Oh, track workouts aren’t for Ironman.’ I just say bye-bye.”
Not all of them leave. Every few years, some unknown turns up and guts it out through the bike rides in the Alps, the hellacious track sessions and the endless climbs back to Leysin. He usually shows up, just like Carter, with little cash in the bank but an endless desire to test himself against the world’s best triathletes.
But the real test, they’ll learn, is Brett Sutton himself.
Always controversial, “Doc” isn’t one to hold his tongue.
“Most triathlon coaches do it because they can’t make a living as a pro, so they need 10 age groupers to pay for them to travel around the world and drink coffee.”
“In other squads you’ll have 10 in the group and eight of them are mediocre, because what works well for the marquee girl doesn’t work for the others, but the coach has everybody do what she’s doing.”
“I’m the boss. I train them like animals because I’m an animal coach. Shut the fuck up and just do the training.”
“Chrissie was a beautiful thing because she had never been a triathlete, she didn’t know any triathletes, she didn’t hang out with triathletes, so when I put the times up and painted the picture, and said this is the training, she had nobody to tell.”
“Dave Scott for me is the best triathlete that ever lived in Ironman, because what he did with what he had was fantastic. Mark Allen was the talent and Dave Scott had nothing, but he made himself into a talented athlete.”
“In America it’s all about the fluff. They don’t race enough. It’s nice to try and win Hawaii, but I’m trying to get my athletes to the point where they can afford to buy houses.”
“I’m disgusted with the way the sport is run. These people should be getting paid superstar money, and they aren’t because people are under the false pretense that the sport is boring. There are a lot of boring sports where people earn lots of money.”
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