“What legacy do you want to leave?”
A year of privateering in review.
I raced in eight different countries in 2023; cycling took me to thirteen in total.
England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, Germany, Greece, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, France, Spain, Andorra and the USA. I mean, technically it’s fourteen but I don’t think it’s fair to count the three hours I spent in Prague Airport.
It was a year of who knows. A year of risk. A year of opportunity.
Sitting on this couch in my apartment in Girona three hundred and sixty five days ago, you’d have found a very different Joe. One that was lost, one that was worried, one that was learning about everything that came with effectively setting up a one man cycling team.
While there is still a lot of that taking place leading into the 2024 season, and a reasonably sized budget hole that I’m still looking to plug, I’m an awful lot calmer.
Privateering is the best thing that ever happened to me.
It’s November 1st, 2023 and I’m sitting at a desk in some trendy office in Shoreditch. No, I haven’t washed my hands of cycling and stumbled into the real world - although if I did, working from this office wouldn’t be a bad thing.
The offices belong to Forge, a sales-led marketing agency, and I’m here for “An Evening with Joe Laverick”.
When you put your name on the event title, you should make sure that you’re in a fit state to be there. Somewhere along the way, I’ve picked up a sickness and considering yesterday’s early afternoon power nap turned into a five hour snooze, things aren’t looking great.
I rally. Tip-tapping away at my laptop I make a presentation which looks nothing like what I had in my mind. I’m tired, I’m probably a touch grumpy, and we’ve got forty or so guests on their way.
Tonight’s the first trial of a “Performance Evening” concept that I’m starting with Pullwood Consulting, one of my partners with Project TAG. Pullwood are a brother duo of Nick and Jon who’s background is in the tech start-up world. They’re now working in performance, helping individuals and teams get better at what’s important to them.
Between myself, the guys at Pullwood, Forge and Sedbergh School who are helping with this event, we have quite the contact book. From high-flyers in finance, health-experts, authors and sports people, it’s safe to say a degree of imposter syndrome sets in.
I’ve spent hours upon hours planning this day while out on the bike. What the presentation will look like, what I’m going to say. In my head, this event was perfectly polished, in reality it was rushed. I was supposed to have dress rehearsed my talk, have a pretty presentation and nail what I said. Instead, I’ve spent the last forty eight hours in bed.
I crack on with my talk.
On an unplanned note, vulnerability seems to be the theme of the night.
Maybe it’s because I’m sick, maybe because it’s the end of a long year. I’m not really one to give myself credit, and I’m quick to talk myself down when it comes to sporting achievement.
“If we look at it in black and white, I’m a failure.” I’ve said that on this Substack before, and it is something I believe. My goal was to go World Tour, and although I’ve carved myself a pretty cool niche, my dream of racing at the top didn’t happen.
I cover what the trajectory of my career was supposed to look like, just the normal things of course: sign World Tour, win the Tour de France, make millions, retire with my feet up in Monaco by the age of thirty. Then I take a look at what my career has actually looked like. The rollercoaster of success and injury. The constant stress of one-year contracts and that question: what comes next?
As I near the end of my talk, I scan the room. Who’s bored? Have I gone on for too long? Will anybody have any questions? While I cannot comment on the first two, the answer to the third one was definitely yes.
Questions coming from all angles, this is proving to be my saving grace. I talk through the racing, the things that scare me most and the mentality behind going this route. We talk the business of privateering, how there are so many similarities to a start up.
Then the final question comes from Jason Duffy, Commercial Manager at Sedbergh School.
“What legacy do you want to leave?”, he asks.
Out of all the questions that I either saw coming or could talk my way through, this one stumped me, and three months later I’m still stumped. The fact that I don’t know yet is probably a good thing.
While this wasn’t my first time public speaking, it was the first time that my name is on the door. It’s something I want to work on, and do more of. Survivorship bias is strong in both business and sport, we often only hear from those at the top, those who have succeeded and have big bank balances.
I enjoy telling the story of what it’s like on the way. Maybe it’s not perfect, but they say you learn more about failure than success, right?
Failure, vulnerability and honesty. Those are topics that I’m good at talking about. The thing I’m very much bad at is talking about success. Sitting in a room of successful people, I was pleasantly surprised with how many gave me credit, or praise. “You’re too harsh on yourself”, or “You’re still young” were constantly mentioned.
When I look back through photos, I always smile with a hint of pride. This whole cycling thing was always an accidental dream. Funnily enough that’s also the title of a 25,000 word piece that I have in my Google Docs. “The Accidental Dream” is a copy of everything I’ve ever written plus a few diary thoughts, I’d love to do it as a book one day but today is not the day.
Success as an athlete is something you pin to a contract, or a number on a results sheet. I’m starting to realise it’s a whole lot more than that.
I take a back seat, and Nick Twigg comes to centre stage. He asks the group a question:
“If you could invest in a friend and get 10% of their income for life, who would you pick and why?”
We split into small groups and discuss. Now, these groups have been put together in a way that for a majority, it’s the first time they’ve ever met. After ten or so minutes, we come back with our findings.
The logical answer is choose your richest friend and take 10% of their income.
Nick asks another question:
“If you could get a 10% share of somebody's happiness, who would you invest in and why?”
We go off into our groups and perhaps unsurprisingly, the names that were mentioned when talking about income, were not mentioned when it came to happiness. Instead, people started to think of their young children, their partners, or in some cases their dogs. For what it’s worth, I’d choose Ozzy, our big dopey Golden Doodle.e
The night was a success. It taught us a lot, and from my perspective the evenings can only get better. We have a few things to figure out. How can we turn these evenings into a product which makes us money, rather than lose money? How do we take this package into the corporate world as a product?
Lessons have been learned and already put into place. Resilience is something that I’ve learned a thing or two about in recent years, and it just happens to be the theme of the next “Performance Evening” we’re putting together in Manchester at the end of February. Drop me an email if you’re in the area and interested.
All of these bits and bobs are things I never had to consider when I was just a bike racer. There were so many of those moments across my first year flying solo. Take new kit day for example.
When you see the big pile of brand new kit sitting in your room at training camp, there are so many things that you don’t consider. You don’t think about the hours of to-and-fro on the kit design. You don’t appreciate the courting, the conversations, the negotiations and the contract signings that take place with every logo that is on said jersey. You don’t consider the pure logistics of getting to said training camp in the first place.
There are so many moving pieces to the professional sport world that moving to a privateer model has taught me.
As things stand for 2024, I’ve signed a core of my partnership deals.
From a product perspective, I’ll be riding Ribble bikes that roll on Parcours wheels. Outside of cycling, I’ll be working with Pullwood Consulting for at least the next two years on everything I’ve just mentioned above and more.
While I’m not spending every minute of the day messaging every person in my phonebook that has a connection to cycling this January, I am still on the lookout for a few more partners. I want to mould Project TAG into something that both provides value to those that support it.
We’re getting there.
With that said, there is still space on the jersey for 2024. I'm looking for two or three more partners - endemic, non-endemic, or private - to go on the privateer journey with me in 2024 and beyond.
email@example.com is the place to reach me.
Project TAG, proudly partnering (both for my athletic and influencing ability) with…
While you’re here…
I’ve added both paid subscription and a ‘Buy Me A Coffee’ link to this post. As the year progresses, I’m planning on building this blog and putting out articles which I’ve always wanted to write but for whatever reason, haven’t wanted to pitch.
Any money that I make from either my Substack, or BMaC link will go straight back into supporting my 2024 racing project. I am planning on keeping all content on here free to view though.
Joe Laverick is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.