Peter Post: Cyclist who went on to apply 'total football' principles to team management
To claim that one person singlehandedly revolutionised or modernised an institution is a time-worn cliche in journalism, but in the case of Peter Post and cycling team management it happens to be true. Already a successful track cyclist and road-racer before retiring in 1972, Post was the first manager to transfer the concept of "total football", which he had seen working wonders for Ajax, his beloved local side in his home town of Amsterdam, to his own sport.
"Rinus Michels introduced asystem in Ajax where every singleplayer had their own clearly defined role and goals to really work together as a team," Raymond Kerckhoffs,head of cycling journalism in the Netherlands' biggest daily, De Telegraaf, commented. "Peter Post liked that system, and from the word go in his first team, TI Raleigh, he applied 'total cycling'. It was the first, and the best: no other team has ever been so consistently successful."
For TI-Raleigh and then Panasonic, the wins ranged between a minimum of 55 in 1974 and a maximum of120 in 1980, including almost every Classic and the World Championships. The crowning achievement was the 1980 Tour de France: not only did Joop Zoetemelk win the overall classification, but Panasonic picked up a stunning 11 stage wins out of a total of 21. No squad has done the same since.
Thanks to Post's modernising efforts, a corner had been turned. However, der lange [the long one], as Post was nicknamed because of his tallness, became a victim of his own success as the other squads caught on to his secret and began thinking of collective benefits, rather than relying on a "pyramid structure" of a single leader served with often erratic degrees of loyalty and equally unpredictable levels of achievement
Post's teams got smaller and smaller slices of the cake, and to make matters worse, one of his own former riders, Jan Raas, started another leading team on home ground, in the Netherlands. By the time Post retired in 1993, it was whispered that he was happier when Raas' team lost than when his own won.
But his own achievements remained: victory in the Paris-Roubaix 1964 at the fastest-ever average speed for a major Classic – 45.131kmh; 65 wins as a track rider, more than 40 per cent of the races he started inside a velodrome, which earned him the nickname De Keizer van de Zesdaagse [the Emperor of the Six Days] and the single biggest (and arguably the most beneficial) change of direction cycling management has seen.
He was known as a harsh taskmaster, and a section of British cycling fans have never forgiven him for the way he weeded out so many of the UK pros from TI Raleigh in the early 1970s. But rather than be tied to a rigid hierarchy, thanks to Peter Post plenty of young riders got a chance to shine that they would never have got without his modernisation of the sport.
Peter Post, cyclist and team manager: born Amsterdam 12 November 1933; died Amsterdam 14 January 2011.
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