Manager, Episode 2: Catastrophic overspending – and tears for Tiesj…

Wondering exactly what all this nonsense is about? Click here to find out more. Note: Game simulated to 2019 season.

23:59 – DECEMBER 31, 2018

I should be happy with life: I’ve just become a DS at the best cycling team in the known universe, a manor to which I was surely born.

But here I am ringing in the new year crying salty tears in my bikeshed/office/bedroom with nothing for company but a bucket of Haagen-Dazs and a gigantic sheaf of FTP data printouts. I’ve got “Baby Come Back” by Pato Banton playing on repeat over my Bluetooth speakers and all I can think of is what I’ve lost.

How did it come to this? How did I lose the one thing I swore I would treasure forever?

“Tiesj,” I screamed, for what must have been the twentieth time that night. “Tiessssjjjjjjj.”

It’s been nearly four months since my life changed forever:

And I still haven’t got over it. Back in August, VDK had let me come in and negotiate some transfers for 2019, probably thinking I couldn’t do any real damage and might have some useful ideas on who to bring in. The latter was certainly true, but the former wasn’t – and there were drastic consequences.

I’m not sure what happened. Perhaps I got so carried away with trying to construct a cobbled-classics mega-team that I didn’t stop to think the would-be jewel in the crown wouldn’t want to be part of it.

Either way, Tiesj Benoot will ride for Katusha-Alpecin in 2019, and I am destined for a life of crushing unhappiness.

07:15 – JANUARY 1, 2019

Once I’d finished vomiting this morning, I tried to find a bit more perspective on things. It was possible I’d simply knocked back one too many Krieks – maybe losing Benoot wasn’t the end of the world.

After all, aside from allowing the team’s best rider to leave, I hadn’t done too badly in the transfer market. For starters, I’d convinced Oliver Naesen to return to Belgium. Signing Naesen, whose brother Lawrence is already here, somewhat reduced the blow of losing Benoot, though I wonder if he’ll be able to deal with the weight of having all of my classics expectations lumped on his shoulders.

I must have Whatsapped him 600 times over the past few weeks. “Olly, Olly,” I wrote recently, “Do you think you have what it takes to go full gas at Paris-Roubaix, the Scheldeprijs AND the Ronde? It’s just the sponsors are really on my back about winning stuff. Also do you have Jasper Stuyven’s number?”

Strangely, he hasn’t been online since before Christmas.

In my quest to make Lotto the most fearsome pavé outfit since, well, since Quick-Step in 2018, I had also dug deep into the team’s pockets to enlist Nils Politt, Mads Pedersen, Taylor Phinney and Mike Teunissen. Eat your heart out, Wolfpack, the Lotto boys are coming for you.

What was slightly worrying me now, though, was that after an afternoon on the Jupilers down at Van Voombijn’s, a local inn I had begun to frequent, I had put in a few calls and signed up Pascal Ackermann, Phil Bauhaus, Ethan Hayter and Rick Zabel. Presumably in an attempt to create a Germanic sprint-train capable of winning grand tour stages, but I can’t quite remember.

I wondered where the team had found the money. Here’s what we’re starting the season with:

To make matters even more expensive, however, in yet another drunken fit of pique I had decided to further increase the risk of an overdraft by also making the team competitive in GC shakeups. I awoke one cold Flandrian Tuesday to find in my inbox hearty “Morning boss” texts from Emmanuel Buchmann, Pierre Latour, George Bennett, Laurens De Plus, Wilco Kelderman and Sam Oomen.

Oh mother of Jesus, what have I done? Is this all because I lost Tiesj? The wage bill is up more than €100,00 per month on last year. There’s no way we can afford this squad unless we start winning a LOT of races, and fast.

If we don’t win at least one big classic – maybe even a monument – this spring, I’m going to be feeling the heat pretty quickly. Even the best DS in the universe isn’t immune from pressure.

Poor Olly Naesen, he doesn’t know what he’s let himself in for.

Disclaimer: The ‘Manager’ series is a work of fiction. Real names and teams are used, but this should not be taken as a suggestion that any of the people mentioned are anything like, or share any similarities with, how they are portrayed here. This is not meant to be taken seriously. So don’t.

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