Some of the more visceral aspects of a bike race are easily observable from a brief viewing of the Tour de France on television. The colors, the motion, the speed, the sheer mass of cyclists moving down the highway in unison.
It's a beautiful and complex combination of efficient machines and human endurance. What you don't experience on tv...what isn't visible to anyone not in the peloton (the main group of racers) itself... is the sounds and patterns of movement.
The picture above, care of BBC News, gives you an idea of the view from the middle of the peloton. As you can imagine, it's not a quiet place...the whirring of gears and the thrumming of the tires on the road, the breathing of the riders, the conversations among teammates (and competitors), the sound of the pace cars or motorcycles all contribute to a noisy and colorful environment.But there's something else that's even more surprising to an outsider or first timer. The proximity of one rider to another is quite shocking. At 50 kilometers an hour, we're elbow to elbow, nose to tail, handlebars and wheels inches from one another. We're all moving up the road at the same pace, and a thought briefly flashes through one's mind...if one of us goes down, we all will. If that thought lingers, you're done. To be successful, you must put that thought aside and press on.
Then you notice something else, something really unsettling. Sitting in the peloton, in that massive pack of 50 or 100 riders, you notice a current on each side of the main group moving up. You've never seen this on a casual ride...positioning oneself in the middle of the peloton -- "sitting in" -- always allowed you to hang with the pack and finish.
Not so in a race. You must position yourself near the front and work hard to stay at the front. If you sit in with the main group, you will get spit out the back. And once you're off the back, catching up is nearly impossible. The other riders at the back are struggling...they're having a bad day, suffering mechanical problems, or are simply in over their heads. And if you are drafting one of them, you'll lose the pack with them.
The same is true in business today. In this economy, if you sit in, doing what you've been doing, hoping that last year's pace and tactics will carry you through, you will not maintain your position in the pack. You will slide to the back. It's a gradual slide, one you won't notice right away. Once you do, it's probably too late to recover.
Others are moving up around you. They are not sitting back, hoping that things will be different soon. They're investing in new ways of doing business, improving the ability of their sales organization to hold the "right" conversations with prospects, working to identify and prioritize top prospects, reorganizing their assets to improve their overall sales productivity.
In today's market, if you are not moving up, you are falling behind!