ADRIAN RUSSELL: Keep friends close, your rivals closer

GER WOLFE jumps out of bed at 7am every morning and it isn’t long before he’s pedalling out of the driveway.

Before he crawls back under the duvet that night, with aching muscles, he’ll have done everything he can to make sure he’s one day the best mountain bikers in the world. But at this stage he’s not even the best in his own house.

Wolfe, 26, is one of the country’s best. But his younger sibling Dan is the best. At the moment at least.

Though qualified as an engineer, having graduated from Dublin Institute of Technology last year, he has now mapped a more freewheeling existence.

While his former classmates are searching for employment, filling internships and emigrating, Wolfe clicks through the gears towards a dream. His brother Dan is two years younger and studies Fine Art in the capital. You get the feeling these two are an interesting combo.

“Its complicated,” Ger said, “but it’s kind of difficult — but then it’s good.” He sighs.

“Like if I have a bad race and he has a good one, I’m happy for him and vice versa. It’s very rare that we both come back unsatisfied. Usually one goes really well.

“We have the same equipment and we eat the same food and we train the same places so it’s inevitable were gonna be around the same level.”

Last year Ger concentrated on his studies in DIT and didn’t look at his bike for the year. While his nose was in the books his little bro’ sprinted downhill past his window to a national title.

Ger doesn’t say his brother is now the champion because he was distracted by final year exams. But he does say he wants the trophy to stay on the same mantelpiece it’s on now — but with his name engraved on the bottom.

Despite the fun rivalry, the pair seem a team. “It’s actually good because we practice together and encourage each other. I might be practicing behind him and he’ll do a part of a track different to me and I’ll go ‘this way is faster,” explains Ger.

But then he adds, in a tone which anyone who has a younger brother will understand: “But he has his own ways.”

Behind every Tiger Woods or Lionel Messi in the making of course there’s the parent who drove to matches, paid for swing coaches or encouraged from behind sidelines and tears. It’s no different it seems with the Wolfes. They don’t pick favourites in races however.

“My mum and dad are happy for us when we do good. They don’t favour us. I would think right now because of the way I’m coming back I think they’d like me to come back and do well.

“Its hard to say if the parents enjoy what we do. Daniel started when he was 14. He broke his collarbone pretty quickly and I didn’t actually enjoy my first race. My dad’s competitive — he played rugby and did marathons for years — so he’s like: do it 100% or don’t do it at all.

“My mum gets sick of washing clothes all the time — because you know we’re up in the hills every day. But my dad’s life — well our lives are his. His life revolves around where we are, what race is on, whatever.”

Beating his brother to the national crown is merely step one in a master plan. He agrees being the best at sprinting downhill in the world is the main objective.

“I wake at seven, by half seven I’m doing my little stretches. Then I might go to a pretty steep hill and sprint up and down it and it’s like simulating a race. I’ll come back, make a few calls and send some emails. Go out and do some cardio work — then more emails, a bit more exercise and help around the house.

“The margins are really close in competition. Everyone has the ability to win. When I was over at a British race recently I was just two seconds off a podium of world level guys but I still finished around 30th place.

“Click your fingers twice and that’s 15 riders.”

When he climbs off the saddle it seems he’s still working towards the finish line. In a different way. “I’m reading a lot of psychology books and books on everything really. The one I’m on at the moment is about blue-ocean strategy.”

Which is? “Well instead of trying to undermine competition which traditional companies might do, you just make the market irrelevant.

“Give the customer something completely different — so your competitors don’t even exist. You’re out on your own then.”

Except when your main rival is across the breakfast table every morning. But that has its advantages too.

Contact: adrian@thescore.ie; Twitter: @adrianrussell


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