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A lesson in leadership from Martin Kohler at the Tour Down Under

January 20, 2012

Martin Kohler, Stage 3 Tour Down Under (photo by eltham_mob, Flickr)

While all pro-cyclists look for opportunities to finish first, at 26 years-old Martin Kohler’s main role is to provide support to help more senior BMC Racing Team riders win. Now he finds himself leading the 2012 Santos Tour Down Under (TdU) going into the most crucial next to the last stage of the race.

Kohler’s performance at the TdU has been a lesson in how to parlay the skills of a talented support rider into success as a team leader.

Skill 1: Dig, and keep digging. Kohler is very good at finding the breakaways. He rode in the break during Stage 1 of the TdU. Instead of resting on Stage 2, he did it again. Yesterday he worked hard to maintain position in the front group over a climb, and he recovered the race lead.

Skill 2: Be humble. “Tomorrow is a new day,” Kohler said yesterday after the race. This comment sounds like the recognition that anything can happen in a bike race, so you just go out and do your best, again.

Skill 3: Harness the power of the team and remain a teammate. When asked how it felt to have his teammates riding for him, Kohler told Australian media, “it is extra power for my legs. I hope I can pay it back with a good result.”

If Kohler and the BMC Racing Team can defend the ochre jersey on Willunga hill, Kohler will likely be the second Swiss overall winner of the Tour Down Under; Martin Elmiger won in 2007, riding for AG2R Prévoyance.

According to his website, Kohler’s next race is the Tour of Qatar, February 5th – 10th.

Martin Kohler's bike at Tour Down Under (photo by eltham_mob, Flickr)

A little bit about Martin Kohler

Swiss-born Martin Kohler lives in Vilters, a valley town at the base of mountains in the northeastern part of Switzerland near the border with Liechtenstein. With all these mountains, it’s no wonder Kohler made time for cross-country skiing before heading south to Australia for the Santos Tour Down Under. Based on the interviews he’s provided to the Australian media during the stages, it doesn’t sound like he was dreaming of wearing the ochre jersey in 40 degrees centigrade as he cut tracks in the Swiss snow.

In a March 2010 interview, Martin shared that he prefers to take things day by day. If he has a mantra, it could be what he shared in the second part of that interview when he said, “There’s only one thing: keep going.” (English via Google Translate).

He speaks German, English, French, and some Italian.

Kohler enjoyed many sports as a kid, including skiing, cross country skiing, ice hockey, football, jogging, swimming, and hiking.

As an adult, according to a February 2010 interview, Kohler likes to play the guitar and listens to Gotthard and Nickelback among other bands. Action movies and Australia make his favorites list. When it comes to food, he likes “every kind of pasta, but also a good pizza or sometimes fondue. :)”

Kohler’s website (German) includes comments on his races and race calendar.

Follow Kohler on Twitter: @martinkohler7

Career highlights:

  • Grand Tour participation: Giro d’Italia (two days as KOM leader) and Vuelta a Espana
  • 2011 Swiss national time trial champion and 3rd, Swiss national road race
  • 2010, 8th, Stage 1 (TTT), Tour of Qatar; Jayco Sprint Leader for stage 1, Tour Down Under
  • 2009, 11th, Stage 2, Circuit de la Sarthe
  • 2008, 1st, GP Kyburg
  • 2007, 1st, Stage 4, Tour de l’Avenir

Teams:

Expressing gratitude for the Flickr account of eltham_mob.

Tour Down Under support vehicles (photo by eltham_mob, Flickr)

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