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Talent, teamwork and support: A cycling team finds its way

Ian Pascoe Ian Pascoe

The Grant Thornton Cycling Team (GTCT) holds practice outside of ordinary working hours, because their members have day jobs to support their families. Many come from disadvantaged backgrounds, where they only recently struggled to make ends meet. But through a potent combination of talent, teamwork and support, the GTCT is rewriting the rules on how winners are made. And with 4 recent wins at the Thailand Championship: King’s Cup, the world of Thai cycling is beginning to take notice.

“I was fat and unfit,” Khun Sun says of the time before cycling entered his life. He then began working at a bike shop, and earned enough to buy the bicycle that would help get him in shape. He later began racing competitively, which is where the GTCT took an interest in him. Now he receives the guidance and sense of belonging that is helping him to reach his full potential.

“I truly love this team because they have not only saved me from a troublesome life, but they have taught me so much about teamwork,” Khun Sun said. “I know that when I race, I have their full support, which really motivates me to grow with the team and strive for success. When I win, I really feel like my team and our sponsors have won.”

Khun Sun and the rest of the GTCT have indeed been doing a lot of winning, much to the team’s delight. The recipe for this success deserves close examination, however, as it carries lessons that apply far beyond the world of cycling.

Khun Sun’s team member, Khun Bas, embodies one key ingredient for the team: Leadership. At 37 years old, Khun Bas knows that he is no longer able to win a championship himself. But as a mentor and motivator, he can help put the rest of the team on the path to victory. True to his selfless spirit, Khun Bas routinely takes the front position for the team, battling through headwinds to give his teammates an easier ride. When the time comes for the final sprint to the finish line, Khun Bas moves aside while his teammates race for glory.

If the team ever fails to reach its goals, Khun Bas urges them forward regardless. “It’s okay to fall, but the key is to get back up again,” he says. “If you don’t get back up, it’s over.” These words of encouragement resonate with a team that has already overcome so much on its rise through Thailand’s cycling scene. If Khun Bas – working 11 hours a day to run his own pad thai restaurant while entering middle age – can continue devoting all his free time to the team, then so can the other cyclists.

As leader, Khun Bas sets the tone for the younger members. His message of dedication and discipline rings true to a team whose members come from modest origins but have since banded together to find their sense of purpose. Many members had never imagined that they would be cycling competitively, and now they are determined to make the most of the opportunity. One such cyclist is the GTCT’s own Khun Wanawat Klaitthong, who in 2016 became the first Thai national to win the open category in the Tour of Friendship.

Cycling teams require more than talent and willpower, however, as publicity and financial support must come from outside. Professional cycling gear needs to be arranged, bicycles need to be purchased and maintained, team members need to have travel and accommodation details worked out, coaches need to be hired, along with many more requirements behind the scenes.

As co-founder, supporter, and main sponsor of the GTCT, Grant Thornton Thailand has given its commitment to the team and its members from the very beginning. Our partnership with the GTCT goes much further than simply paying its costs. We know the cyclists on a personal level, we come to cheer for the team as often as we can, and we believe passionately in the idea behind it. As a keen cyclist myself, the team members remind me of my own ambitions at a younger age.

They also carry the torch for a set of values I hold dear. At Grant Thornton Thailand, we work closely with many of the country’s leading businesses on building strategies for growth. The principles that drive success in both areas are the same: Selfless leadership, a clear sense of purpose, and committed team members who support each other through every situation. With these essential qualities, we believe that any team has the ability to leap beyond its origins and produce results that are truly exceptional.

As for the GTCT, its beginnings may have seemed ordinary and lacking in promise – but the team now races regularly at a national level, holding its own against impressive competition. We at Grant Thornton Thailand will continue giving the team our sponsorship and support, rain or shine, as they progress through another exciting racing season. They are a constant inspiration for us, and our hope is that the team will eventually have the chance to compete at an international level. With the right set of values in place, there are no limits to where they could go on the road ahead.