Has Performance Director Rolf Aldag been replaced by a mathematical algorithm? Is the experienced German, who has guided top riders at Garmin, BMC Racing and Dimension Data, another victim of artificial intelligence?
By all appearances, the sad answer is yes. Team Dimension Data has now rebranded as NTT Pro Cycling and along with the new name and kit is a new approach to raising performance levels.
Aldag left the squad at the end of the 2019 season after a major disagreement with team owner Doug Ryder about whether sprinter Mark Cavendish should be on the Tour de France roster. Aldag said yes, Ryder said no, and then Aldag said goodbye.
Curiously, the NTT website still lists Aldag as Head of Performance but the news for the team is analytics. They claim to have “created the most technically advanced team in the WorldTour.” Machine learning is now running the show, the roster and the races. Given how underwhelming Dimension Data was in terms of results, maybe that’s not a bad idea.
NTT states that “Each of the riders were selected with the help of a technology solution that was co-innovated by NTT and NTT Pro Cycling. The solution leverages advanced data analytics that helps the team to select riders, prepare its race calendar and assign the right riders to the right races.
Think about that for a moment. The algorithm says we don’t need Steve Cummings anymore, goodbye Steve. The algorithm says Boasson Hagen, you’re racing Tirreno, not Paris-Nice. Victor Campenaerts, current holder of the Hour Record and former Amstel Gold winner Michael Valgren will be bossed around by a math equation.
These all sound like jobs that Aldag might have been heavily involved in. However, it looks like he’s just another victim of digital transformation. Is NTT going with driver-less team cars for all the races? That should be awesome — especially for those narrow cobblestone roads at Paris-Roubaix.
Sorry Rolf, thanks to NTT’s new proprietary technological solution, you have been made redundant.