I SET THE RELEASE TO DOWNLOAD AND PUT ON MY SPANDEX
In my years of gaming, few titles have truly improved upon an activity that I do in everyday life -- in fact, mostly the opposite has been the case. Taking defensive carbine courses at the local gun range/shoot house, for example, has improved my play in simulation-style shooters like PUBG, because, much like in a good simulation, knowing the real tactical decisions behind clearing a room may save your virtual bum.
I have been cycling for much longer than I’ve been a gamer, which is why I naturally turned my attention to Pro Cycling Manager 2017 (PCM17). Mostly because I’m a freak, I set the release to download and put on my spandex. I took a brief ride to the local park with a six-mile hilly track circling a lake, and racked in two laps before heading home. As an added bonus, spandex is actually pretty damn comfortable. Though, when you pop into Walmart on your way home for some groceries in it, you get a few lingering stares (and perhaps an appearance on the People of Walmart site).
Upon returning sweaty and still partially out of breath, I immediately launched PCM17 in the hopes that my recent laps would let me sink my teeth into the simulation of biking. Boy, was I ever wrong: PCM17 is a proper simulation of managing a cycling team [EN: Who would’ve thought?]. Granted, I’ve never managed one, but how hard could it possibly be? I get on a bike and pedal until I’m too tired to do so, or until I’ve reached my goal. I didn’t think there was much more to it. Perhaps I get to pick my team’s jersey colors? That’s always fun.
Me, being sexy AF
THINK NASCAR BUT WITH MORE MANUAL LABOR
As it turns out, there is quite a bit to managing a cycling team, and it shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise to me. I had always loved participating in cycling events, but only casually watched the big stuff, like the Tour de France, thinking it wasn’t much more than a bunch of dudes pedaling until they couldn’t. They never deep-dive into the details or strategies involved during the broadcasts, so I eventually stopped watching, because I didn’t understand them and figured them to be anti-climactic - think NASCAR but with more manual labor involved.
This is where I was slammed with the value-add of PCM17. The devs went out of their way to make the tutorial fantastic. I felt as though I was attending a personalized training seminar, and unlike most seminars I’ve had the (cough) pleasure of attending, I was actually getting something out of it. The level of depth and complexity involved blew me away, and rather than being sucked in by ‘gameplay’ I was engrossed in the learning process. To describe the ingenious process is to spoil it; suffice it to say, “well thought-out” would be an understatement.
Like anyone who has any interest in sports, I knew that sprinting out of the gate of anything is unsustainable, and you won’t be able to last till the end (relationships, am I right?). But, I never knew the difference between a sprint and an attack, or when and where to do these based on terrain. When would be a great time would be to pull aside for water, or to take the most delicious of all sports treats, the energy gel, were also largely mysteries to me. Confident in my newly acquired wisdom after two seasons of PCM17, I returned to the lake two days later and decided to change the cadence of my ride. Sure, I was alone and not in a group of one hundred, nor did I enjoy the support of a team, but being mindful of the course and my output legitimately shaved some time off my circuit, and had me feeling less tired. Who knew learning about stuff led to doing that stuff better?!
I learned some other things when enjoying PCM17 as well. For starters, much like in real life, I manage a team way better than I manage myself. When trying the different modes, I bombed most of the decisions in solo, but did quite well when managing the group. I also liked the realism in the training and racing schedules. If I ran or trained too hard, my crew was tired and underperformed. After all, it is a simulator, and burnout is a real thing.
Though I still have much more to learn, my first exposure to a cycling team management simulator was incredibly favorable. Anyone with interest in professional cycling would relish Pro Cycling Manager 17, and it might also perhaps help improve their own pedaling mastery in the process. However, if you’re not a hardcore fan of the sport, be aware that this may be too many spreadsheets and strategic decisions, and not enough action for you. Now, back to the spandex!