Grand Tour Perspectives
The Routines of Professional Mechanics
Grand Tours have their own rules. They are a logistical undertaking unlike any other. It is therefore, that for all teams taking to the start a good preparation and a daily routine are key.
While specific training and race goals are set prior to the season, the logistical planning for each of the three Grand Tours starts about two months prior to the departure. The organizers of the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France, and La Vuelta provide the hotels. The teams, though, have to take care of all other relevant matters, from transport and staff selection to equipment needs.
Over the course of nearly 20 years at the top-level of the sport, CeramicSpeed sponsored team AG2R-La Mondiale has gained a routine in preparing for a Grand Tour. It is therefore that they know how to be ready for any eventualities.
A logistical perspective
The preparation and for a Grand Tour starts weeks prior to the race. The team’s leadership decides on who is going to race and work at which race. In conjunction with the sponsors all equipment needs are met. Then, about a week before the depart of a Grand Tour, the truck gets loaded with all race bikes and spare parts. After that it’s go-time. For nearly a month. Day by day.
The mechanics perspective
A group of 5 mechanics will look after the bikes of the 8 selected riders for the race. Lead by road captain Hubert Dupont at the upcoming La Vuelta, Mikael Cherel, Tony Gallopin, Alexandre Geniez, Ben Gastauer, Julian Duval, Alexis Gougeard, and Nans Peters will each have 3 Factor O2 bikes available. In addition to that, some riders will also be able to use the brand’s aero bike, the One. For the time trials Factor provides 2 Slick’s for each rider. In total, the team will bring around 45 bikes to the race.
The 2018 La Vuelta starts this coming Saturday in Malaga and will conclude in Madrid in three weeks later. Before the start the mechanics will ensure that all bikes race-ready. To get these to the race they’ll use two different vehicles; a van for all time trial bikes, and a truck for all other bikes.
One of the mechanics will have the responsibility for all time trial bikes. Since these are only used at stages 1 and 16 he’ll return to the team's Service Course between and after those stages.
The other mechanics split their responsibilities to be as efficient as possible. Each mechanic will look after the bikes of up to three specific riders during a Grand Tour. Before the race departs they’ll decide who’ll join the sports director during the stage and who’s driving the truck to the next hotel, to set everything up for the after-race service hours. They’ll do so for three weeks, becoming some of the closest familiars of the riders, meeting all their daily bike-related requirements.
The daily routine
At the start of a Grand Tour each team receives their race manuals. Besides all stage profiles, these manuals also include informations about all hotels.
Apart from some minor adjustments, the mechanics will get the ideas they already had about the technical requirements for the upcoming stages confirmed. When arriving at the first hotel, after the first team meeting, they’ll start with their daily routine.
Come race day, the days will get longer for the mechanics. Depending on the distance the teams have to travel to get from the hotel to the start of a stage, they’ll decide when to prepare the race cars for the hours ahead. The first set of spare bikes will be put onto the roof of race car 1, the second set onto race car 2. The race bikes will be transported to the start on the roof of an additional vehicle, normally the one that is used as the team's lead car during the stages.
As soon as the team leaves the hotel for the start, one of the mechanics will drive the truck to the next hotel to set up for the night. The others will drive the race cars to the stage start. After arriving at the paddock they’ll line up the race bikes for the riders and await the start. If all goes well, then there will be no incidents during a stage. However, the mechanics won't rest though. The race jury keeps all teams informed about the race situation during the stages. The mechanics will closely follow to help the sports directors make their decisions.
After the stage, the race bikes will be put back onto the roofs again, ready to be washed and serviced for the next stage.
The days are long for mechanics at a Grand Tour. As are they for everyone else who’s at the race. And with the Vuelta a Espana starting on Saturday, AG2R-La Mondiale will be prepared and ready for the three weeks to come.