The last couple of days have been a dream for sports enthusiasts: World Cup mania in Brazil, an epic Fedderer-Djokovic championship at Wimbledon, and the start of summer ritual with the most beautiful of all: the Tour de France (TdF). And off course, behind every thing of beauty lurks a masterful operation. Last year we talked about the project management process to schedule all pro-team Orica GreenEdge members over the course of a year around the globe. (Like the traditional US defense strategy to support two simultaneous wars, pro-teams often participate in two races in different countries at the same time.) Today we talk about tactical operational support during a stage race like the TdF.
Many people can imagine the support processes behind a football or basketball team, yet professional cycling has some interesting unique characteristics.
For one, cycling differs because of its unique requirement: a combination of human talent (the rider) with technology (the bike, as a tailored integrated technological system of many, many custom-fitted parts). Second, stage races continue over several stages and visit different locations. This means that the staff supporting the talent and the technology must be logistics experts working 16 hours a day behind the screen.
The BBC describes the Dutch Belkin team TdF operations with some nice video footage. What does the team transport over the 3 weeks of the TdF?
Belkin Tour de France supplies
- 11 mattresses
- 36 aero suits, 45 bib shorts, 54 race jerseys, 250 podium caps
- 63 bikes
- 140 wheels, 220 tyres
- 250 feeding bags, 3,000 water bottles
- 2,190 nutrition gels, 3,800 nutrition bars
- 10 jars of peanut butter, 10 boxes of chocolate sprinkles, 20 bags of wine gums, 20 jars of jam
- 80 kg of nuts, raisins, apricots and figs, plus 50 kg of cereals
With 9 riders on the team, this means per rider:
- clothing: 4 aero suits (for time trials mostly), 5 bib shorts, 6 jerseys. (Clearly a hedge against crashing and while stuff is washed they still need to ride…)
- Almost 7 bikes! Each rider needs at least two types of bikes: a road bike and a time trial bike. In addition, some will use a third, more compliant bike to conquer the famous cobble stage 5 (a mini Paris – Roubaix, the Hell of the North, the hardest race ever).
- 15-16 wheels. Off course, each rider needs a climbing wheelset, a TT wheelset, a regular wheelset, and a cobble wheelset. Each of those need backups…
- The list is vastly incomplete: add a truck full of mechanical items like hundreds of chains (I’d love to have a new chain every few days!), derailleurs, brakes and brake pads, saddles, etc.
What surprised me, however, was that Belkin even transports each rider’s bed matress from hotel to hotel! Love it. It tells you that this team rightfully nurtures its riders: Anyone who participated in a stage event that pushes the athlete to the limits appreciates the importance of rest and good sleep. The athletes’ day is simple but surprisingly packed: get up probably around 8am, breakfast, get ready and drive/ride to the start, sign-in, talk to reporters, and off they go around 11am. Finish the stage after 4 to 7 hours, having burned 4,000-7,000 kCal: transport to new hotel, clean up, 1+hr massage, dinner, and its 8pm: Time to sleep! There simply is no way these guys could complete a TdF a their level without having soigneurs and support staff taking care of every little detail of their lives.
May your favorite rider win! Regardless, enjoy a virtual vacation in the prettiest countrysides each day during these 3 unquestionably-best-weeks-of-the-year.