Cycling News

How a Tour de France rider prepares for the worst

How a Tour de France rider prepares for the worst

During the Tour de France, as in every professional bike race, the team cars will be loaded down with what is needed to keep the riders performing, from water bottles to spare wheels to bandages. Behind the race, there are two team cars and both will be loaded down with gear. One car will stay with the peloton, while the other follows the breakaway or stays with riders who are dropped. The goal is to make sure every rider makes it through to the finish, so the cars are there to support them at all times.

A crucial tool for a cyclist in the team car

Each rider has a ‘rain bag’ in the team car, full of everything they think they might need if the weather changes or something breaks. Early in my career, I didn’t carry much, but with time and experience, I kept adding to the bag, stuffing everything in from winter gloves to spare sunglasses. Cold fingers, a broken shoe, dark glasses on an overcast day can all affect a race outcome so being prepared to do the job regardless of the conditions is crucial.

Shoe disaster at the 2005 Giro d’Italia

As we descended through the Dolomites, our team leader and the race leader of the Giro, Paolo Salvodelli’s voice came over the radio. In static muffled communication we understood he needed a new shoe as the buckle on his was broken. The team director, Sean Yates, responded and called me and my teammate Jason back to the team car to retrieve a replacement for Paolo. Shoe buckles break often in crashes or when other riders’ wheels clip a foot in the tightly packed peloton.

I moved to the right side of the road, put my hand in the air to signal to the other riders and commissaires that I was slowing and dropping to the back of the peloton to the team car. Reaching the team car, the mechanic, who sits in the back seat with a pile of wheels and tools, was digging around in the trunk for Paolo’s ‘rain bag’, which would hold his shoes. I grabbed the spare shoe, put it under my jersey, and made my way back to the…

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