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Inside World Tour Cycling: Team Behind The Scenes

16 Jul 2015
Adrian Spinelli
The daily schedule and logistical requirements of a team competing a grand tour is quite amazing, and the team behind the scenes plays a crucial part. The primary aim of managing a grand tour team is to optimise team performance by offering riders the ideal daily preparation and recovery from which to perform. Decisions about the number and type of support staff for a grand tour are ultimately guided by the team budget and sponsors.

It is estimated that the annual budget for a UCI World Tour team ranges from A$15–40m and at least A$1-2m for Professional Continental teams. Team Sky reported an annual budget of A$38.1m for the 2014 season, and commenced this year’s Tour de France with 40 support staff, reducing that number to 22 for the majority of the tour. German team Giant-Alpecin started the tour with 16 support staff.

Using preparation and planning as a guide to success, teams apply a structured pre and post stage protocol. This commences immediately after each stage finish to ensure the best preparation for the following day. The team protocol will be primarily based on scientific research and prior experience related to physical recovery, diet and sleep.

Below is an outline of staff duties and responsibilities that arise daily within a World Tour team competing in the Tour de France.

Director Sportif (‘DS’)

  • Perform reconnaissance preceding each stage.
  • Brief riders at the start and end of each stage regarding team tactics.
  • Follow the race in the team car providing tactics and nutrition to riders as needed.
  • Prepare the plan and schedule for the following day.

Team Doctor

  • Responsible for the wellbeing of the team throughout the race.
  • Attendance at all stage starts and finishes.
  • Provides injury treatment and assists with recovery eg: prepare hotel ice baths or portable inflatable ice bath, if hotel bath not suitable.

Allied Health Professional – Physiotherapist/Osteopath/Chiropractor

  • Provides treatment according to profession, excluding massage which is provided by soigneurs.
  • Assist with rider recovery – eg: compression boots or socks for rider recovery.
  • Assists soigneur with roles and responsibilities.

Soigneur (‘Swanny’) – generally one soigneur required for three riders (can vary), so three soigneurs per team for the Tour de France.

  • Liaise with team chef and hotel kitchen to prepare riders’ breakfast at the appropriate time according to rider preference (usually comprises rice, eggs etc).
  • Collect rider suitcases and pack team truck that departs early directly for the next hotel.
  • Prepare race nutrition (bottles and feedbags) according to riders’ needs.
  • Provide massage as needed prior to stage start.
  • Distribute nutrition in feed zones.
  • Distribute water and protein shakes at the stage finish and direct riders to team bus.
  • Provide massage at team hotel.
  • Prepare nutrition for the following day.

Mechanic – three mechanics are typically required for each grand tour team.

  • Prepare bikes at stage start.
  • Assist with mechanical issues during each stage.
  • After stage finish, check all bikes and repair if needed, then wash and pack all equipment for the following day.

Bus Driver

  • Prepare race radios for each rider and drive to the stage start.
  • Following the stage start, drive directly to stage finish and assist with preparation of post-stage nutrition and shower facilities.
  • Drive to hotel and clean bus in preparation for following day.
  • Assist mechanics to clean bikes and pack equipment.

Additional support staff at grand tours include assistant team managers, chef, media and public relations personnel. Team Sky had a kitchen/restaurant truck at the 2015 Tour de France, and had also intended to utilise a motorhome for Chris Froome but were disallowed by the UCI. The team owners and/or major sponsors also add to the number of people who might travel with a team during a grand tour. The total number will vary between teams based upon annual budgets and, as mentioned above, Team Sky have certainly set the benchmark.

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