Rapha’s View From The Convoy

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What an exciting experience seeing the race from the team car today.  Much more enjoyable that being in the middle of the peloton down the gutter where I usually view the race from.  Being in the team car gave me a whole new perspective and appreciation for the other side of the race.

The convoy is a race within the race itself.  Each car is numbered and needs to stay in it’s assigned position within the convoy.  This will change based on GC placing as the race goes on, but we were car #8 at the start of today.  As the other team cars  attend to their riders they move in around the caravan and there’s a specific etiquette just like riding in a peloton of bikes.   Unfortunately some of the motorbikes weren’t aware of this etiquette and were doing all sorts of dodgy stuff (passing on the inside, cutting us off when stopping, etc).  When the bunch got split to pieces in the crosswinds Kristian House got caught where there was a media motorbike right in the middle of the bunch completely surrounded by riders.  A crash resulted and House was relegated to the trailing echelon.  These aren’t the stories told in the race results.

All the other teams have race radios except for Rapha.  This is because the radios they use in the UK operate in reserved frequencies here in Australia.  I learned heaps about the race radio debate and the other side that isn’t discussed as much in the mainstream media.

The perception is that race radios are allowing a game of chess to be called from the team car.  It’s said that riders don’t think for themselves anymore.  Well I realized today that this isn’t really how it works.  In the team meeting last night they made a plan and intended to stick to it. There were absolutely no tactics that John Herety  (Rapha Team Manager) would have dictated to the team that they didn’t already know. The riders are well aware of how to react to the race situation.

However, the race radio would have come in handy for him to confirm details of the race that the commissaire was relaying on the broadcast radios.  There were many mistakes made by the race organisers on the radio such as how many riders of each team made the split (not that it’s an easy job to do, but this is important stuff to get right).  This would have been nice to confirm with the riders but instead riders had to come back to our car to give us this information.   Another example is the race organiser told all the team cars in the last 10kms that there were dangerous tram tracks in the last km of race that wasn’t pointed out on the course map anywhere.  Another thing that would have been nice to tell the riders if we had our radios.

The mechanic also relies heavily on the radio.  When a rider comes back to the car he has no idea what the problem is.  It could be because he has a puncture, needs water or food, has an injury or has a mechanical.

Tactics aren’t the primary purpose of the race radio.  Information is the purpose.  The fact that the riders have rarely seen the roads they’re racing on makes this information so important.  Sure all the riders study the maps before the race, but there are so many details there’s no possible way they can remember it all.  In a sport like football or tennis, the arena and boundaries of play are well known and don’t change.  Bike racing doesn’t work like this.

It was also cool to see the piece that the team cars and the convoy play in the race. All the cars all helped out each other by drafting riders back up to the peloton after a crash or mechanical. Waterbottle slings were also common to either give the rider a boost back up to the pack. Another interesting thing occurred when the group got split into two major bunches from the crosswinds and there was a gap of over a minute. John made the move to pass the trailing bunch and brought the rest of the caravan with him. The convoy was subtly working to string itself so that the second bunch could get back on with the leading bunch. It didn’t work because the gap was too big but it’s a great example of what’ss going on behind the scenes.

It was an incredible day out there that I’ll never forget.  I won’t be in the car tomorrow as there’s a transfer to Warrnambool so I need to take care of bringing a vehicle over there.  I’ll tweet as many updates as I can but unfortunately it won’t be as fun as today.  I’ll probably only be able to post something brief on tomorrow as it’ll be a busy day.

Here’s a short video of my view of the race today.  As you can see it starts out very hectic but after the race settles in there’s a lot of shenanigans that go on.  John and Andy are like two peas in a pod. Enjoy…

BTW, I only have one song on my new computer and I had to re-use it from my last video.  Great song though.  I won’t be posting this one on YouTube as they always remove the track (and I can’t afford to post 2 videos on mobile broadband at $5 per Mb!).

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