The logistics of taking a WorldTour team overseas
Travelling with a bike overseas isn’t the easiest or most pleasant of tasks. It’s hard enough remembering to pack the usual items that you’re bound to need on your cycling holiday, let alone the items you might need in the case of some unforeseen situation. Now imagine having to organise that for a whole WorldTour team. Dave Everett spoke to long-time mechanic Alan Buttler and soigneur Alyssa Morahan from Garmin-Sharp about what’s involved in taking the right gear halfway around the world, whether that’s for the Tour Down Under, the Tour of Dubai or any race that’s far from the team’s European base.
It took Alan, Alyssa and the team two days at the Garmin-Sharp service course in Girona, Spain to pack enough gear to keep the team’s seven riders fully kitted up for the Santos Tour Down Under and the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.
The mechanics know what each member of the team uses, from preferred choice of frame to saddle type to bar width and every measurement in between. Alan is able to use this data (which is kept in a simple spreadsheet) to pack exactly the right items for the team’s trip down under.
If none of the riders competing at the Tour Down Under likes using a 140mm stem then none are packed. This goes not just for the Tour Down Under but for every race, from the Classics through to the Tour of Beijing. Even at the Tour de France space in the team trucks is limited and the teams can only bring what the riders will (or might have to) use.
When flying to races the riders bring both their training bike and a race bike. For the Garmin-Sharp riders, their training bike at the moment is last season’s race bike as the new 2014 models are still being assembled back in Girona. This is a mammoth task in and of itself.
With the riders bringing their bikes Alan takes care of the rest. The race wheels — 13 pairs in total — are packed into bike bags and fly with Alan. A mix of wheel depths are needed — they take 4 x 60mm and 5 x 80mm — with the remaining four sets of wheels being alloy sets for taking in the team car during the race.
In Adelaide the training bikes received a slight facelift with new chains, cassettes and chain rings installed in the days leading up to the race. The training bikes were then used as spares during the Tour Down Under.
The team’s training bikes come equipped with Ultegra Di2, which is why one out of the five spare group sets brought over by the team is always Ultegra Di2. The remaining spare groupsets are a mixture of 10- and 11-speed Dura Ace Di2. Garmin-Sharp isn’t sponsored by Shimano; instead they have to purchase the equipment. This gives the team the freedom to use Rotor cranks.
Garmin-Sharp brought a plentiful supply of spare tubes with them in addition to 25 spare tyres. With some of the riders on the team using a new wheel from Mavic which has a wider rim, the spare tyres are a mix of 23mm (for the older wheels) and 25mm (for the new wheels).
A whole plethora of spare parts is also shipped, including spare seatposts with integrated Di2 batteries, bottom brackets, pedals and bars, stems and saddles, the last three of those only in the sizes required by the riders.
Some of the bars, stems and seat posts are not doubled up, so if two riders use the same type of saddle only one is brought. The justification is that it’s very unlikely that both saddles on the race bikes will be needing replacement at some point. Most of these spare parts are crammed into spare Scicon bike bags.
Alyssa takes care of the nutrition and sports massage side of the operation. For a race like the Tour Down Under 35kg of energy bars, gels and electrolyte powder are packed. As the team is also competing in the Jayco Herald Sun Tour a grand total of 70kg was needed.
The 35kg for each tour is split between 10kg of drink mix and equal amounts of bars and gels. All this is crammed into huge coolers for use at the races.
Any leftover nutrition products are usually left to a lucky local club but spare tyres, tubes and other equipment is packed up and shipped back to Europe.
The organisers of the Tour Down Under help to lighten the load on the overseas teams by providing as much generic product as possible, including race bidons.
The Tour Down Under and a few other major events through the year have an official nutrition sponsor. In the case of the Tour Down Under the sponsor is Powerade and the brand’s name appears on all bottles used throughout the tour … even if the product inside the bidon might not be Powerade.
The Tour Down Under is unique in that it also has an official sponsor for massage creams, bike oils and bike cleaning products: Morgan Blue. This arrangement doesn’t really affect the teams’ sponsorship arrangements as all bar two of the current WorldTour teams already use Morgan Blue anyway.
For the first time this year massage tables were also supplied by the organisation. From talking with Alan and Alyssa it seems that Tour Down Under is very rare with regards to the support provided by the race organisers.
Team cars and minivans are also supplied by the organisers … although a few teams such as Orica-GreenEDGE and Team Sky also arrived at the race using sponsors cars from local dealerships. Team Sky were spotted escorting sponsors and guests about in a very flash blue and black topless Jaguar!
One area where the Tour Down Under organisers did attract some criticism was with regards to the allotment of seating on the planes bound for Adelaide. For the riders it’s close to luxury with seats in business class, but for the staff they must suffer the 24-hour flight in cattle class.
The cost of transporting all the equipment to Adelaide is covered by the organisers of the Tour Down Under. All that team staffers like Alan and Alyssa have to do is turn up to the airport and check all the gear in, usually to the shock and bemusement of the airline check-in staff.
By the numbers