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The fact that this years Giro began outside of Italy in Belfast and finished in Dublin is one that may boggle many casual cycling followers mind. But as most of you know the Giro d’Italy starting abroad isn’t anything new, and we’ve seen it before with all the Grand Tours. But the thing that makes this years edition of the race different from others and truly does boggle the mind is the lengthy distance from the last stage in Ireland to the following stage in Italy.
I had a head full of questions, wanting to know how the logistics of such an enormous race could be moved form the rain soaked roads of Ireland to the sun baked roads of Italy in only one day.
Dublin put on a magnificent arrival of the third stage, with Marcel Kittel taking the win. Once over the line and presented with his jersey and flowers the mayhem behind the scene was underway to get things ready for the next stage in southern Italy.
Stage four kicks off in Bari and is about 2756km from Dublin. A long way by anyone’s standards. So how can a Grand Tour and the teams transport all their equipment, staff, vehicles (cars, vans, busses) and riders from the finish on Sunday night to the start line on Tuesday morning? The answers is a an enormous amount of planning by the race organiser (RCS) and the teams. I spoke with several teams to find out how they have handled this problem.
Alyssa Morhan has been a soigneur for Garmin-Sharp for a long time and said like all other teams, they have been planning this day since last December. Team Astana, the 2013 defending champions team, began planning their logistics even earlier – over 6 months in preparation for this journey.
Let’s start with the big things: team Cars, buses and trucks. No teams are expecting to use any of their own vehicles immediately for Stage 4 in Italy on Tuesday. All teams have doubled-up in this department; a second fleet of team busses and cars will be waiting in Bari. Most (if not all) World Tour teams have two or more busses and the one waiting for them in Italy may have come from the Tour of Turkey, Tour of Romandy or any other of the many other races that have been running the past few weeks leading up to the Giro.
As the majority of teams competing in the Giro will have second and even third teams competing at different races while the Giro d’Italia is on, so the buses that started out in Ireland will be needed at other races and will travel to these locations (such as the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon or Bayern Rundfahrt) Busses and team cars will go to either one of those two options depending on where the next race is or where the team Service Course is based.
The teams with their main Service Course in Belgium or Holland (such as Trek Factory Racing, Team Sky, OPQS, Lotto-Belisol and Giant-Shimano) will head back to their respective Service Course centres and unpack there – a relatively easy option. Others teams who are based in Spain or Italy will rendezvous with mechanics and team staff to a precise location on the roadside, usually a car park or quiet industrial estate, and will swap over all their bikes and kit, replacing equipment unique to the riders at the Giro for items needed at the upcoming event.
The majority of other unused items that have been in Ireland will also go onto the following race. Items such as energy food, drink powder, bottles and spare components. One item that I was surprised at that a was not taken directly to Italy was the team helmets. These were doubled-up with new ones waiting for the team in Bari, Italy. With the importance and frailty of helmets, no team wanted to risk having any damaged.
Equipment and People
The Giro organisers (RCS) charted three planes. Two planes for team staff, riders, officials and organising staff, plus a third plane for moving cargo only. Each team gets a freight allowance, and in that allowance they are allowed 14 bikes. This an be a problem for teams with more than their allowance, but will get around this problem by packing two bikes in to a single bike box.
This cargo flight left at 8pm on Sunday night straight after stage 3. Every team had a designated 30 minute time period to do this. The flight then landed and was unloaded at 5am Monday morning. Team staff from all the teams then picked up items and commenced their manic preparations for tomorrow’s start.
The riders and organisers made the three hour flight on Monday morning, leaving Dublin airport at 8am. The majority of the team staff flew with the riders (most on the other plane).
The race organiser (RCS) who also needs a convoy of vehicles (for officials, staff, etc) brought very few of their own vehicles to Ireland. RCS partnered with local car dealer ‘Donnelly’ who supplied them with a full convoy of cars so they didn’t have to transport any of their own. When they arrive back in Italy their usual “IT” plated vehicles will be seen again leading the race.
Fifty police motorbikes and several police cars were also at RCS’s disposal (including a very flash looking Audi).
Race staff was comprised of nearly 600 members while in Ireland. This included all organisers, officials, police, security, etc. However, this is only half as many as the number of staff needed when the race returns to Italy. 1200 people will be able to say they were part of the well oiled Giro machine.
When you break this down it works out to a total of 25,000 nights worth of hotel reservations that is spread over 800 hotels throughout the three weeks.
Hotels and amenities
One of the men in charge of RCS hotel logistics is Andrea Giarrizzo. Mr. Giarrizzo compared the task of trying to find suitable hotels to a giant game of Tetris. One factor that’s needed to be taken in to account is that every team has to cover the same amount of transfer kilometres by the end of the Giro. No team is allowed to have the privilege of being closest to a stage start or finish. If on one stage a team is lucky enough to be 20kms from the finish and start of two stages they know that later on they’ll pay for this luxury down the line.
Since Ireland has never hosted the Giro before, RCS had to come over and inspect all the hotels. The local tourist board and organising body did the ground work in searching for what they thought would be suitable then had to pass this on to the experienced RCS staff who then came back in February to inspect. Things had to be taken into consideration such as the size of carparks for team busses and trucks, security, amenities, etc. From what I understand by speaking with various RCS staff, they’ve been amazed by the level of organisation that the various tourism boards have sorted out.
Several teams now have there own rolling kitchens; usually a converted camper van with a professional kitchen installed. Obviously the team team kitchens didn’t travel to Ireland – these would be waiting in Italy. Instead the team chefs dealt directly with the head of the kitchen at the hotel restaurants in Ireland. They sent over exact lists of ingredients and tools that they would need to cater for the teams. Once the teams arrived to the hotel the team chef had full control of the hotel kitchen.
Everyone I spoke with, either staff members or organising and officials, seemed to be unfazed by this enormous transfer of the race. Due to months of meticulous planning, every last detail had been accounted for to make everything go as smoothly as possible. Chris Baldwin, Astana’s Press Officer, joked they had used the same preparations to organise this transfer as was used in the famous Berlin Airlift! Not the sort of statement you expect thrown round a car park at the start of a race.