A mobile office and hub, a lot goes on in our Volvo’s at a race – especially in “DS1” our first following race car. We thought we would take you behind the scenes to see what a day at the Vuelta looks like – through the hustle and bustle moments of wheel changes, to what our mechanic Maarten does to occupy himself throughout the quieter moments of the day…
Before the stage gets underway the car is packed with all of the essentials such as spare wheels, bottles, Sanas gels and more. In the meantime, the coach, in this case Matt Winston, sets up the front of the car and loads up Veloviewer – a resource we use which has the stage parcours loaded in to it so we can see any danger moments coming up, and it’s also where our soigneurs can mark their bottle points (but more on that later!)
Ahead of setting off, we also go through a radio check with the riders to make sure that not only we can hear them, but also so that they can hear us. This is important for safety (giving out parcours info) but also tactical too as the riders can then feed back race information to the car.
If that’s all clear then we set off and get the race underway!
During this particular stage Matt gave his congratulations to the previous day’s winner Jay Vine and his team. It’s nice to share some positivity and congratulations amongst the bunch!
As mentioned, Matt can see on Veloviewer any up and coming danger points, so throughout the stage he will feed those through to the riders ahead of time so that they are alert and aware of any upcoming difficulties. It’s not only just for safety, as we will also feed through the parcours when necessary, such as how long the climb they are about to begin is – something that maybe the riders don’t want to hear all of the time if it’s a tough day!
Of course, it’s not just Matt in the car as we also have a mechanic too, in the following clip it’s Felipe Ennes Houdjakoff, and they need to be switched on throughout the day – carrying out a variety of different tasks. The most obvious one you might think of is a wheel change and that’s exactly what happened here, with Felipe sprinting into action to help out Jonas Iversby Hvdiberg.
But alongside all of the action, they often can find some time in the quieter moments to relax. In this case Maarten ter Heiden can practice his origami – he does need to be good with his hands as a mechanic after all!
Throughout the day, our soigneurs often have to pass the race if there isn’t a deviation or route possible for them – and this is all coordinated via the race organisers and then Matt in the car too make sure that it is done in the safest way possible. Firstly letting the soignuers know what is happening if they didn’t hear on race radio but then also letting the guys in the bunch know that the cars will come through.
Once the cars are through and to their next point (which we have a team of brilliant soigneurs spread throughout the course), then Matt will give information to the riders about who is coming up and where they are positioned. The soigneur will have given their information in a message to Maarten, such as their kilometre distance into the route, where exactly they are standing (on top of a rise, 200 metres after the car for example) and what other teams are there too.
However, in a race like the Vuelta where it is hard from start to finish then the riders often come back to the car for feeding and hydration too. In this case it was Henri Vandenabeele who came back to grab some bottles for himself and the rest of the guys; which we try to carry out in the safest way possible, and everyone in the convoy respects each other (as you’ll notice Matt’s friendly horn honks and waves).
On this stage the breakaway was fighting hard and would ultimately go on to take the win, but for a while it looked as if it might come back to a sprint finish. Sometimes it is unclear beforehand if both sides of a roundabout are open for example and you only find out on arrival, so once again a staff member fed that info back to the car who then told the riders. It’s those small details which can help increase your chance of success.
In the ever-changing race scenario, a few kilometres later it was clear that the break would take the stage win and you can hear Matt and Maarten discussing how the race is unfolding; before communicating that to the guys in the bunch.
After the stage is finished, the car will arrive at the team parking where everything that was packed into it before the start of the day, needs to be taken out before the car is cleaned; ready for everyone to do it all again the next day. We’re sure Maarten would love to be able to do this as fast as in the video!
As you have seen, a lot happens throughout a normal day at Grand Tour and it takes a whole operation of staff, both in DS1 and elsewhere on route, to make sure that the stage goes as smoothly as possible. It can be manic or tranquil, but everyday provides a new experience in the rolling circus that is the Grand Tour peloton.
We hope you enjoyed the read and video clips and that you gained a bit more of an insight into what goes on during a stage!