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By Andrew Juskaitis, VeloNews technical editor
Stage 9 provided the rare opportunity for me to spend a bit of one-on-one time with CSC’s “team behind the team” – the mechanics, coaches and soigneurs.
My morning started with an introduction to the leader of the team, Bjarne Riis. After exchanging pleasantries, Riis was off on his morning jog, which he says helps him “get his mind off the Tour, even if it’s only for 45 minutes.” From there, I met up with New Zealander Craig Geater, one of CSC’s five mechanics, who gave me a tour of his world – the Team CSC support truck.
Geater has spent most of his life working in a bicycle shop, including one he owned, and says the truck is “better equipped than most shops are.”
“We’ve got just about everything we need on board,” he added. “All we really need is external power and water and we’re ready to go.” The truck even has a generator for light-duty use.
Inside the truck, Geater showed me how the frames are usually stripped of their wheels for better stacking. With more than 30 bikes in the truck, space was tight, but it was the more than 60 sets of Zipp wheels that really took up a lot of area. Training wheels, road-race wheels, hill-climb wheels, and time-trial wheels lined the length of the truck. At a conservative $2000 per set (Zipp 303 Z3s cost $3000), that’s more than $120,000 in wheels alone.
Geater went on to explain the daily regime of cleaning, maintaining and race-prepping the formidable armada of bikes. “Routine is really important for us so that we don’t skip anything,” Geater said. “It can get a bit monotonous at times, but the routine keeps us focused. Mistakes aren’t an option at the Tour.”
Once ready to go, the team bikes were carefully stacked in the team bus, while the back-up bikes were loaded onto the two support cars. The custom racks on the team cars provide quick access to spare bicycles and wheels during the heated racing action.
Even the back-up bikes are closely scrutinized. “We treat the back-up bikes as if they were the rider’s primary bikes,” Geater explained. “Hopefully the racers will never need to ride them, but if they do, they should perform just as well as their primary bike.”
After loading up the team’s primary and back-up bikes, Geater invited me into the team bus for the ride to the depart in the city of Gap, 40km from their hotel. Air-conditioned comfort greeted me while music from the theater-quality stereo filled my ears. I sat with Geater for the 45-minute drive into town, and was surprised to see how many times he made his way to the back of the bus to check on the bikes.
“Once they’re in the hands of the riders, they’re no longer my concern, but until then, if anything goes wrong, Riis will have my head.” Needless to say, the bikes and the team made it to the start unscathed, and the day’s racing commenced.
As reported in issue #14 of VeloNews, Kraftwerk is releasing their latest album to coincide with the 2003 TdF. The new album “Tour de France Soundtracks”, has 12 tracks with 57 minutes of new music:
1. Prologue – 00:31
2. Tour de France – Etape 1 – 04:28
3. Tour de France – Etape 2 – 06:41
4. Tour de France – Etape 3 – 04:07
5. Chrono – 03:27
6. Vitamin – 08:09
7. Aero Dynamik – 05:05
8. Titanium – 03:21
9. Elektro Kardiogramm – 05:16
10. La Forme – 08:41
11. Regeneration – 02:05
12. Tour de France – 05:10
The credits for the work list Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Fritz Hilpert and Henning Schmitz.