Text: Foucauld Duchange | Photos: Damien Rigondeaud
During a race such as Paris-Nice, the seven riders selected for the Delko-Marseille-Provence team need four bikes each: a bike for the race, a spare bike on each of the two sports directors’ cars and a time trial bike. This means 28 top of the range bikes move from city to city, all of which need to be maintained and tuned to perfection before and after each stage.
In order to meet these very specific needs, Sito, the team’s head mechanic, came up with the idea of converting a coach into an efficient mobile workshop. Inside this tailor-made vehicle you’ll find forty supports fitted out for the team’s various bikes and nearly double that for the Corima wheels. The LOOK 795 Blade RS used by the majority of riders, the 785 Huez RS for climbers and the 796 Monoblade RS for time trials all have their allocated slot.
Under the bike racks, there are drawers forming aisles a bit like in a mobile shop. There are aisles for saddles, peddles, helmets, inner tubes and chains. In a small recess under the steps, there’s a foldable workbench for trickier tuning. At the front, behind the driver’s seat, is another space kitted out for the training/support team. There’s a kitchen for much-needed « café con leche » and a large Spanish staff to prepare all the day’s sandwiches. A washing machine and tumble dryer are also constantly on the go, so that cyclists and staff have a clean kit every morning.
On the outside, where luggage would normally be stored, there’s a generator, a pressure washer, an « air blow gun » to dry the bikes after washing and an automatic pump to inflate inner tubes. Working in all weather conditions and sometimes until very late at night, the mechanics also have a protective awning and, most of all, an integrated lighting system.
On the Paris-Nice race, Sito was accompanied by Patrice and Rémi who were on their first pro-season tour. Moving up from amateur races, they were plunged into a world where details count, even on an aesthetic level. You won’t find a LOOK bike take centre stage if its inner tube valves are visible! All valves are aligned and concealed – at the fork level for the front wheel and at seat tube level for the rear wheel. Similarly, handlebar tape is changed daily, not to mention the ongoing maintenance required for technical parts. You need more than a clean-looking bike to win a race, but a bike’s cool « LOOK » can certainly give you a psychological advantage. And we all know the importance of psychology for top-level athletes…