We’re a team and that doesn’t just mean the riders…

Our team is always made up of many different people who all fulfil an important task and today I’d like to introduce you to the team working alongside us riders.

We’ll start with our bus driver Roger Van De Maele, who drives us to the start of the stages and then later on to the next hotel. However, that’s not all he does. He is responsible for looking after all the team vehicles and washes them regularly. He also has to make sure that all the teams’ communication devices are fully charged and operating correctly both before and after stages. After the stage is over he makes sure that everything is prepared for when we take a shower and that refreshments are available. He also washes our towels and cleans up after us.

We are in capable hands with our four physiotherapists Joachim Lapaege, Marc Van Gijsegehm, Hans Van Hout and Kurt Wouters. They give us our well earned massages after the stages and now and again they see to our other little aches and pains. However, that’s only a small part of the daily work that they are required to complete. They also take turns in making sure that all our baggage is brought to the next hotel every day and is available to us in our rooms. They prepare the drinking bottles for every stage, as well as our food, wash our and their own clothes daily, look after our team cars and always keep an eye open that everything we need is in them. A day can often start as early as 7:00 in the morning and finish as late as 22:00 in the evening. Before the start of an event they collect the riders from the airport and then also take us back to an airport when it is over. They also do all this before they themselves can head for home. For the Tour de France we’ve also got Steven Vrancken on board, an osteopath who is constantly rectifying our positions and always checks us over once again after a crash to make sure everything is alright. This is something which really is important.

As our racing bikes really get some stick and have to cope with a hell of a lot, they are maintained every day by three mechanics who share all the work between them. Our three turbo-tinkerers Nick Mondelaers, Dirk Tyteca and Steven Van Olmen are reliable and sometimes have to burn the midnight oil to get the bikes ready for the next stage. Every day there are at least two mechanics on the stage, with one sitting in each of the two team cars. They help us during the races when we have a mechanical problem or if after a crash your bike is no longer fit for the road. We have two cars because one is always behind either the main field or the leaders and the other one either supplies the dropped riders or supports a breakaway group if we happen to have a rider in there. During the three weeks of the Tour de France the handle bar tape will be renewed three times, the chain once, the tyres are checked regularly for damage and changed if it’s really necessary. Every day after the stage the bikes are cleaned and given a quick inspection. If there’s a little crack in the paintwork, it may be that the entire frame is replaced. It’s therefore hardly surprising that the boys normally have their hands full.

As you’ve all seen and read that’s a hell of a lot of people who are involved in the team and we haven’t even mentioned the complete management team, the PR people, the catering team and the team doctor yet. I’ll write something about them tomorrow…

See you then,

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