The mechanics of the Tour work hard and work fast to make sure the riders bikes are perfect. Here are 16 secrets that help them achieve trouble-free racing.
Leaving nothing to chance, a Cannondale-Drapac mechanic checks the tires on Tom Jelte Slagter’s bike for stones embedded in the tread before the start of Stage 4. The path to the sign-in prior to the stage was covered in small stones, and the mechanic wanted to ensure Slagte’s bike was ready to race from kilometer zero.
One of the Lampre-Merida mechanics uses a hand-held air compressor to top off tires prior to the start of a stage. Several teams had the hand-held Bosch units shown, which has been discontinued. A similar product from Craftsman will cost you about $120, with battery and charger.
The one thing I saw mechanics fussing over more than anything before the start of a stage was tire pressure. Movistar mechanic Tomás Amezaga uses a Topeak SmartGauge D2 to check tire pressure one last time before the riders roll to the start of the next stage.
Over at the Astana
truck, a rider and mechanic make a quick adjustment before the start of a stage. I saw this same scene play out several times, at several team trucks: In the Tour’s high-pressure environment, many riders are hyper-sensitive to any sound or feeling—real or imagined—that might indicate something is wrong with the bike.
Be the Bike Stand
Prior to the start of stage three, the mechanics of Bora-Argon 18 give Andreas Schillinger’s drivetrain a quick check. There are no work stands
set up at a stage start: Most of the work on the bikes happens after the end of the previous stage, or in the morning before the teams drive to the next stage’s start area. Without a stand available, the mechanics themselves must become a stand for quick fixes.
Wrap, and Wrap Again
Romain Bardet has some unique handlebar preferences. Not only is his bar position odd, he also has very specific taste in tape. Team sponsor Fizik makes three handlebar tape
thicknesses: Superlight (2mm), Endurance (2.5mm), and Performance (3mm). Bardet, however, prefers a double wrap of Superlight tape, which means double the work for his mechanics.
The Tour de France
was invented to sell stuff, specifically newspapers. It’s no different today: The Tour is a giant parade of advertising. Team sponsors want their money’s worth, and the teams work hard to ensure sponsor logos are clean and visible. Here is an Ag2r mechanic applying fresh new decals to a Zipp 404.
The spare bikes on top of the team cars are often the previous year’s primary race bikes (if they’re in good shape). Last year, the team riding Trek bikes was simply known as Trek Factory Racing
, but with the addition of co-sponsor Segafredo, the team became Trek-Segafredo. That meant updating the logos on all the trucks, jerseys, and bikes. Here’s a mechanic using a sticker to cover up last year’s Trek Factory Racing branding with the updated team logos.
Morgan Blue is not a well-known brand in the USA, but the company supplies cleaning, lubricating, and maintenance products to 10 of the 22 teams—Movistar, Katusha, Tinkoff, Dimension Data, Cannondale, FDJ, Lotto NL Jumbo, Etixx, Ag2r, Giant-Alpecin—in the Tour. This chain keeper is simple—a bolt, wing nut, and plastic roller—and effective; it sells for about seven bucks.
Weight for It
According to UCI rules, all bikes in the Tour must weigh 6.8 kilograms or more. With a modern carbon race frame and high-end components, it’s not difficult to dip under that number. Prior to the start of the first stage, it was common to see team mechanics checking the weight of the bikes, especially that of a high profile rider like Astana’s Fabio Aru
The mechanics of the Tour spend a lot of time washing things. The race bikes are washed after every stage; the spare bikes are washed regularly, and the team vehicles are washed often also. With all that time spent splashing around in water, a good set of wellies are an essential part a mechanic’s wardrobe.
Works for Everything
Three of the most common and essential tools of any Tour mechanic’s collection: electrical tape, duct tape, and a toe strap.
Don’t Tell the Sponsors
Based on what I saw in the tool boxes, and regardless of the official team tool sponsor, Beta is very popular among team mechanics. One mechanic—who is officially supposed to use another brand of tools—referred to the brand as “the Snap-On of Italy,” and had a treasured set of Beta hex wrenches
he purchased many years ago, at the urging of his mentor, that he still relies on almost daily.
Why a Garmin mount
on a bike stand? So the mechanic can easily reach the head unit when pairing and calibrating a power meter.
Plug it In
Bora-Argon 18’s mechanics added this plug to a folding ruler for quick and precise saddle height
checks. The plug fits into the crank arm’s mounting bolt, and keeps the bottom of the rule securely centered while the mechanic eyeballs the measurement.
The Lotto NL-Jumbo mechanics have a very simple system for designating which wheels are the primary race wheels, and which belong to the spare bikes. If there’s a zip tie on the hub, the wheel belongs to a spare bike.