What do I do when my team car is AWOL?
When the pro peloton starts turning the pedals there’s one thing you can count on and that is there will be mechanical issues, all day long. Each team is responsible for the maintenance of their bikes and employs a full time team of mechanics to completely tear down each bike, clean it, rebuild and lube it while the riders eat dinner and bed down. When they throw their legs over the bike frame the next day it’s essentially a new bike.
Throughout any race, which can be up to 150 – 180 miles each day, there will be problems. The team car usually follows the peloton, French for “platoon”, or what we might call “the pack” and will be prepared to resolve issues that arise. Regardless of how many team cars are permitted it’s guaranteed that at some point your car will be out of place when one of your riders has a mechanical issue.
SRAM to the rescue
Insert SRAM Neutral Race Support. Their job is to supplement the team cars and help any rider who needs it. Their efforts, at any cost, are to get the rider back in the race. SRAM is a Chicago based bike component manufacturer. Interestingly, SRAM also owns Rock Shox, Avid, Truvativ, Zipp and Quarq. It stands to reason that SRAMs primary motivation is simply name recognition, which is not only understandable, but reasonable.
Let’s take a look at what is involved in running a Neutral Race Support crew. Michael Zellman SRAM PR Manager shared the following.
SRAM teams consists of:
- 18 bike technicians
- 3 x 2014 XE-70 Volvo
Zellman described his support cars as a “virtual rolling bike shop”, each car has:
- 6 complete bikes
- 6 sets of wheels
- Each car has a host of small parts
- Any tool you might need
- Most common mechanical is a flat tire
The goal is to have the flat changed and the rider back on the road in 10-20 seconds. It’s starting to sound a bit like auto racing.
SRAM team also consists of:
- 2 x Aprilia Mana 850 GT ABS motorcycles
- Automatic Seven-Speed clutchless sequential transmissions
- Each motorbike has a driver and a jumper
- 2 sets of complete wheels
- Motorbike allows technicians to access anywhere in the peloton quickly and easily.
At certain points of each race and as the peloton bears down on the finish, all team cars are pulled back and the neutral support vehicles have full control over keeping the peloton moving. Occasionally a rider can be seen holding onto the neutral support vehicle while a technician hangs out the window working on the derailleur or the brakes. Riders are permitted to hold on the car while this brief repair is conducted as long as the effort doesn’t advance him or her in any way. At times it seems like the technician is working in an upside down position, which is crazy in itself. When a rider indicates that he has a flat tire and gently pulls over it’s amazing to witness the neutral team jump into action and get him going before too much ground is lost.
So, the next time you see SRAM’s Neutral Race Support trademark red cars and motorbikes, you’ll know a little bit more about why they are needed.