From pillows to Pinarellos: Inside Team Sky's marginal-gains world
In its seventh year competing in the WorldTour, winning has become synonymous with Team Sky. For 2016 that seems to be continuing, at Liege-Bastogne-Liege with Wout Poels’ victory (and Team Sky’s first monument) – not to mention Chris Froome closing in on his third Tour de France victory later this year.
During the one-day classics season, BikeRadar was invited for an exclusive look into the Team Sky service course in Belgium where the concept of marginal gains and the foundations of Team Sky’s success begins.
We were shown around the service course by the team’s head of technical operations and commercial, Carsten Jeppesen. The Dane works closely with each of the team’s brands to develop products specifically to enhance performance. He’s behind many of the incremental tweaks that have contributed to the success of the team in recent years.
The team cars outside are some of the only signs of team sky’s presence at the warehouse:
The team cars outside are some of the only signs of Team Sky’s presence at the warehouse – at least, when no one is riding around
With little more than a few team cars outside to identify the nondescript warehouse in Deinze, Belgium, the service course is a case of ‘more than meets the eye’. Put it this way, Team Sky certainly isn’t short of equipment.
The team has approximately 290 bikes at any one time. With riders keeping a training road and TT bike at home (usually the previous year’s), the service course stores the current season’s fleet of race bikes, along with around 250 sets of wheels and a huge selection of tyres. However, this is just the beginning…
Carsten jeppesen talks through the different frames available to the riders:
Carsten Jeppesen talks through the different frames available to the riders
The phrase Aladdin’s Cave may spring to mind when seeing the famous black and blue clad Dogma hung upon the walls of the service course – and this is only the beginning. With spare racing and podium kit from Rapha, helmets from KASK, components from Shimano, tyres from Continental and FMB ageing and enough nutrition to supply a small army Team Sky has every eventuality of the season covered.
A look around the service course:
A look around the service course
Among the carbon, Lycra, tools and rubber you might come to expect from a World Tour cycling team, we were also shown around some of the other supplies with which the marginal gains of Team Sky are truly showcased.
With memory foam pillows and mattresses (with different thicknesses for different riders), hypoallergenic bedding, dehumidifiers, air purifiers, air conditioning units and heaters, Team Sky ensures every rider gets the best possible rest during races. Combined with a dedicated team of carers preparing, cleaning and laundering each hotel room night after night the infrastructure behind the riders before and after each race is astounding.
The team also take their own hypoallergenic bedding for the riders to use:
The team take their own hypoallergenic bedding for the riders to use
Arguably, many changes in the pro-peloton that would have seemed alien even 10 years ago have been fashioned by Team Sky. Jeppesen recalls the introduction of cool-downs into the team and working closely with Wahoo to develop the Kickr.
“Team Sky were the first to start cooldowns after a race, and the other teams called us crazy to begin with,” he says. “Now, name me a WorldTour team who doesn’t cool down post race. It provokes recovery and for us there is no other option.”
Sometimes there are less refined methods of monitoring stock levels – team sky get through 32-35,000 bidons every season! :
Team Sky gets through 32-35,000 bidons every season
With thousands of products to choose from and millions in budget, Team Sky’s recent success may not seem that surprising. But the infrastructure behind the team is as impressive as the teams palmares, and on the evidence of our visit to the service course, we see no signs of the team stopping anytime soon.
Click through our image gallery for a full insight into the service course.