The gruelling cobbles of Paris-Roubaix are known for dishing out punishment to the riders and bikes that take place in the one-day classic, but spare a thought for the vehicles that support each team on its quest for success.
Ford recently published details on the latest support cars it built for Team Sky, along with the upgrades and modifications necessary to make the car ready for the cobbles. We take a closer look at the process below:
Choose the right base model
First up, Ford chose a model with a lot of space as standard: enter the 2016 Mondeo, albeit the range-topping Titanium version in the spacious estate (or station wagon, depending on where you're reading this) body style.
Equipped with the 178hp version of Ford’s 2.0 TDCI engine, Team Sky’s Mondeos also get four-wheel drive – something that should well help on wet and uneven cobbles.
Lift and stiffen
The surface doesn’t only bring issues in terms of grip though – deep ruts combined with team members and additional kit in excess of 400kg means that standard suspension wouldn’t cut it for the team. For that reason, Ford has installed stiffer springs that also increase the vehicle ride height.
Plates at the ready
Despite a slightly taller stance and less movement from the car, the camber on each side of the course still leaves the underside of the Mondeo vulnerable and so Ford has also installed a 5mm alloy undertray to prevent impact damage to vital engine and transmission components.
Optimise the space
To prepare Team Sky for the 257.5km route, the car is loaded with up to eight bikes on its roof rack. Internally, five spare Shimano C50 wheels sit alongside a toolbox and more vital spares.
Add 50 energy bars and 50 filled water bottles in the car’s on-board coolbox, a dedicated clothing area plus custom waterproof wet bags and a compartment to dry wet clothes and you start to appreciate just how organised each team car has to be.
After Ford carried out its modifications, the Team Sky's team car was then put through its paces at Ford’s Lommel proving ground in Belgium. Consisting of more than 80km of test tracks and over 100 extreme surfaces, the facility is where Ford’s R&D teams test cars to their limits. Perfect for this application is a 1.9km section of road produced specifically to simulate some of the world’s worst potholes.
Communication is key
Three radios within the Mondeo provide the vital link between those in the car and the team’s rider.
It has to look the part
With a million spectators potentially viewing the car just on the course alone it’s important that the car looks as good as it works. Team Sky worked closely with its vinyl expert to produce a car that represents its team and sponsors as best as possible.