We regularly bring to you close-up looks at what the riders use in the world's greatest bike races. But what about the rolling infrastructure that supports them? While cycling may be a carbon-friendly activity, big-time road racing most certainly is not – with nearly as many four-wheeled vehicles on the road as two.
Any major road race is accompanied by a flotilla of vehicles, with each team operating its own independent fleet. Typically, each squad has around three or four cars, a team bus, a large truck, and often other vehicles such as a mobile kitchen – all tailored for their specific purposes (and not just in terms of the graphics packages applied).
Team Sky has perhaps the snazziest cars in the peloton
Standard upgrades on the cars include multiple two-way radios that communicate with both the riders and race staff. In many cases cars are also fitted with television antennas, effectively putting eyes on multiple parts of the race.
Omega Pharma–Quick-Step uses Peugeot 508 SW vehicles – note the television antenna up top
Most important, though, are the bespoke racks installed on each car. Far from the off-the-shelf models available from consumer brands such as Thule and Yakima, these team specials can usually handle a minimum of four complete bikes and roughly half a dozen spare wheels – all accessible virtually instantly by team mechanics via special quick-release levers and open-topped wheel trays.
Wind resistance must be massive when these racks are fully loaded
Keep in mind, too, that those cars are generally the only team vehicles spectators see in a race – and are only the tip of the iceberg. Giant custom buses transport riders from the team hotel to the race start, then go directly to the finish to await their arrival. Meanwhile other support vehicles, such as mechanics' trucks and miscellaneous vans, go directly from hotel to hotel to set up shop for the night.
The Trek Factory Racing truck is notably plush
All in all, it's quite the caravan – and in some ways, a bit of a circus – but plays a crucial role in one of the world's greatest sports.