Team Sky’s mobile workshop gleamed black and hot under the blazing Provençal sun on the 2013 Tour de France’s second rest day in Orange. But inside the state of the art Volvo truck, the mechanics worked in air conditioned coolness, changing the handlebar tape of Chris Froome’s bike, checking tyres for the tiniest nicks and double-checking measurements on each bike.
In this video, Team Sky’s head mechanic, Gary Blem, gives BikeRadar a tour and takes us through some of the facts and figures of keeping a squad kitted out during the Tour de France.
Video: inside Team Sky's mobile workshop
The truck is based on mobile workshops used by F1 motorsport teams. When it’s parked up – usually outside team hotels or at the start of time trial stages – the sides extend outwards to create a sheltered workspace for two mechanics. The truck carries 28 road frames, dozens of wheelsets and scores of spare components, everything a top team need to keep their riders’ bikes in perfect condition.
“It’s the best vehicle I’ve used on any team,” said Blem, who joined the British squad from HTC-Highroad. “Basically, before the team started they had a meeting with the mechanics who suggested what would make the working environment more pleasant, and they came up with this idea.
“It’s really comfortable; we’ve got an air conditioner, a heater in winter and for the Classics season, and the lighting’s really good so we can work later at night and not have to rush our work.”
The Team Sky truck follows the riders around Europe
The truck has seen most of Europe’s motorways since 2010, and has about 180,000km on the clock.
During tours when the team has a full complement of nine riders, it carries 28 road bikes. That’s three per rider, plus an extra one for the team leader. Time trial bikes – two per rider – are brought in when they’re needed. “Currently, they’re resting in the service course before the next time trial,” said Blem. Each rider also has a spare frame should one bike be wrecked in a crash.
Entering the third week of the 2013 Tour, the British squad were down to seven riders after Vasil Kiryienka missed the time cut on stage 9 and Edvald Boasson Hagen withdrew after crash injuries on stage 12.
Cassettes are kept neat and tidy in a corner of the lorry
The team sends four bike mechanics to the Tour. There’s also a Jaguar technician on board to make running repairs to the squad’s convoy cars if needed. Each mechanic is assigned three riders’ bikes, and every day two travel in the convoy cars and two head to the finish to prepare kit for the following stage.
As with any team, the Tour hammers Sky’s consumables. The mechanics will fit between 30 and 40 chains and about 100 tyres and sets of handlebar tape over the three-week race.