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Tour de France 2014: Managing the Belkin cycling team

For the nine Belkin team cyclists battling it out on the Tour de France this year, there are another 20 members of staff behind the scenes ensuring everything possible is being done to give them the very best chance of success.

The BBC website spoke to two of the team's top managers.

The director of cycling

Richard Plugge has a lot on his plate overseeing the team's Tour de France efforts while also trying to find them a new title sponsor after US electronics firm Belkin said it would pull out at the end of the current season.

"A title sponsor at this moment is crucial to the team. You can't run a team without one," says Plugge. "Most teams depend between 65% to 98% economically on a title sponsor.

"I was surprised at Belkin leaving us because of the amount of commercial awareness the partnership has brought them. But they have their reasons."

However, he is confident the team will be successful in bagging another backer. "The value for money of being a sponsor of a cycling team is incredible," he says.

With cycling there is always the spectre of a fresh doping case waiting to rear its ugly head. Only last week South African cyclist Daryl Impey, who was due to cycle in the Tour de France, tested positive for a banned substance, although he does protest his innocence.

Plugge says this is something the sport has to contend with, but he does believe "we are over the worst days".

"You get cheating in all walks of life, whether it is bankers in the City of London, players biting at the football World Cup, athletes taking substances. Cycling has been at the forefront of sports in tackling these issues.

"We were at the forefront of bringing in the blood passport, which we now see at the football World Cup."

The high performance manager

Louis Delahaye, 48, is one of the team's four coaches, and he has the specific role of high performance manager.

"We have a team in total of 29 riders, and we want them to be as well prepared as they can for all races, including of course the ones taking part in the Tour De France, I am responsible for everything that gets us to that best-prepared position.

"It starts with a lot of training; not only cycling, but also strength training.

"This is the most important aspect. The next most important is nutrition. But that is more than food during the race. It is about what food to eat before training, what you eat after training, what is in the bottles.

"Also in training sometimes you don't give them carbohydrate, so that when they do have it, it then has a bigger effect. You can't do that too often though.

"The third most important aspect is psychological preparation, particularly for a race like this. Our aim is to give our riders complete confidence. In some individual cases we can use a sports psychologist.

"But confidence comes from the training and preparation that we provide for them, if they think that we have prepared them to the best we can, that we are assured in our tactics, then that builds confidence. It is all about giving them the complete package.

"Sleep is the most important aspect of a rider's recovery, and the Tour de France is all about recovering after each stage, ready for the next."

Race navigation is another crucial task and he says that the team has already visited 90% of the course to check the surroundings, including factors such as tricky winds, or narrow kerb space, lampposts, road signage, and other potential hazards.

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