Tour de France 2014: Backstage with the Belkin staff
- 7 July 2014
- From the section Business
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 business website spoke to three of the team's key backroom staff.
The team mechanic
Vincent Hendriks, 41, is one of the team's three bike mechanics.
"I am always in the first team car behind our lead rider, with the spare bikes, and we also carry other spare parts too.
"The second mechanic is in the second car following our other riders, and the third mechanic travels in the team truck heading towards our hotel at the end of the day's stage.
"Every day I check the 28 bikes we have here with us on the UK phase for our nine riders.
"I am always checking everything, the tyres, the chains, the electronics, everything - you never know when something might get broken.
"Every rider needs their bikes set up right just for them, for their riding position. Some can get on a bike that is not set up for them and manage, but for others a one millimetre difference in how the bike is set, can have them in real pain."
He says that tyres and tyre pressures have to be changed according to the weather or the road surface the cyclists are on, such as stages on cobbled roads.
For the latter there are even special bikes for using on cobbles.
Gear shifting is done electronically, with a battery inside the seat post, and he has to make sure these are fully charged for each stage.
"If there is a major accident we will get the spare bike down off the team car and he will use that. But we also have to capacity to do running repairs on a bike if it is a minor issue, such as grip tape for the handlebar, or something small.
"I have a long day, but if nothing goes wrong - and it shouldn't - then I am sitting in the car getting a great view of the race, which is not so bad."
The team chef
Jesper Boom makes the meals for the team's personnel.
"We bring much of the food from Holland, as well as the vitamins and minerals that the cyclists need," he says.
"The cyclists like the chewy Dutch spelt bread so that is baked in Holland and brought with us. We also have special grains added to it for the cyclists.
"Another thing we have brought that the team like is Dutch peanut butter paste - pindakaas."
The team also brings its own pasta from Holland, a small grano-pasta that is easier for the cyclists to digest.
Otherwise the team eats surprisingly normal meals, with a salad starter, fish with pasta, rice or potatoes, and veg, and a dessert.
During the mountain stages, when the cyclists will increase their intake of carbohydrate, they will be given pasta not potatoes as the latter needs a bigger bulk intake for the same effect.
"The menu for the whole tour is drawn up in advance of the race start, with some room for variation and flexibility if needed."
The team soigneur
The French word "soigneur" means "one who provides care".
"I am really a 'helper on the road'," says soigneur Richard Cremers, 50. "I give the riders massages every day, and prepare the cool boxes to make sure they have everything they need - bottles of water, mineral drinks, snacks, gels, bananas.
"I travel to the start of the race stage with the riders, then head off half an hour before each race stage begins to the feeding point on the route to be ready for them there, and then head off to the finish of the race stage to be waiting for them there."
During the race the soigneurs also have to carry clothing such as waterproof jackets, and spare cycling clothing and shoes.
At the end of the stage they meet the cyclists and take them back to the team hotel, where they give the cyclists another massage.
There are nine Belkin riders in the race and five soigneurs. Four of the soigneurs, including Richard, have to look after two cyclists each, and the fifth looks after one cyclist and is also designated "hotel manager".
The hotel manager soigneur has to have the massage tables ready back at the hotel after each stage.
This person also sits on the cyclists' table at meal times and goes to fetch them anything that they want, be it food, drink or something else.
In the evening after massages and meals, the soigneurs then have to start preparing the cool bags for the next day's stage, unless it is too late and it is then done the following morning.