Cycling vehicles – the solution part 1

May 26, 2011

OK, so the problems with race vehicles should be clear from yesterday’s post. The solution is pretty simple: Get rid of most of them. I would propose four steps:

Step 1: No more team cars.

  1. It makes no sense to have 20 or in Grand Tours 40 cars drive the entire route to hand out food & drinks and the occasional rain jackets, give tactical advice and assist with mechanicals. Yep, I am wearing a bullet-proof vest while I type this.
  2. Food & drinks could be done by neutral support vehicles (of which you would then need far fewer).
  3. Tactics could be done either by having the riders decide it all for themselves or through radios (I’m not getting into THAT debate this time).
  4. Assistance for flat tires would be given by neutral support, just as it happens today. Same for small problems and adjustments. If you break your bike, you’re out (unless you can find a local blacksmith to weld your carbon bike back together).
  5. Not only does this mean we can clean up the race, it also incentivizes teams to use equipment that can take a beating, and it forces equipment suppliers to focus their efforts on reliability instead of stupidity. Imagine the technology that could be developed in that case and go straight into the market for regular consumers (who also have to survive without a team car for assistance).
  6. If we decide there is some reason sports directors should talk to other sports directors or riders, why would you put them in a car with its bumpy ride and bad reception anyway? There is no advantage to being “in the race” if that means looking at a team car in front of you and a team car behind you. They rarely get close to the riders and when they do, that’s exactly when the problems occur. Put them in a central location, with good TV access, good communication tools and even the chance for the media to interview all of them during the race. THAT’s entertaining.
Tomorrow step 2. Let me know what you think in the comments section.

5 Responses to “Cycling vehicles – the solution part 1”

  1. sirkilio Says:

    Definitely cycling needs fewer cars. And the idea about the support cars is viable. As you said it is done today and the cars would be say 3-5 maximum because in a race only in special cases there is more than 2-3 groups forming.

    For example, cycling could follow Rugby where coaches and assistants follow the game using a computer which means they can produce better tactics because they are watching much more than if they were seating on the bench (or behind the riders).

    The problem here is how is this going to be implemented when the whole peloton is acting like sheep.

  2. Jan Says:

    Brilliant. Point 5 is close to my heart. It’s ludicruous to see aspiring amateurs go for technology requiring support vehicles.

    And 6 could be turned into a good show, using augmented reality simulations, video etc.

  3. veloscente Says:

    Brave indeed, GV, to wade into the waters of logistical race reform right in middle of this whole radiogate thing.

    Two emphatic thumbs up on the reliability suggestion! $3000 single-season-light wheelsets have definitely left the realm of fiscal sanity for non-sponsored riders.

    I’m afraid there are some serious hurdles to your suggestion:
    1) Car sponsors. Team managers and race organizers alike are going to be *very* reluctant to give up automotive sponsorship dollars.

    2) Riders’ concerns: where’s my rainjacket? Do I *really* trust that no one has put something in my waterbottle, food, etc.

    3) Longsuffering cycling fans’ nerves: all the “phantom twin” and “I drank too much whiskey” doping excuses are bad enough. I don’t know if I could bear the rash of conspiracy-theory cop-outs that would be sure to follow (“someone spiked my water bottle” or “I lost the race because Shimano neutral support dragged their feet servicing my Campy bike”).

    Getting riders properly fitted bad weather gear, bottles with the kind of sports drinks they are used to, musettes with the kind of food they are accustomed to, etc. is a tough logistical task for even a single team to tackle on-the-fly from a team support car. It would seem we’d need nearly the same number of neutral support cars to carry & hand out all this stuff as well.

    Putting the directors in a “command center” would be a good first step. Ditching spare bikes and offloading all the wheels & mechanics to neutral support vehicles would likewise likely allow for a reduction in vehicles as well (in a perfect world, it would also force Campy to ditch all this 11-speed “we’re not going to be cross-compatible with anyone else” siliness).
    The logistics on the creature comforts of food & clothing seem much more difficult, however. Each team puts one soigneur in a “carpool” support vehicle? Only so much stuff you can carry on your lap…

  4. djconnel Says:

    Excellent! I agree completely. Except with neutral food riders on RadioShack would be denied Alan Lim’s special rice cakes…

  5. […] Gerard Vroomen’s ideas from a few years back – Cycling vehicles: the solution part 1, part 2, part […]

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