Cycling vehicles – the solution part 3

June 2, 2011
OK, the final steps of cleaning up the traffic jam that pro cycling has become:
Step 3: VIP cars
  1. This one I really don’t get. There are few things more boring in life than sitting in a car during a bike race. You see nothing other than a car in front of you and a car behind you, unless you’re the dude sticking his head out of the sunroof of the car with #1 on it.
  2. Instead, let these VIPs ride a part of the course a few hours before the race, give them a nice shower and BBQ and then let them watch the pros do the same stretch at 3X the speed. I guarantee you they’ll be much more impressed.
  3. So, out with the VIP cars.
Step 4: Police vehicles
  1. I’ll admit I have no ideas what they do, so maybe I am missing something (that does happen), but there are dozens and dozens of police cars and motorcycles coming by before you ever see the first rider. Are they performing any task, or just having a good time? For sure some need to ensure the roads are clear but the sheer number seems excessive. It would be great if somebody with a bit more understanding of this could explain their function.
That’s all I have for now. I know I haven’t mentioned the publicity caravan, which although it doesn’t disrupt the race itself is certainly an annoying sideshow. But incredibly, the caravan is the #2 reason people come to watch the Tour, ahead of things like “seeing my favorite rider”, so it obviously has a place in this sport. Maybe we can at least clean up the vehicles participating in this madness.
Let me know what you think in the comments section.

12 Responses to “Cycling vehicles – the solution part 3”

  1. Tomass Says:

    I love the build up before the riders come through.

    The caravan, the police, the choppers above & then the long tale of cars after the riders. As far as I’m concerned it’s all part of what makes the day for the spectators.

  2. Rodney Says:

    I agree with you on the VIP cars. Like the old Test Team tours where you could ride part of the course and then watch the race go by before riding more of the course.

    That is much more fun than driving in a caravan.

  3. Touriste-Routier Says:

    I work on the “Tech Staff” of a number of UCI races

    VIP Cars- part of the spectacle for the VIPs is seeing how many people are on the side of the road and taking in the electric atmosphere of the event as a whole. Even if they only see the caravan in front of them, if you’ve never been part of it before, it can be exciting

    Police Cars- part of this is show, but part of it has a real function. When you are doing a hard closure or a rolling enclosure, you don’t know what is going to happen on the roadways up ahead. A road might only close a few minutes before the race gets there.

    If you have extra police (particularly motorcycles), they can be moved forward by the advance cars to handle situations (ex. vehicles getting onto the course despite the closure) or holes in coverage before the race proper hits a given area.

    Further all groups of riders need some type of protection (on coming vehicles, cross traffic, spectators, pedestrians, etc.) Motor Marshals and Police Motos are very capable of providing protection for small groups of riders, particularly in areas where commisaires are not required. The more the peloton “explodes” the more likely one is to require many police motos/cars.

    If they are not part of the caravan, then any number of dangerous scenarios can unfold, and races can be ground to a halt, without adequate warning.

  4. Dear Gerard,

    I was suprised when I first saw your interest in the “Bike Politics”.

    I agree with you in these solutions because even if people continue to like the full races (with lots of movement and cars) bike riding encourages a free noise and pollution environment and that is not what is happening today in the big races.

    People can continue to cheer riders on the mountains and the VIP can continue to go to the finish line zone but in a stage race there is only need for a few photographers and police motorbikes and the service cars.

    These solutions maybe will not even be seen by race directors and most people will criticize them (most people want the status quo) but I guess that happens with all the laws and new rules – people criticize (some critics are good to shape ideas) but get used to them.

    Bring on new ideas so that Cycling can improve!

  5. WADAwatch Says:

    Hi Gerard,

    I’d spent 12 years in Geneva, so nearly every year I could ride out of town to see the closest Mountain Stage to various Alpine cols… such as Col de Ramaz, or Morzine (saw Floyd win and lose), etc.
    I remember seeing one sad little French Police Peugeot 105, which was blasting out blue pollution smoke from it’s exhaust: I’m certain that particular car had never climbed an Alpe before: the people witnessing that were all retching and coughing (fortunately it was a half hour or more before the caravan!).
    I think there’s a compromise in your solution: limit the cars following to 30: 1 per team; 5 for A and 5 for B (meaning ‘concepts’ such as VIP and Press, whichever)
    I also don’t believe that each sponsor/caravan entity requires 4-20 vehicles to satisfy its commercial needs.
    But the important thing, which you did begin, is to *talk!!* about it… chapeau, mon gar!

  6. MavicMoto Says:

    At the very least, ban the second caravan. Teams don’t need two cars.
    And bring back team radios, it’s much safer, especially for punctures.

    VIPs are a necessary evil, big donor$ are afforded special access.
    And sadly, the more police cars, the safer the road closure is. Motorists can be myopically obtuse when their driving reverie is interrupted!

  7. wisey17 Says:

    Hi Gerard

    Just thought it was worth revisiting this topic in light of the Hoogeland/Flecha crash. Of all the arguments and opinions being flung around, nobody seems to be asking whether it was essential (or even beneficial) to the race that that press vehicle was there in the first place. It doesn’t appear that it played any ‘functional’ role.

  8. rowan Says:

    I love this idea. Fully agree that having a DS talking, driving, watching TV etc all at once is ridulously dangerous. Stick them in a control room.

    I also agree with the neutral spares idea, much fewer cars there, and in fact I would be perfectly happy to see it extended to complete neutral bikes – Pretty rare for a pedal to fail, so have bikes with quick adjustments and no pedals, and a mechanic with a spanner to set things up. Sure, this will not be a lightning change and you might miss the bunch, but certainly faster than welding yourself a new set of forks. And if the same risk is applied to everyone, then it is still a fair race. I do wonder though how happy the guys from Lightweight would be if one of their stars got a win on a mavic wheel… or how happy the guys from Cervelo would be if Thor successfully defended his yellow jersey on a Colnago…

    But honestly, I love this idea, and the reduced support does not seem like a problem at all to me. I literally rode the 2009 Tour de France unsupported, carrying everything including tent and sleeping bag with me (gratuitous plug here: check it out on It was much slower (though I still left Monaco the same day as the bunch at got to Paris the same day, just many more riding hours in between. I am heading to Pau on Thursday (work commitments, I hate that) and am going to do the same for the remainder of the 2011 edition.

    I am not for a moment suggesting that these guys should also carry tents and stoves the whole way, but if they get up in the morning and it looks like rain I would be perfectly happy to see them, as racers, make a decision about whether to carry a jacket or lisk loosing time because they were too cold.

  9. Tom Gakes Says:

    The idea of racing with only neutral support is interesting, and I think it’s possible. Only point is (from my experience as an elite amateur) that the neutral support car doesn’t always help a rider with a technical problem. Of course this should be the case if you want to ban team cars.

    My experience (again as an elite amateur) with police support is that races with more police support are much safer for the riders. I’ve had many races with too little support resulting in cars parked on the road as the peloton came up to them, or even worse, upcoming traffic that didn’t stop. So I prefer some more police support over the savings for the environment.

    I think VIP cars shouldn’t get between the car in front of the first rider (jury 1?) and the broom car. It’s hard to control what happens behind the broom car (usually it’s madness), but you can limit the nr. of VIP cars between the first police car/motor that closes the road and the first rider.

    I agree about the photographers. I think 3 is enough. The other photographers can find themselves a nice place at the side of the road, wait for the riders, take the shots and take a shortcut to the next place to take more photos. Of course this is harder in some races than in others, but some some races are harder than others as well.

  10. […] If you’re looking a more radical approach to the problem then check out Cervélo co-founder Gerard Vroomen’s ideas from a few years back – Cycling vehicles: the solution part 1, part 2, part 3. […]

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