Race vehicle follow-up – team cars

July 13, 2011

Many of you agree that the team car can go, which is quite surprising to me. You like the idea that such a change would likely encourage bike manufacturers to put more emphasis on durability, which has real benefits for regular cyclists. The most concern people seem to have is for the sponsors (thank you), on issues like:

  1. “A sponsor would not be happy if a rider wins on a neutral support wheel or bike”. First of all, this happens already, albeit rarely because the team car is usually there. But the principle won’t be new, just the frequency.Secondly, this is exactly what you would want. If the sponsor is unhappy that the rider used neutral support equipment, you can bet they will focus on durability more. As a result, the neutral support equipment use will shrink, and everybody will be happy again.
  2. “How can you fit a rider on a neutral bike with different pedals, etc.” No doubt, this may be a bit tricky. But then again, it’s just an incentive to make sure your stuff doesn’t break. And you can put pedals on a bike in 30 seconds, that’s a lot better than being out of the race.
  3. “Each team has its own energy drink sponsor, you’ll need tons of neutral support to give each rider their own bottle.” Maybe, maybe not, if it’s just about bottles, then quite a few different ones can fit on a motorcycle. Alternatively, there could be one central energy drink sponsor (like in Ironman races for example) supplemented with team support in feed zones (similar to the special needs bag at Ironman). If you’re afraid feed zones are too dangerous too, toss in a maximum speed (like the F1 pit lane).
  4. “Teams have energy drink sponsors, so revenue will be lost.” This revenue is quite small, so it would be a very small price to pay for safety. In reality, this set-up would allow the race to sign a large energy drink deal, and create a revenue-share with the teams for probably a net-zero or net-positive result.
  5. “Where do all the rain jackets go when the weather changes?” Well, where do you put yours when that happens? Doesn’t seem to be a problem for millions of cyclists to carry their rain jacket. Some cycling jerseys even have pockets in the back! :-)
What do you think? As usual, let me know in the comments section below or on twitter @gerardvroomen.

8 Responses to “Race vehicle follow-up – team cars”

  1. On a related note, here’s a great post by Wade over at cyclingtipsblog.com on the make up of the race caravan, the diagram he uses is great! http://www.cyclingtipsblog.com/2011/07/le-tour-diary-stage-10-the-race-convoy/

    • Thanks for pointing that one out. The graphic would be nice if it were “to scale”, as in the number of vehicles everywhere. But it’d be tough to see any cyclists if you did that.

  2. Stephen Says:

    “A sponsor would not be happy if a rider wins on a neutral support wheel or bike” – Have mechanical stops where it’s safe, rider stops by a parked team car and changes from the neutral part to the sponsors part. Could also hand out bidons.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    The TdF and other grand tours are a spectacle and part of that is the armada of bikes and cars. Taking this away will reduce the spectacle to a club run!

  4. Eddie Sweet Says:

    Good comments, per usual, Gerard. The UCI could learn a lesson (or two) from F1. Engines used to blow often – then the FIA mandated engines needed to last multiple races or a penalty would be served. Guess what? Now that an engine needs to last 4 races, we have seen much better reliability (excepting last weekend when they changed the rules).
    Also, flat tires in bike races are (should be) an embarrassment to tire manufacturers – I have not had a flat in many 1000’s of miles – not since I started riding Schwalbe Duranos. Granted no one wants to ride a heavier tire (and the Schwalbes are heavy!), but if there was limited or no support… Or (as in F1) there was a single official tire supplier to even the playing field…

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I agree with dramatically reducing the number of cars and motorbikes but think there should also be strong rules to reduce the risk of accidents. Cars and motorbikes seem to carelessly weave through closely packed cyclists, almost brushing them aside and they rush to the next photo op or repair site. The proximity of motorised vehicles and bikes leaves no room for error by either party, creating what to me looks like a deadly accident waiting to happen every few minutes. A basic 3 foot rule would be a start. If a car needs to pass a group of bikes, they must sound a horn, give cyclists a chance to move aside and then pass with a minimum of 3 feet of clearance. If a car or motorbike breaks this rule, they would get a warning, fine or be ejected depending on the severity/frequency. A team vehicle would be permitted to get close to one of their own cyclists, but this is the only exception. This would be simple to police by reviewing video coverage and less controversial/faster to implement than a sharp reduction in the number of vehicles.

    • Good point. As you point out, the risk is not caused by the number of cars per se, but by how they behave. Some standardization of procedures would be a good idea.

  6. Tom Gakes Says:

    Why would you want a maximum speed in the feed zones? On tv this may look safer but in reality that’s when the crashes happen. If you want to make the feed zones safer, you should make strict rules for the riders how to behave. See what Henk Lubberding has to say about it (in Dutch) after 40 min int this video from Dutch tv show ‘De avondetappe’: http://bit.ly/neO6On

    He explains that passing behind the soigneur in the feed zone was absolutely not done at the time he was a professional cyclist, and it shouldn’t be now. I agree with his comments. Not only about this point but also his following comments on other topics that demonstrate riders don’t know or just don’t act to the rules nowadays.

    A 3 ft rule sounds good, but in reality I don’t think it will work. When a car has to pass the peloton because the team has a rider in the breakaway or for some other reason, the riders will only give this car just enough space to pass. If you give it 3 ft extra, another rider will get in between and push you away (racing is that nervous). And if the riders don’t give you this 3 ft, you can’t keep this distance either.

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