On the Road at the Tour de France: Back on the mainland

h 300x199 On the Road at the Tour de France: Back on the mainland

Geraint Thomas rides on during the second stage of the Tour de France, despite a fractured pelvis (Graham Watson)

Martin Ayres hands over to his colleague Neil Thompson at Jaguar for Tour de France 2013. Neil has worked at Jaguar for a similar time as Martin, but feels less inclined to name a number! He also was the first embedded performance mechanic with the team in 2011, and here picks up the ‘On The Road’ Blog. Like Martin, he is a big pro cycling fan now after spending time with the team.

Chapeau, Corsica! It’s well reported that the natural beauty of this island played a role in Christian Prudhomme’s decision to take the race here, and we can all see why.

Steep, craggy coastline meets glittering turquoise sea at every turn, and the smell of eucalyptus trees and sea air is intoxicating. A suitably dramatic background to the events on the road, all the while bathed in glorious sunshine.

In a slightly surreal moment I ended up comparing tans with Ian Stannard, who was pretty convinced that for me to pip him in the browning stakes I’d need to spend several hours on the bike each day. I’ll have his measure by Paris, I reckon!

I was lucky enough to spend the day driving the race route with Marco (one of the carers) yesterday en route to the race, and it was inspiring. We’d be seemingly miles from anywhere on the Corsican coast and there would still be great clusters of fans by the roadside awaiting the peloton. Even more puzzling, they had no obvious visible forms of transport with them – not even bikes. They must have walked a good couple of miles in the Mediterranean heat with all their cool boxes and picnic chairs, and about four generations of the family by the look of it, all to get the best spot. Marco ensured that we had been able to leave early so we could stop and say hello to the Team Sky fans along the route too.

h5 300x215 On the Road at the Tour de France: Back on the mainland

The sun sets on the first appearance of the Tour de France in Corsica last night

I’m not sure how many professional sports teams will adjust their plans to give time for fans, but it’s a marker of how grateful the team is for their followers around Europe. The supporters were thrilled (and not a little surprised) when we stopped off to say hello and let them know how the riders were doing. Their good mood and enthusiasm was infectious, and once I realised that, I understood why it’s important to stop and say hello when we can. The support team might appear to have a brilliant job – and they do – but it’s hard work and long days. Sharing some time with the fans is an essential way to keep morale up for both teams and the army of fans that turn out to support Team Sky.

Getting everyone from Corsica back to the mainland has been no mean feat. The population of the island has been increased by a few percent thanks to the arrival of the Tour circus, getting off the island is actually harder than getting on it! In true Team Sky style, the riders and all the management team were flown over on their own plane whilst a new group arrived to pick up the vehicles and take them over on the ferry to meet the guys at the other end. A seamless transition to ensure that everyone is kept fresh for today’s team time trial.

Not that being ‘fresh’ is an option when you are riding the toughest race in your sport with a fractured pelvis. Geraint, or ‘G’ as he is known, is taking stiff upper lip to a new level and it’s a testament to his dedication. He’s getting huge cheers from the crowd lining the route for a performance that is nothing short of heroic and he deserves every decibel.

Follow Neil on Twitter : @Jaguar_TeamSky

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