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On the Road at the Tour de France: Running away with the (Tour) circus

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.

TdF circus 300x225 On the Road at the Tour de France: Running away with the (Tour) circus

Team Sky are given the thumbs up by the wonderfully accommodating management at our hotel last night

No news is good news, as they say. I think Sir Dave B and the management team at Sky are quietly pleased with the Team’s current position and general health at the moment, save for G’s pelvis. The adage that gets dusted off and wheeled out each July by the pressroom that you can’t win the Tour on every stage, but you can certainly lose it, still rings true. Froomey pointed out the other day that everything (literally, everything) is a danger – curbs, roundabouts, fans, road debris, flags, and don’t even get started on the dogs. When you look at it like that, I think the management and riders have every reason to be happy with progress so far. Even Tim Kerrison looked dangerously close to being pleased. I think he is probably the least complacent man alive, so that’s saying something. I always ask Tim for an update on the race when I see him, as he knows that I’m comparatively new to the sport – and, rather touchingly, always takes the time to explain different aspects of it to me. A thoroughly nice bloke.

Geraint Thomas is still pedaling on in an astonishing show of inner determination. In future when I think things are a bit tough, I will remember that I am not trying to circumnavigate France on a bicycle with a cracked hip. Not only is G proving himself to be made of finest Welsh granite, but he is taking it all in his stride and winning a lot of fans along the way. The French love a hero and G has kindly provided them with one. Also, the best flag of the tour goes to some of G’s compatriots who had an enormous Wales flag with “Allez Le Pelvis!” and an illustrated diagram on it. Seeing the funny side is one of the best ways to get through what would otherwise be a thoroughly miserable situation, I feel.

Away from the cameras, the Tour circus continues to roll steadily on. A friendly journalist confirmed that it is composed of approximately 5,000 people, including riders, PRs, management, ASO, race officials, VIP guests and ex-riders, and of course journalists – up to 2,000 of them, from 35 countries! It’s a small town on the move and as fascinating as the race itself. One of the first points you notice is the general (excuse my French) bon homie between the supporting staff from the different teams. It makes sense as they all spend life on the road together – you would assume they are fairly formal with each other, but Gary Blem (chief mechanic) reminded me that at one point or another, nearly everyone has worked on the same team. Plus you never know when help is needed from them so it pays to be on good terms. Back in 2011 I was collecting the bikes from the riders as they jumped on the team bus and a mechanic from another team turned to up to ask for his wheel back! He’d lent it to one of the riders who needed a spare and was out of reach of the team’s support Jaguars. (Which, though I say so myself, are definitely the coolest cars in the race).

I have just seen mountains hove into view for the first time this race – expectations (and heart rates) will soon be rising for Team Sky.

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