Tour de France: Day in the life of a Team Mechanic

Tour de France

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Team mechanics spend the bulk of the day inside the team car waiting for something to happen. Photo by Jason Sumner

After all bikes and gear are loaded, the mechanics split up. Two drive the team truck to the next hotel. The other two settle into the back passenger-side seat of the respective team cars where they’ll spend the rest of day on high-alert.

“You’re basically just listening to the race radio at all times,” says Brown. “If there’s a puncture or one of our riders crash, the organizer announces the name and the team and then we get to that rider as quick as we can to give them service, be it a new wheel or a bike.”

Team cars are typically driven by the director sportifs (think head coach and assistant coach), with another team staffer usually riding in the front passenger seat. Sometimes VIPs or members of the media get that final seat, in what’s the equivalent of standing next to the head coach during an NFL game.

At the end of the stage, team cars reunite with the team bus near the finish line. “Riders usually do a 10-minute post-race cool down on rollers. When they’re done we load all the primary bikes back onto the soigneur cars and head to the hotel,” says Brown. “Then we get to work again.”

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Once set-up at the next team hotel, bikes are washed and checked. If there’s been a crash new parts are swapped on, then checked to make sure set-up is exactly the same as before. Photos by Jason Sumner

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“Our guys are on [Shimano] Di2 [electronic shifting], so we don’t have to mess with cable replacement all that much,” says Brown. “Sometimes it’s new brake cables, sometime brake pads, sometimes handlebar tape. If there’s been a lot of flats, new tires are put on the wheels.

“If one of the guys has crashed there’s a lot more work to do. That happened yesterday (on stage 3) and I had to replace the saddle, the rear derailleur, the chain, bar tape, and one of the pedals. He did a pretty good job on it.”

Brown and company also have to charge all the Di2 batteries. “Some models have external, some internal. With the internal set-ups, you actually have to plug the bike in like and electric car,” says Brown. “With all that, we’re usually done by around 9 p.m. But when guys start crashing, that pushes it to 11 or even midnight sometimes. Like I said, there’s not much downtime.”

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While mechanics do their work, other team staffers keep the fleet of team cars clean and do laundry. Photos by Jason Sumner

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MECHANICS DAY GALLERY

Tour de France: Day in the life of a Team Mechanic Gallery
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Order of Things

Each team car has rack space for nine bikes, and a small satellite receiver. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Loaded

Bikes are arranged so that mechanics can more easily access those of the team leaders. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Precaution Packing

Every rider has a rain bag, which includes arm warmers, knee warmers, gloves, a hat and a jacket. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Communcation Center

The team director and another team staffer (often a doctor) side up front, using an array of radios and a TV to keep track of what's going on in the race and direct riders. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Final Check

Occasionally riders get into the act, making sure measurements are just right. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Go Time

The work of a WorldTour team mechanic is never done. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Ready to Roll

The trunk of the Garmin team car packed and ready. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Puncture Protection

Teams typically carry two sets of wheels inside the car, with another three pair on the roof. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Veteran

Garmin-Sharp head mechanic Geoff Brown is working his 19th Tour de France. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Org Chart

Brown maps out whose bike is where so he's ready when duty calls. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Radiohead

Each team car has three radios, one to speak with race organizers, another for team staff, and one for the riders. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Pre-Race Set-Up

The fleet of vehicles head to the start, then head off in varying directions, only to re-unite that evening at the next team hotel. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Fruits of Labor

Cleaned and prepped bikes are lined up outside the team bus before the start of the stage. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Food Court

The driver's side door is a mini-GNC, loaded with bars and gels to be handed out the window to riders during the race. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Last Check

Most of the work is done at the team hotel, but on days such as the rainy stage 5 encounter with cobblestones, mechanics add a little extra grease right before the start of the stage. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Air Check

PSI is carefully monitored, lest there are any slight leaks. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Extra Work

The cobblestone stage necessitated extra work for all the team mechanics. Europcar added these extra cyclocross brakes. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Watch and Wait

One racing kicks off, mechanics post up in the backseat of the team car waiting for their services to be needed. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Good View

Besides in front of the TV, the team car offers the best view of the racing action. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Feedzone

Team soigneurs are dispatched to designated feedzones where they hand up lunch to the riders. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Back to Work

After the stage, team trucks set-up shop in the team hotel parking lot. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Wash and Fix

After the stage, bikes are washed then checked. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Long Day

Photo by Jason Sumner
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Mobile Bike Shop

Team trucks are fully stocked with a host of spare parts. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Free Consultation

Mechanics work with riders to make sure everything is working perfectly. Photo by Jason Sumner
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Precision Fit

Photo by Jason Sumner
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Car Wash

Photo by Jason Sumner
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Laundromat

Photo by Jason Sumner
About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures in British Columbia, Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, and Peru among many others. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in January, 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and edited a book on cycling tips. When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying the great outdoors with his wife Lisa.


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