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

Tour de France


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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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 all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the / staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.

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