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Home » Power drills, emergency gels, and an under-chassis metal plate: Inside a team car at Paris-Roubaix Femmes – VeloNews

Power drills, emergency gels, and an under-chassis metal plate: Inside a team car at Paris-Roubaix Femmes – VeloNews

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VeloNews takes a tour of AG Insurance-NXTG’s team car to discover the unique demands on team mechanics, directors and vehicles in the ‘Hell of the North.’
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DENAIN, France (VN) – A day out in “hell” takes some preparation.
From the carefully strapped riders’ hands to the finely tuned team bikes and carefuly considered nutrition plans, Paris-Roubaix Femmes pushes the limits of what the pro peloton is accustomed to.
And the story’s the same for the carefully stocked cars that direct team tactics and support riders with wheels, bikes and gels through 125km of the “Hell of the North.”
“For Roubaix today it’s going to be much more crazy than any other race. It’s going to be chaos in the peloton, and behind the peloton for us in the cars. On a day like today, making sure the car has everything possible we might need is very important,” AG Insurance-NXTG Team director Christian Kos told VeloNews shortly before getting behind the wheel Saturday morning.
“And the driving? Ooofff, Driving a team car at any race is like having a race behind the race. Today could be very stressful for sure … We’re not stressed though … yet. We’ll have to battle over the cobbles the same as the riders.”
Also read: ‘Wood head’ Longo Borghini bosses Paris-Roubaix
Kos, the recently retired pro-turned-DS Jolien d’Hoore, and team mechanics were busy loading the AG Insurance-NXTG car with iPads, wheels, and tool boxes in a flurry of activity before the start of the “Hell of the North” at the startline in Denain.
The U23 Belgian-registered team was planning to make an impression in the breakaway, and everything had to be “just so.”
Pinarello bikes were loaded onto the roof in a pre-determined position. Each iPad had a specified position in the car’s cockpit. A wheel-changing power drill had its own home alongside the mechanic’s seat.
Oh, and a reinforced metal plate was coming for a ride, too.
“We have a special plate underneath the car for protection. We added it just for today,” Kos said. “This race is the only time it’s used and becomes helpful. But we need to have it under the car to protect all the parts. Hopefully, we don’t really need it. The recon wasn’t so bad, but it feels like anything can happen in this race.”
Some five hours later, Kos and Co. successfully navigated their six young racers through “hell.”
Team leader Mylène de Zoete didn’t beat the time cut, but Gaia Masetti made the break, and Ilse Pluimers blasted to a standout 23rd place.
“My legs were great today and I managed to follow the first group on the cobbles well. Sadly, I crashed in the final because they fell in front of me. I then rode from group to group and finished in 23rd place,” Pluimers said. “Compared to last year it was a much better race for me. The positioning went great and Jolien and Christian helped me really well from the car.”
Here’s a tour of the Skoda Octavia team car that kept Pluimers serviced and in position at the 2022 Paris-Roubaix Femmes.
Bikes are stacked in a very careful position depending on which riders are protected.
“Before every race the directors send a list of the riders in priority order to the mechanics so they can stack the bikes,” Kos said. “The mechanic sits on the right, so the leader’s bike goes on the right above him, then down the order across the back of the car.”
As well as one bike for each of the team’s six riders, the car carries four sets of spare wheels, with dozens more wheels being available along the course from stacks of team staffers brought in specially for Paris-Roubaix.
“We need to have as many wheels possible available today. It’s so dry and rough out there we could see a lot of punctures,” Kos said.
Kos has one iPad on the circular mount near the wheel displaying the live coverage of the race, while the second tablet is used by co-director d’Hoore to keep track of all the route details, sector information, and race timings.
The radio serves to both communicate to the team’s six racers and to receive updates from “Radio Tour,” the service broadcast from organization vehicles to all team cars.
Kos and d’Hoore use mobiles to keep in contact with the various staffers scattered along the course with wheels, feeds, and bottles, and the separate team cars shuttling between sectors with supplies.
A stash of gels in the driver’s door compartment is mainly for emergency uses.
“In theory in a race like this, we’re feeding all along the course rather than from this car. We’ll have other cars that aren’t part of the convoy jumping between sectors to feed at multiple points,” Kos said.
“We plan to have someone at every sector with wheels and feeds – we don’t want to have to feed any riders from the car because that mean’s they’ll be behind. Only if a rider is dropped do we give them something, unless they request it of course. The car is for mechanical support and tactics on days like this.”
A fully-loaded AG Insurance-NXTG car takes a break during the mid-week recon.
Maybe best not to wait on those train tracks too long …
Every mechanic’s best friend in the age of disc brakes.
A power drill fitted with the relevant hex key for fitting FFWD wheel nuts means punctured riders can be serviced at top-speed.
The back seats of the car are the home of the mechanic, his toolbox and drill, and a stack of spare wheels.
The trunk is reserved for clothes bags, a fridge, and even more spare wheels.
“We carry a clothes bag for every rider – it has shoes and something for every situation. Rain clothes and things shouldn’t matter for a day like this of course,” Kos said as the sun shone brightly in Denain.
Kos, d’Hoore, and team staff made final preparations for Roubaix while entertaining the intrigued locals milling through the start paddock.
Masetti made the day’s break – mission accomplished for team AG Insurance-NXTG.
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