Science Interviews

Interview

Sun, 8th Aug 2010

The mechanics behind the Tour de France

Jeff Brown, Mechanic, Garmin-Transitions

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show The Tour de France

Meera - Luckily for the cyclists, they have a mechanic on hand to get things prepped in the morning and fixed at night.  Mechanics like Geoff Brown, who I caught up with before one of the stages was due to begin...

bikes on cars 2Geoff -   Well, there’s a group of three of us mechanics.  We all basically do the same job.  Most of the work is done in the evening - and then this morning, it’s just basically tyre inflation, putting the spare bikes on top of the race cars or the following cars, and putting the race bikes on the other cars to transport them to the start, that's it.

Meera - The race is due to start in under an hour, so we’re just here by the team cars with all the bikes on top.  So how much do one of these things weigh?

Geoff -  6.8 kgs complete.

Meera -   And there’s actually a rule isn’t there, about how little that weight can be?

Geoff -   The weight is 6.8 kilos.

Meera -   So you're right on the dot.

Geoff -   We always try to make sure that every bike is right on the dot.  Everybody has a choice of shape that they can use, and size, what have you. The handle bars -the smaller riders use narrower handle bars, the bigger rider uses a wider handle bar, a longer stem, a shorter stem.  The bikes are basically made to measure for each rider.

Meera -   How many bikes does a rider get through really?  So I guess only when something bad or crash happens.  Do they swap or do they just swap anyway just for freshness?

Geoff -    No.  I mean, here at the tour, each rider, if you'd include their time trial bike, every rider has four bikes.  So they have their race bike, their primary race bike, then they have what we call their first spare bike which goes on the first chase car, and then everybody has a second spare bike.  So we have many, many plan Bs and plan Cs.

Meera -   Well then it’s no wonder that there are so many cars with bikes on top following them.

Geoff -    Before, it wasn’t like that.  I mean, this is my 13th Tour de France and I remember when I first started, every rider had one spare bike and that was it.  But now, just basically, every team is a rolling bike shop.  We leave nothing to chance.  Everything has to be able to be done here at the tour.

Meera -   So post race, what do you have to do to get everything back on track for tomorrow?

Tdf support cars in Giers-VenonGeoff -   Okay, so after the race, we’ll arrive at the hotel and we’ll have to first wash the bikes, clean them, we’ll double check them, make sure everything’s okay.  We’ll check and go over them, we’ll replace a few small pieces if necessary.  Perhaps a guy needs new handle bar tape, new brake pads, maybe a cable here or there.  We’ll have about 2 ˝ to 3 hours worth of work after the race tonight.

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