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Life of a Directeur Sportif

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Article posted: 12/04/2013

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Keeping six riders on the road all at one time, from 19 cars back in the convoy, with 30 km of cobbles can be a demanding task. We took an Insight view of the life of a Directeur Sportif, in the team car, on race day at Junior Paris-Roubaix 2013 with our expert, Olympic Development Programme Endurance Coach Matt Winston.

The Junior Paris Roubaix runs on the same European roads and day as the senior race, with full road closures that prevents traffic from entering the race route, giving cyclists a safe passage to the finish using the full width of the road.

The day started with the riders setting off from St-Ammand-Les-Euax. Rolling out from the town centre, it was time to put seat belts on, say goodbye to team soigneur, and wave to the crowds.

Once the flag had dropped the race was on and riders were dropping out of the back with punctures and mechanicals. Olympic Development Programme Endurance Coach Matt Winston had briefed the riders before the start. If riders had a mechanical, they were to move over to the right of the road, put the chain in the bottom sprocket and release the brake calipers. All this would help Team Mechanic Martyn Ashfied to get them back on the road and into the race again quickly as possible. With superb preparation and equipment choice, Great Britain only had one puncture throughout the entire race.

Once back on the road, ODP rider Scott Davies was being encouraged to make his way through the convoy of cars, sheltering between each one to rest, making a effort to bridge up to the next and resting again. This would repeat until he regained contact with the group. This was accompanied with the vocal support of team car as we could not be seen to be drafting our rider back up.

Once on the cobbles it was significantly harder to get through the convoy of team cars to any member of the team who had a mechanical or crash. Matt Gibson was one unlucky rider who came down on the cobbles without help nearby. Eventually the team did get him back on the bike and into the race again, aided by a brand new bottle.

As the race unfolded it was clear that ODP riders were on top form, with riders stringing out the group and whittling down the main contenders. It was Tao Geoghegan Hart who made it into a group of four who would become three to contest the finish in the velodrome. It was an exciting time in the car when this was relayed on the race radio.

Now you know that it is not all about getting left arm suntan, eating chocolate éclairs and following a bike race. The role of a director Sportif during the race is anything but plain sailing, especially over the infamous Paris-Roubaix pavé.  

What can you learn?

In a sportive or road race when you have a following car or neutral service, you need to remember these top tips from Matt Winston:

Keep Calm: Mechanicals, punctures and even crashes are all part of bike riding. If you unfortunate enough to fall foul of one, stay calm and methodically deal with the situation. Take a few deep breaths, let the surge of adrenaline ease off and analyse what you need to do to get going again.

Side of Road: move to the side of the road to make way for passing vehicles or riders, making sure you are staying safe.

Bottom Gear: when you have a mechanical you can be saving time by moving the gearing into the small chainring and bottom sprocket, this will make it easier to release the wheel and get you back on the road in no time.

Caliper Release: if your brakes are close to the rim, you can release the caliper with a built in lever, helping the smooth transition of wheel in and out of the brakes.

Slipstream: When rejoining the race, use other riders to make your way back to the group you were riding in. Rest behind other riders or team mates and when rested, commit to an effort to move up the road to another group, making sure you are not over cooking your effort for the rest of your event.

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