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Race Tech

Photo gallery: inside Team Sky’s service course

We take a tour of Team Sky's tech cave

Professional cycling is almost unique as a team sport in that the team has no definitive home. No Old Trafford, Twickenham or Lord’s – only the open road and cycling’s non-stop travelling circus.

However, every WorldTour team has a hub – and it’s the service course.

The service course is a team’s operational base, where bikes and equipment are stored, mechanics work when not at races, and vehicles are serviced and restocked before heading off to their next far-flung destination in all four corners of Europe.

Team Sky’s service course is located in the small Belgian town of Deinze, in the province of East Flanders. Having taken over premises formerly occupied by the HTC-Highroad team, and with the likes of QuickStep, Trek-Segafredo, BMC Racing and Lotto-Soudal all within ten kilometres, Flanders is not only cycling’s cultural heart, but it’s logistical heart, too.

Team Sky’s service course is, quite simply, a huge operation, with 440 sqm of storage and work space, alongside a 220 sqm apartment with a kitchen, living room and 11 beds, so staff can stay when working between races.

The numbers speak for themselves. The team has more than 200 bikes in rotation and uses tens of thousands of water bottles each year. Hundreds of wheelsets, from aluminium training hoops to the latest carbon deep-sections, are stored in the service course, alongside countless tyres and components, enough apparel to clothe a small country, and everything from turbo trainers to memory foam pillows.

It amounts to millions of pounds of equipment, alongside more than a dozen vehicles, all for 28 riders on three race programmes running concurrently. The service course has to be a super-slick operation, run by spreadsheets and to-do lists, and is an Aladdin’s cave of top-level kit – any cycling geek’s dream.

So we stopped by between the end of the Spring Classics and the start of the Giro d’Italia to take a look for ourselves.

Let us take you on a guided tour.

Team Sky's service course is located in Deinze, in the East Flanders province of Belgium. The team was originally based in Mechelen, on the outskirts of Brussels, but soon realised how badly the Belgian capital's ring road suffered from congestion - and how much time they spent stuck in traffic as a result. With HTC-Highroad disbanding at the end of Team Sky's second season, Dave Brailsford's outfit subsequently took over the American team's premises in Deinze.
Each Team Sky rider typically has seven bikes. Two of those are kept at home for training but the other five - three road bikes and two time trial bikes - are kept in the service course when not at races.
As you may expect, Chris Froome is an exception to the rule and the Brit has around 13 bikes - including those one-off yellow machines used during his three Tour de France wins. This is Froome's Pinarello Dogma F8 XLight, introduced during the 2016 Tour.
The XLight is, as the name suggests, a super-light version of Pinarello's Dogma F8. It's one for the mountains, with Pinarello stripping approximately 80g from the frame to bring the claimed weight down to a claimed 710g. Froome is now riding the latest version of the Dogma, the F10, which was launched at the start of the 2017 campaign.
Froome is the only Team Sky rider to use Osymetric chainrings. Team Sky's head of operations, Carsten Jeppesen, says they have found no tangible benefit to the non-round rings, but Froome remains a staunch fan of the design.
While most of Team Sky's Kask helmets are stored in one place, the Kask Bambino Pro time trial helmets are individually hung from the nose of each rider's TT bike saddle. Jeppesen says this is to prevent TT helmets being forgotten when packing for races, as has happened in the past.
Pinarello say the Dogma F10 frame boasts the highest tensile strength in the world, as a result of the Torayca T1100 1K carbon fibre used in its construction. The frame also features a neat integrated Shimano Di2 junction box.
Team Sky are sponsored by Shimano and almost all riders use the Japanese firm's flagship Dura-Ace pedals. American rider Ian Boswell bucks that trend, however, with Speedplay pedals spotted on his Dogma at the service course.
Since launching in 2010, Team Sky have won the Tour de France four times - first with Bradley Wiggins in 2012, before Chris Froome's three victories in 2013, 2015 and 2016. This image shows the team crossing the line on the Champs-Elysees at the end of last year's race.
The team employs nine mechanics and, when not at races, you'll normally find them at the service course, preparing bikes for the next stop on the WorldTour calendar. The service course has six stations from which mechanics can work.
We visited the service course between the end of the Classics and the start of the Giro d'Italia and this mechanics to-do list gave an indication of the squad set to be picked for the Giro. Each rider will have three road bikes (with R1 being the preferred race bike) and two TT bikes for the first Grand Tour of the season.
Malaysian mechanic Rajen Murugayen is in his second stint with the team. While Team Sky may be registered as a British team, with the main offices in Manchester and service course in Belgium, staff come from around 19 countries, according to Jeppesen.
The tools of the trade. Team Sky's mechanics use Unior tools to work their magic, while cleaning and maintenance products are provided by British brand Muc-Off.
Naturally, gluing tubular tyres is a big part of a mechanic's job.
And it's no easy job...
Setup of the Pinarello Bolide TT bike requires significantly more work than the standard Dogma F10, with dozens of small parts required to make the time trial machine as aero as possible.
It's not all work in Deinze. This table football table is conveniently located next to the mechanics' work stations. In Team Sky blue, of course.
Team Sky vehicles also return to the service course when not on race duty. That includes the coaches and mechanics trucks, though with such a busy race calendar, it's rare that the team's vehicles aren't on the road somewhere.
Team Sky switched clothing sponsor to Castelli at the start of 2017 and introduced a new jersey design as a result, based on the team's wins over the years. The lineated design carries over to the vehicles.
As well as offering 450 sqm of storage and work space, the service course also has a 220 sqm self-contained apartment upstairs, with a kitchen, living room and 11 beds, so staff can stay when working. It saves the team a huge amount in hotel bills, Jeppesen says.
It's all about attention to detail. These mini Team Sky jersey cut-outs are found on the entrance to each of the apartment's bedrooms.
There's also a laundry room, so kit and bedding can be washed. Each member of non-riding staff has a marked box to store their essentials. Rider kit is stored in the main service course.
Working for a pro cycling team is thirsty work - and there's only one beer for the job...
We stopped by the service course soon after Paris-Roubaix and found the bike on which Gianni Moscon finished fifth in the Hell of the North.
The Pinarello Dogma K8-S, still covered in dust from the cobbles, uses a micro-suspension to soften the punishment dished out by the pavé. Moscon had started the race on a second generation design, which allows the suspension to be locked out when not on the cobbles, but switched to this bike after a mid-race mechanical.
With 29 secteurs and 55km of cobbles, Moscon's race notes stretch almost halfway down the toptube.
Team Sky have left the bike unwashed as Pinarello have requested to use the machine, dust and all, for display in their headquarters. The elastic band on this bottle would have strapped an energy gel to the bidon when it was passed from the team car.
With the Paris-Roubaix course being largely flat, the majority of riders use a bigger inner chainring than normal, with Moscon option for a 53-44t combination.
Like a lot of riders at Paris-Roubaix, Moscon used Shimano's 'climbing' shifters to provide quick and easy gear changes when riding with his hands on the tops. The 23-year-old has since been banned from racing for six weeks for using racist language towards FDJ rider Kevin Reza at the Tour de Romandie.

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