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.