In the days leading up to the Tour de France, the team mechanics are working around the clock to ensure every bike is in perfect working order ahead of the most grueling three weeks on the calendar.
Europcar, Argos-Shimano and Astana shared the same hotel in Liege city centre, with the car park commandeered as a make-shift workshop for the three teams. With less than 24 hours until the prologue, the race is on to ensure each bike is cleaned and given a full overhaul ahead of the opening 6.4km of the Tour.
Argos-Shimano’s mechanics have a new truck for the Tour. Is it easier to work from? “We’ll have to wait and see,” they said with a smile, no doubt aware of the three weeks of hard graft ahead of them.
Pro riders have their position perfectly dialled and an accurate setup is even more important during a time trial. Riders spend hours fine-tuning their position in the wind tunnel and an accurate, aerodynamic setup could prove the difference between victory and defeat. Here’s Yann Huguet’s Felt DA on the Argos-Shimano rig.
The tools of the trade for Europcar’s team of mechanics
Europcar’s fleet of Colnago K-Zero time trial bikes. We wheeled away Pierre Rolland’s machine (and his Colnago C59) to photograph so watch out for a separate photo gallery soon.
There’s no doubt who this machine belongs to
Space is at a premium inside the Astana truck
Each road bike also comes under scrutiny ahead of Sunday’s opening road stage. Check out Alexander Vinokourov’s custom FSA Plasma integrated handlebars.
A proud Kazah, Vinokorouv has the country’s flag emblazoned on his handlebars, along with the words ‘Forever Vino’, which are apt considering the 38-year-old’s retirement after breaking his femur during last year’s Tour de France and subsequent U-turn and return to the peloton.
It’s not just the bikes which are washed ahead of the Tour (and after every stage for that matter); the team cars also go under the hose to ensure they’re spic and span.
Once race day arrives (which, in the case of the 2012 Tour, meant exchanging the dark clouds and heavy rain of the previous day for blue skies and warm sunshine) the bikes are checked over once again, with Michele Scarponi’s Wilier TwinFoil receiving new handlebar tape.
Anyone in need of a cassette?
It’s then time for final fine-tuning, with this Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda mechanic making sure David Millar’s gears are all running smoothly.
Around half of the Garmin team use Rotor Q-Rings, while Millar uses O’Symetric rings, which are even more ovalised. The non-round chainrings are designed to eliminate the dead spot in the pedal stroke, which is claimed to deliver a smoother pedaling action while helping to reduce the build-up of lactate acid at threshold.
With the machine ready to ride, there’s time to ensure it’s as aerodynamic as possible by covering the hole in the disc (which provides access to the valve) with gaffer tape, before handing it to Millar, who went on to finish 15th.