Even before Dylan Groenewegen had crossed the finish line to win the third stage of the Tour de France, the teams and the organization had already started to pack up and prepare for the transfer of nearly 1,000 km to Calais.
Racing resumes on the northern coast of France on Tuesday, but before that everything from police motorbikes to TV trucks and a giant cuddly lion sitting on a car must be moved across northern Europe.
The publicity caravan vehicles were loaded onto transporters while the multitude of police and event motorbikes that help run the race were loaded onto three double-decker trucks. Even the race organizers‘ red Skodas were loaded onto trucks. Riders, race staff, gendarmes and media will travel on the six charter flights to Lille and Calais airports.
It’s a massive operation and teams have had to come up with complex logistical plans to ensure the riders’ recovery is not hampered. Matt Winston was in charge of logistics for the DSM team. “We already have a team in France. They will prepare dinner for the riders, and we already have their bikes in France. It’s their fourth bike, so we have a full setup here with three bikes per rider, and then there’s one bike in France. He explained.
Winston’s goal is to make it as smooth as possible for riders. “The nutrition team have prepared some food and they will have it on the plane tonight and then have dinner when they arrive at the hotel, hopefully around 10.30-11pm tonight. Then we will train at 10am tomorrow morning, just an hour and a half easy.The only thing the runners are missing is a massage.
With only three team staff allowed on the flight with the riders, teams must drive their buses, trucks and cars on the recommended route via Hamburg, Dortmund, Dusseldorf and across Belgium, as ASO organizers have warned everyone to avoid the route through the Netherlands where farmers are currently blocking roads in protest against government policy to cut carbon and nitrogen emissions by 2030.
“It’s a weird feeling, it’s almost like you’re going to a new race.” said Winston. “You have new staff in a different country, so it feels like another race with a day in between.” But it’s something teams get used to.
This year’s Giro kicked off in Hungary, requiring a rest day after the opening weekend as the race moved to Sicily, while the Vuelta will do the same with its start in Utrecht in the Netherlands later. this summer.
“Doing it three times in one year is a real challenge.” said Rod Ellingworth, assistant team manager at Ineos Grenadiers. We are staying in Dortmund tonight to even out the drive over the two days. The runners are doing well, they are used to traveling and we put them in the center to make sure of it. They have a lot of support once at the hotel tonight. They treat it as a rest day and we have several practice rides.
How the riders respond and react to these first days of rest is apparently at the heart of the success of Britain’s Grand Depart 2026 bid, with Christian Prudhomme using this weekend as a gauge of that. “It adds challenges, but they draw big crowds and it’s a good start, so I think it’s worth it.” said Winston. “Especially if there is a stage around Manchester.”