Behind the scenes at the Giro d'Italia
June 26, 2011 7:09 AM   Subscribe

I've been reading David Millar's Racing Through the Dark. I have this vague idea of what it must be like in the middle of a Peloton, but it's awesome to see it up close this way.
posted by Fizz at 7:20 AM on June 26, 2011

That was neat. I think it's a real shame that more broadcasters don't use live footage from inside the team cars during races. The Tour of Flanders did it this year and it worked really well; sparking a big debate among cycling fans about the tactics being employed by the Garmin-Cervélo team. It added an extra dimension for the TV viewers, but no other broadcasters have done it since.

If you enjoyed the Giro video, I'd also recommend the Beyond the Peloton series, which has followed the Cervélo team for the past few years. The series is well-produced and offers some good insights in to the world of a pro cycling team.
posted by afx237vi at 7:39 AM on June 26, 2011

Damn, I wish I knew Italian.

This is fantastic.
posted by alynnk at 7:39 AM on June 26, 2011

Damn, I wish I knew Italian.

Click the CC button for subtitles in English. :)
posted by aheckler at 8:30 AM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's great to be able to follow the support vehicles, but there's something really off-putting about watching cyclists forced to share the road with so many cars. It just feels dirty to have all these combustion engines that aren't even technically part of the race, spewing their carbon monoxide in the rider's face, while panning across some beautiful sections of pristine mountain scenery. I realize many sections (high climbs, finish lines, etc.) are off-limits to vehicles, but for something like 95% of the ride there are all these cars jockeying for position around you. Especially in Italy, where the drivers are crazy to begin with, that's got to be a little disconcerting.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:11 AM on June 26, 2011

That was a great video. I enjoyed seeing all the little advantages the riders take anywhere they can, like drafting off the support cars or even the lead/follow motorcycles if they don't get out of the way. And the handing out of water bottles by team cars, as the driver and rider both cling to the bottle a few seconds while the driver hits the accelerator...

Civil_Disobedient, any vehicle you see mixing in with the bikers is there in some race capacity, be it team cars, neutral support, press, or officials. The lead riders never have to contend with that stuff, it's only if you are lagging behind do you get into the vehicles. And hopefully anybody driving in that situation is extremely aware that there are cyclists everywhere, which is not to say that accidents don't happen, but I would feel much safer with those cars than random traffic.
posted by inparticularity at 9:23 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

In a sport with 200 competitors, all of whom need to regularly eat and drink and have mechanical issues dealt with, cars are an unfortunate necessity.

Gerard Vroomen recently discussed the problem of race traffic in his blog (2, 3) but when you think of the fuss kicked up by the proposed ban on race radios, I really can't see team directors allowing their role to be diminished even further. Plus, team cars are essentially moving billboards for team sponsors, in a sport funded solely by advertising. They ain't going anywhere.
posted by afx237vi at 9:24 AM on June 26, 2011

I like to see the support cars give the riders a bit of a tow to the riders when they are handing out beverages. The support car driver guns it just a bit to give the rider a little speed boost. Watch it for about 30 seconds around the 5:37 mark.
posted by groovehouse at 9:52 AM on June 26, 2011

Yeah. Sports that take place in a stadium or an arena have a whole building built around them to support the whole process. In professional bike races, the arena needs to go with them on 200-kilometer races. The cars are necessary.

In certain one-day races, there are even more team cars. The race allows each team two cars in the official caravan, but for races like the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix, teams will outfit several more cars with support paraphernalia, and have them drive around to key points of the race so that support staff can be on hand, boots on the ground. A friend of mine went to watch Paris-Roubaix a few years ago and described "drafting" off a Rabobank car that pulled into the median of a highway in order to get to its next stop on time. "The race within the race," he called it.
posted by entropone at 12:38 PM on June 26, 2011

Yes, the cars are supposed to stay clear of the riders, but sometimes the margins can get a little narrow. Also, all of the race is filmed from the back of motorcycles. This can be especially tricky on descents, where the film crews sometimes must ride in difficult conditions faster than the lead riders. Of course, filming from a motorbike can produce sublime results.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:51 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

And of course the immortal Greatest Show on Earth.
posted by johnny novak at 2:58 PM on June 26, 2011

If this is tl;dw for you, jump to the 4:40 mark or so and watch the rider go up through the stone tunnel on a mountain pass, it's quite a thing.
posted by mcstayinskool at 3:26 PM on June 26, 2011

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