When pro cyclists in the Tour de France need a quick bike or wheel change to get back into the race as fast as possible, they count on a trusty, experienced support staff to be at the ready.
So when a rider gets a flat or has a “mechanical” or decides, for whatever reason, that he wants a different bike, he alerts the backup crew in his team car via his radio and pulls to the side of the road.
For the guys in the car it’s an intense moment, one that’s often broadcast around the world on live TV, especially if it’s a top rider. It’s easy to mess up and take too long, which can put a rider at risk of never rejoining the peloton or, worse, missing the time cut. These unsung heroes are trained to spring into action and carry out a series of steps in rapid-fire succession, all in hopes of getting their man back into the race quickly.
Members of the staff don’t always get the credit they deserve, yet their actions are critical to the success of every team. What they do might look easy on TV, but ask anyone who’s tried to do what they do and they will tell you it’s tricky work.
One Tour mechanic posted a first-person video with the help of a chest-mounted GoPro camera. It shows him helping two riders get fresh bikes, and it gives you a good idea of how good these guys are at what they do.
There are two cars for each of the 18 teams in the race, with two guys in each car, a driver and a mechanic:
The better cars have a sunroof so that the staff can see which bikes they have up on the roof racks, as well as two video screens to follow the race live (one up front and one in back):
The best mechanics know the drill and can do bike and wheel changes in their sleep:
Once they catch up to a rider in need, they spring out of the car and into action, grabbing a bike from the roof or a spare wheel from the back seat:
Pro riders know how to make changes go as smoothly as possible, like transferring water bottles from their first bike and putting them in the cages of their spare bike:
Once the rider is on the bike and clipped into his pedals, the mechanic gives the him a firm, steady push to help him get up to speed fast:
In this case, the mechanic also gives the rider a multitool to give to a teammate up the road so that he can make adjustments to his bike on the fly:
In less than 18 seconds, the mechanic got out of the car, grabbed a bike, gave it to the rider, and helped him with a push. That’s fast work, but often this happens even faster. (The driver, meanwhile, put the original bike on the roof.)
Then for the mechanic it’s a sprint back to the team car:
He jumps in, and they’re off back into the race convoy. From the moment the car stopped to the moment it drove off, it took 32 seconds:
Watch the video below:
This year’s Tour, the 102nd edition, started July 4 in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and finishes July 26 in Paris.
NOW WATCH: The cycling world can’t stop talking about this new superfast bike going into the Tour de France
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.