What's Cool In Road Cycling

Join Lars Michaelsen in the team car

Get an inside view into the hectic life of a sport director – See the pictures here

VaiVaiVai! Bruno do you hear me? Pawel and Chris are on their way up to you. Give them bottles when they get closer to the peloton.

Stage 9 – kilometer 56. Status: Massive crash during fast start of the important 9th stage with mountain finish.

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Lars Michaelsen sits calmly behind the wheel of team car 1 in the race convoy behind the fast-moving peloton. 5 minutes ago, a massive crash took down many riders including Tinkoff-Saxo’s Pawel Poljanski and Christopher Juul-Jensen, who both play a significant role in keeping GC-captain Rafal Majka well positioned in the peloton. Mechanical problems has put about 1 minute and 20 seconds between the two GrandTour rookies and the peloton. The Danish Directeur Sportif is communicating with his colleague Bruno Cenghialta in team car 2 to organize the best support for the two riders.

Even though Lars is positioned behind the peloton in the DS car, he gathers information through many channels such as his telephone, the rider-radio, radio tour and his television mounted on the dashboard.

“As a sport director, information is power. Detailed information gives me the ability to make important decisions during the race and guide my riders through the parcours making them able to respond to attacks, punctures and how the race unfolds”, says Lars Michaelsen while maneuvering his car in between riders, team cars and official Giro d’Italia vehicles on the country road leading into Bologna.

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If you study Lars and almost any other sport director in the peloton, you’ll be amazed of the calmness they show in these hectic situations. The possibility of injuring a rider or colliding with another team car is always eminent as this crazy setup moves through the terrain on narrow and technical roads. But Lars reacts quickly and with great anticipation he moves his car around as if he was playing a round of Tetris – always finding a free slot – while being in constant contact with his riders.

“I was out there on the tarmac on my bike as a pro from ’94 to ’07 so I’ve learned exactly what I can expect from these situations and what kind of information and assistance the riders need. My role is to contribute with my experience and my ability to make the, hopefully, right decisions, says Lars Michaelsen and continues:

“I gather information about time gaps, wind- and weather conditions and tactical decisions and alliances and pass them on to the boys on the road. Here at the Giro, I use Michael Rogers as an extension of myself among the riders. Michael’s experience provides him with excellent analytic skills in the heat of the moment and that is simply invaluable to a team. We discuss possibilities over the radio and he executes them directly”, explains Lars Michaelsen and confirms over the radio that both Chris and Pawel have made their way up to the peloton again.

Lars Michaelsen’s day during Giro d’Italia

07:00 – Waking up
07:30 – Briefing from team doctor, soigneurs and riders about the condition of the riders.
08:00 – Team Chef Hannah’s Breakfast, several espressos.
08:30 – Continue stage preparations from last night. Study the route, lay down the strategy.
09:30 – Onboard the team bus, travel to the start of the stage, talk to the riders individually
10:20 – Official Team Briefing
10:45 – Interviews with media.
11:30 – 17:00 – Stage in progress, leading the team from behind the wheel of the DS-car.
17:00 – Stage finish, interview with media and supporting the riders.
17:30 – Travel to the team hotel, debriefing the riders in the bus, listening and giving advice.
18:30 – Analyzing the race and informing team-colleagues about the outcome of the stage.
19:30 – Coordinating and directing the work of the staff. Making sure that everything is ready for the next stage.
21:30 – Dinner with the team – time to relax.
22:15 – Tying up loose ends.
23:00 – A late evening glass of wine or beer in the kitchen truck.
23:30 – Bedtime.

This is the hectic daily life of a Sport Director during Giro d’Italia as well as the other Grand Tours. If you ask people in cycling, most of them will say that the DS has the most demanding job in cycling. If you ask a DS like Lars Michaelsen, he will say that nothing beats what the riders go through on a daily basis. This gives the impression of how much these former pros are in tune with their riders. They clearly understand how psychically draining it is to be in the saddles for 4-6 hours a day. But Lars admits that he also needs rest days.

“I’m constantly working here at the Giro. A normal day for Bruno and me often consists of 16 hours of work, but we try to squeeze in a bit of fun and relaxation with the staff and riders throughout a day. I think that a lot of people believe that a DS’s only job is following the race in the car and taking the strategic decisions, but we spend the majority of our day trying to orchestrate the entire team. We have the overall responsibility of everyone, which means that we are spending a lot of time on coordinating our team’s work so no one is being overloaded, says Lars.

“When the Giro is done, I’ll go home to my family and relax for weeks. It’s a demanding but very exciting job, and I get the chance to have most of the world as my office and share it with brilliant people”, concludes Lars Michaelsen as he gets eye contact with team mechanic Alejandro in the rearview mirror to ask if it isn’t about time to see what the soigneurs have prepared for lunch.

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