Lotto Belisol: Tour de France, from finish to start
We all know what happens during a stage of the Tour de France. We can watch the live coverage on TV or read plenty of reports in the papers. But maybe you’ve already asked yourself what happens between two stages. Wat do riders do from the moment they cross the finish line until they start again the next day? In order to unravel this mystery we talked to Lotto Belisol rider Lars Bak.
Lars Bak: “At the finish line we are welcomed by our soigneurs, who hand us over some food, drinks, towels and a jacket if the weather is bad or cold. The soigneurs join us to a possible doping check or to the podium in case someone takes top three. After that we head to the bus where we immediately get something to eat in order to recover as quickly as possible. This varies from sandwiches or rice with tuna to sweets. We also have a shower on the bus before leaving for the hotel. We almost never have to fight about who can have a shower first because the riders almost never finish at te same time, so there’s never a line. Some riders who come in early join the sports directors in the cars and drive away before the bus does. It happens –espacially in mountain stages- that one rider finishes much earlier than the last Lotto Belisol rider. In that case he does not wait for the others and is already heading to the hotel because every minute of rest counts. So some of us go by bus, some others have already left by car. The length of the bus ride depends on how far the hotel is located, on traffic jams and on the kind of road we’re on. We fill the gap by texting, tweeting, posting on Facebook, listening to music and so on. Besides, the new team bus is very comfortable and luxurious.”
“When we arrive at the hotel we go to our rooms immediately to pack out our suitcase and we get a massage as soon as possible. Each soigneur has to take care of two riders and a massage takes about one hour per rider. In the meantime we also visit the osteopath for a checkup and we rest on our bed while wearing recovery boots . Those boots cause compression around the legs en make the blood circulate and the muscles relax. We also have a recovery ice bath at our disposal.”
“After about two hours everybody is ready to have dinner, which is usually not before 8pm. We consider dinner as the nicest time of the day because we are all together talking about the stage and all kinds of other things. This strengthens the team spirit and we enjoy every minute of it. We have a starter, a main course and a dessert and we always have the choice between several healthy dishes with good carbs: pasta, rice, chicken, fish and different kinds of vegetables. In the corridors of the hotel there are jars with fruit, snacks, sweets and drinks so we can eat and drink whenever we want.”
“Around 9.30pm we go to our room where we rest some more and call our friends, wives or girlfriends at home. Sometimes we watch a film, read a book or we chat a bit with our roommate. It is very important to rest on the bed as much as possible, not only to recover physically but also mentally. There’s a lot of pressure on us during the Tour and in the race we are very concentrated, so we are also mentally tired.”
“When we wake up in the morning we stay in bed as long as possible and we get up just before breakfast. The best time to have breakfast is three hours before the start of the stage. Afterwards we go to our room to pack our suitcases, which takes not very long because during all this time we have gained a lot of experience in efficient packing. Then we head to the bus and we drive to the start, where we usually arrive at 1h15 before the beginning of the race. In the time between our arrival and our departure we have a team meeting in which we discuss the race profile and the tactic, we brief each other about how we are feeling and we comment on the good and bad things about the previous stage. After that it’s time to put on our shoes, to put up some sun cream, to fill our pockets with food and to check our bike. Then we head towards the start podium to sign in for the race”
“Although all days are structured the same way it never gets boring because there’s always something new. Every day we have a new story to tell because we are staying in a new hotel, we meet new people such as VIPs or sponsors and there are so many fans and happy people in the Tour. Every day is a new scenario and that’s really amazing.”