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Teams are developing complicated tactics and carefully guard their know-how.

That’s why we’re happy that the team LottoNL-Jumbo granted our reporter Christopher access to spend one full day on the Grand Départ in Dusseldorf with them to show our readers what it takes to prepare for the grandest tour of all.

FUEL IS A FAMILY AFFAIR

It says a lot about pro-cycling when the first member of the team you're introduced to is the cook.  Jesper Boom has been feeding pro-cyclists for a few years, and if the name rings a bell, it's because he's the younger brother of Tour de France stage winner Lars Boom.

Timo Roosen (middle) asks what's on the menu

Team cook Jesper Boom (right) contemplates the evening menu

Throughout the day, the Dutch team were treated to cabbage stuffed with meat, quinoa, a lot of potatoes, cured meats on rye bread, veal, and salad.  Jesper serves the team, "lots of traditional Dutch food..." and as we're chatting the cyclists return from their morning's training ride.  Sure enough, the pros are keen to learn more about how their calories intake will be dressed up.

SUPPORT IS SACRED

Following food, the next most important topic of conversation are the stunningly beautiful Bianchi bikes – how they're handling, if there are any niggling problems, or room for improvement in their setup. It's tangible just how much respect the cyclists have for their mechanics, and Robert Gesink spent some time chatting with Tony Arts, a mechanic who, prior to joining LottoNL-Jumbo, spent 20 odd years with Rabobank.

Tony Arts (left) the veteran mechanic examines Gesink's bike

it's not much of a training ride in a city

Finishing sixth in the 2015 Tour de France and winning the Tour of California's Yellow Jersey in 2012 Gesink is a much-respected member of the grand tour peloton. Friendly and energetic, even for a pro-cyclist, Gesink was happy to chat and joke, but clearly wanted more time on his bike. As soon as he finished debriefing Arts, Gesink hit the trainer – as Primož Roglič told me, "it's not much of a training ride in a city".

WHO DO YOU WANT IN THE CAR?

The riders are also lucky to have Dirk Van de Ven working on their bikes. Young, agile, and intense, Van de Ven immediately struck me as a real asset - he's been with LottoNL-Jumbo for a couple of years and is often found riding in the back of the team car.

In the eventuality of a crash or mechanical problem with the bike, Van de Ven's job is to jump out the team car, replace bikes, wheels, or simply help a cyclist get back in the saddle.

He's got to think fast, act quickly, and be absolutely sure that all the tools at his disposal are fit for purpose. Having spent an afternoon watching him tape handlebars and levelling every seat, I asked what he'd be doing the morning of the race, "I'll be doing it all again."

 

Van de Ven takes notes from Gesink

THE VEHICLES OF SUCCESS

Watching Tony Arts expertly clean the fleet of Bianchis, before degreasing and greasing up the drive chains, is one of the most hypnotic sights I've ever had the pleasure to witness. An almost zen like meditative experience, I learned that clean vehicles is not only a technical necessity – it helps put the athletes' minds at rest. A clean vehicle offers peace of mind.

The race ready ŠKODA KAROQ – ready for action in a secret location

Arts cleans a bike in front of a freshly washed team vehicle

One thing that struck me about the ŠKODA OCTAVIA's parked up by the team bus was the absence of radio antennae. A quick chat with the management let me know that a secret vehicle would be making its first public world debut in the time-trial – a brand new ŠKODA KAROQ was hidden in a back street, and I got to take a closer look.

Many teams have grown accustomed to using ŠKODA OCTAVIA estate cars to support their riders, but Le Tour 2017 starts with an individual time-trial, so LottoNL-Jumbo opted to try out a new model – The ŠKODA KAROQ. So I got inside to find out what’s it like inside of a team car during the race.

Transparency

New technology means that all professional professional cycling is under increasing scrutiny from sponsors, fans, and the media. The KAROQ used by LottoNL-Jumbo is fitted with cameras so that the team can review footage later to assess performance, and look for gains in the performance of their team.

Driver information

The team KAROQ needs a driver, and for Roosen's run another sports director, Nico Verhoeven, occupied the driver's seat. While Maassen coaches Roosen via the comms system installed on the dash, Verhoeven offers advice while driving.

How the KAROQ handles on the course gives the directors insight into the conditions the riders will face – the notoriously rainy conditions in Düsseldorf meant understanding the line was more important than usual. The depth of puddles, the lack of grip on the red-striped pedestrian crossings - all of this is information is shared with the riders.

Emergency mechanic

ŠKODA KAROQ also has room for an athletic mechanic, and this duty lies with Van de Ven. Should there be a mechanical failure, the KAROQ will get as close as possible to the rider so that Van de Ven can jump out the car with whatever he needs and run to the cyclist as quickly as possible.

If you watched stage one you would have seen Van de Ven assist George Bennett when his back wheel slid out from under him on a treacherously wet bend. After switching Bennett's bike for one off the roof, Van de Ven turned to run back to the KAROQ and his trainers slipped from under him – if you'll pardon the pun, this was a watershed moment in terms of understanding just how much the riders would need to slow into the corners.

Internal spaces

KAROQ offers some intriguing possibilities. During Roosen's ride, Slovenian wunderkind, Primož Roglič road in the centre backseat, giving him a much higher viewpoint than a more conventional estate – all the better to discuss racing lines and dangerous looking patches of road.

Despite being sat between a mechanic and a set of spare wheels, the KAROQ gives Roglič plenty of room to manoeuvre, ensuring the cyclist has the best possible vantage point to plan how he will tackle the individual time trial.