Tour tech: Fettling with the professionals

Having a successful Pro Team is more than just getting world class riders on board. Keeping a Pro Team on the road throughout the biggest stage race in the world means long hours and hard graft behind the scenes.

We were privileged enough to spend the day with VacanSoleil DMC Pro Cycling Team Head Mechanic to find out who is responsible for keeping the Pro Team’s stable in mint condition.

If  ‘an army marches on its stomach’ then a ‘Pro Team success is in a tightened bolt’ such is the importance of a team mechanics. Keeping VacanSoleil DMC Pro Cycling Team on the road the responsibility of Head Mechanic Geert Van De Meulebroeke and a team of 9 other mechanics who support the team all year round.

It’s all go at the Tour

Geert, a team mechanic for 15 years, started out working for friends who rode for small mountain bike teams. He then worked with a several amateur riders, until one rider was spotted for a small pro-am team, they kept Geert on as their mechanic and so it escalated from there. He has now been at VacanSoleil for 3/4 years, spending up to 250 days a year on the road.

At a big stage race, Geert will work head up a team of four or five mechanics who begin most days start at 6am and finish at 10pm.

On days when there is a time trial, or there has been crashes in the previous stage, then bed time will be closer to 1am as the TT bikes will require plenty of adjustments and damaged bikes will need to be rebuilt.

Geert also works closely with the team management and the riders to ensure things run smoothly. On the whole riders aren’t trusted to do any work on their own bikes. Hoogaland is one of the few who are allowed to wield an Allen key, but any adjustments made on the road are checked by a mechanic on return.

According to Geert, the Neo-Pros are the most demanding and the Team Leaders are the least demanding and most thankful. While we were there Geert and his team were busy building a time trial bike at the last minute as one of the young riders ‘forgot’ to bring his from home.

Running a team on a tight budget is a challenge. To ensure every piece of equipment is accounted for a ‘Dirt Box’ is situated in the mechanics truck at every race and returned to VC Service Course – even flat tubes. The only consumables not returned are brake blocks, bar tape and cables.

With a place for everything and everything in its place, the truck lay out is Geert’s masterpiece. Designed by Geert himself, the truck can takes up to 50 bikes and 60 sets of wheels and every draw and storage shelf is neatly labelled with a description so everyone knows what should go where

Even the truck has sponsorship, Iveco, which is helpful because when the suspension broke at the Dauphine they were able to come out and fix it at the hotel. Without this roadside assistance, the team could be in serious jeopardy. Thankfully there are a couple of spare trucks back at VacanSoleil Service Course and another is currently being built – again to Geert’s exacting standards.


How many mechanics does it take…

Tools of the trade

Fetling TT bikes keeps the team busy

All spick and span

All the team gets attention from the fans

Paper work is important