Riding with the peloton
Ever wonder what it’s like to ride in one of the cars on the course of a pro cycling race?
On the final stage of the Tour of Utah, I found out.
A carefully choreographed caravan
A pro cycling race is much more than some guys on bikes riding at high rates of speed on a given day.
The race route is carefully planned months in advance and requires the efforts of hundreds, if not thousands, of people to ensure the race is both safe for riders and enjoyable for fans.
As each race day dawns, the roads are closed to the public, as a mix of motorcycles and cars travel amongst the 100+ bike riders, carefully weaving in and out of the cyclists to support them and provide race coverage for fans worldwide.
Who’s in those cars & on those motorcycles?
A variety of people.
First, there are the organizers of the race. That includes race officials, marshalls and race operations personnel that ride throughout the race ensuring the riders are safe and the course is as secure as possible.
Race radio keeps everyone updated on the status throughout the race. Information continually flows over the radio with information on riders, locations and current conditions.
An example update… “The lead group is 40 seconds off the front and includes 11 riders.
The riders are 51 5 – 1, 91 9 – 1, 45 4 – 5…”
Team support cars. Each team has a couple of support cars carrying extra bikes and supplies to assist their riders on the course with flats, broken chains, etc.
VIPs. Let’s not forget that it takes money to support a race. VIPs pay up to a reported $10,000 to ride in a car during certain races.
Photographers. The motorcycle photographers roam in and out of the riders and along the route to get shots as the race progresses.
Media. We were in the media car. In addition to our driver Terry, I rode with 2 other members of the media covering the race for cycling publications.
And, there are other vehicles, including medical support.
So, what do you do in the car?
We started out ahead of the peloton.
A few miles out, we stopped and waited along the side of the road for the riders to “catch up,” then proceeded out ahead of the group.
We road along, listening for news on race radio, waiting for the breakaway.
Just before the sprint, we were notified that we could fall into the gap (area between the breakaway and the peloton) after the sprint.
Terry, our driver stopped along side of the road, we rolled down the windows and got shots of the breakaway as they passed.
We then started again, this time in between the break and the main group.
A chase formed, we repeated the process, then fell behind those riders.
The first climb
The route on stage 6 was fairly simple – flat with two huge climbs.
On the first climb, the breakaway, which included Rory Sutherland, Timmy Duggan, Michael Matthews, Jesse Anthony and 7 others, fractured with gaps forming between the riders as they made their way up the 2.15-miles with up to 22 percent grades.
It was hot and the riders were suffering as we passed them on the climb.
After going over the top and the first King of the Mountain (KOM) point, we passed the feed zone, and then we flew down the winding descent, just ahead of the helicopter.
A race back to the finish line
Now ahead of the riders, with just Empire Pass waiting between us and the finish line, we raced ahead to get to the finish line before the riders.
We arrived back in town just about the time Levi Leipheimer went over the pass and began his descent into Park City.
Jumping out of the car at the finish line, we took our places on the course with the other photographers and about 10 minutes later, Levi rolled over the finish line, as the winner of the final stage of the Tour of Utah 2012.
Thanks to Terry for his expert driving and the Tour of Utah for a great experience and an awesome week of pro cycling.
Article by Kim Hull
|Photography and/or videography may not be used without explicit permission.|
|Connect with Kim:|