One of the things that I think a lot of people suppose is that all of the riders have one of their directors and a team mechanic behind them in the car, spare bike and wheels at the ready, vocal support streaming in via their race radios - not so for many, not so at all...
I caught up with Discovery Channel mechanic Geoff Brown as they were prepping the bikes for the Stage 20 time trial. I asked him how a TT plays out in terms of support for a rider who's not expected to compete for one of the top places.
"Here at the Tour de France, all of our riders have spare TT bikes, but that's definitely not the case at many smaller races," Geoff explained. "In those races, the guys will use their Trek Madone road bike as a back up. And of course we always have spare wheels, too."
But even here at the Tour not all the DC riders get to have one of the directors working with them along the route, simply due to the scheduling of the riders and the fact that there are only three DSs available in Bruyneel, Demol, and Yates.
So for Chechu Rubiera and Jose Azevedo they were followed by a Mavic neutral support vehicle with Bontrager wheels as their back up. And that's the way the TT support goes, on the road and here at the Tour - thanks for checking in, see you in Paris!
July 19, 2005: How to become a pro
I caught up with Jim "Och" Ochowicz, President of USA Cycling, the day after the demanding Stage 14 to the top of Ax-3 Domaines. I asked him about the impact of having three Americans in the Top six on the day, and in the GC standings as well - and then the conversation soon turned to developing junior riders to possibly get them into the pro ranks.
Chris Brewer: Yesterday was a big day for American cycling, wasn't it?
Jim Ochowicz: It just goes to show that there's a lot of depth within the cycling community in the United States. But that didn't just start up overnight, you know - they didn't just show up at the Tour de France. All three of those riders (Armstrong, Landis, and Leipheimer) started off with youth programmes and through different paths got to the point where they were able to come to Europe and race for top professional teams.
CB: With Lance, Floyd, and Levi doing so well they're serving as great examples as to what you can become. What advice would you have for young aspiring riders?
JO: You have to start by thinking locally, by racing in local towns and testing yourself there.
CB: So what's the first step?
JO: You usually start at your local bike shop. There's always a community of local racers who come in there and shop, and often these shops are sponsoring the local racers as well. Local bike shops can be instrumental in plugging new riders into local teams and clubs that will in turn be their initial development point to becoming a racer. And once you start to work with these folks, you just have to find ways to grow within that system.
CB: So the Big Question: How do you become a pro cyclist?
JO: Like I said, you have to start somewhere. You have to get involved somehow, some place, some way - for example, we all know that Lance got started through triathlon and then somebody noticed he wasn't too bad on a bicycle...
The bottom line is that results talk, and Lance was basically scouted out of the bunch. If you want to move forward at some point you have to have results that catch the eye of those who can move you up the chain.
And there are teams trying to develop riders today in the USA much like we did back in the day with 7-Eleven and Motorola and even Team USPS. These teams give young riders a chance and more importantly expose these riders to top racing, whether that's the US domestic scene or here in Europe.
Another example that we have within USA cycling for those young riders ready to move upward is our Belgium-based U23 program. In this project young men 23 and under get to race all over Europe and in a variety of different style races. While it's not the level of the Tour de France it's the next level below.
CB: Thanks for your time, Jim - so to sum up: start locally, learn from everyone you can, and get some results! But by all means have fun in the process...you can of course get more information at the official USA Cycling web site, www.usacycling.org.
Thanks for checking in,