RadioShack may be one of the newest teams in the ProTour peloton but the team's Service Course, in the heart of Flemish Belgium, has been the base for the success of the US Postal Service, Discovery Channel and Astana teams for over a decade. Some of Lance Armstrong's framed yellow jerseys on the walls and a collection of trophies show just how successful the team has been over the years.
With RadioShack currently deployed at races in three different countries, their Service Course was described by the remaining staff as "bare", however Cyclingnews still discovered plenty of equipment and history when we were given exclusive access to the European home of the US squad. The well-established base also provides a fascinating contrast to the comparatively young Service Course of fellow ProTour-newcomer, Team Sky, Cyclingnews visited last week.
The genesis of the RadioShack Service Course adds to its rich history. The collection of buildings used to be a car dealership, which RadioShack manager Johan Bruyneel visited in 1999 to have repairs done on his personal vehicle shortly after taking the helm of US Postal Service. He became friends with the owner of the dealership, who subsequently offered the space to US Postal to use as their Service Course. The friendship has remained strong, as the former-car man is now one of the RadioShack's three bus drivers.
The Service Course is also the office of Bruyneel's management company, which is responsible for the employment of RadioShack's 60-70 riders and staff. Director of Johan Bruyneel Management, Gert Duffeleer, oversees the administration of the company, with Barbara Van Maeldergem in charge of RadioShack's rider logistics (her imposing task made even more difficult last week after the eruption of the Icelandic volcano). Duffeleer, or 'Duffy' as he is affectionately known within the team, does double-duty as the team's chef at major races.
Former-professional Luc Meersman is another who wears a number of hats within the team. The father of Française des Jeux profesional Gianni, Meersman acts as a bodyguard to Lance Armstrong at major races, however, his primary responsibility is looking after RadioShack's fleet of 23 vehicles.
"We have two team buses, twelve team cars - six race cars and six soigneurs cars - two big mechanical trucks, two small trucks, two private cars, two VIP vans, one camper and a lot of bikes," he told Cyclingnews, adding with a grin, "If this volcano doesn't clear up, we'll probably have two ferries."
Meersman also takes personal responsibility for the vehicle dubbed 'Air Force One' used by Lance Armstrong when he is in Europe. Devoid of team logos, the silver Nissan features heavily tinted windows, designed to give Armstrong some respite from the constant attention that he attracts in Europe.
Like most major teams, Armstrong and his RadioShack teammates will most often arrive for races aboard one of the team's two buses. The unique specification of cycling team buses creates a very limited re-sale market and teams will often buy and sell their used vehicles to other squads. This year, however, RadioShack took delivery of a brand new bus.
"A standard 50-seater bus costs around 200,000 Euros," said Meersman. "You then take it to someone else with a list of custom features - showers, riders' seats, team logos - and that can add anywhere from 150,000-200,000 to the cost. So a brand new bus will usually come to around 350,000-400,000 Euros."
The scale of infrastructure required for a ProTour team extends well beyond its transport needs. RadioShack head soigneur Geert Tiebergijn is responsible for the thousands of articles of team clothing that need to be distributed to riders and staff. He uses a barcode system that would rival any department store to make sure he knows exactly who has what and when they received it. The team also ensures that each team bus is stocked with three suitcases of spare kit, to account for lost luggage, mid-tour crashes or last-minute roster changes.
Click here to take a look inside the RadioShack Service Course.