Often labelled 'travelling circuses', stage races are hard work. Just ask Medalist Sports' Chuck Hodge, he's the man in charge of the Tour of California, America's biggest travelling circus when it comes to cycling. Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski discovers what the 'man behind the curtain' does to make everything tick.
A lot goes into putting on a successful stage race - from funding to publicity to ensuring everyone has a place to sleep. Everything is done with one goal mind: making the race happen each day. And when the starting gun sounds, the responsibility for success rests largely on one person's shoulders, the race technical director. For the biggest races in North America - Tour of California, Tour of Missouri, Tour de Georgia - that person is Chuck Hodge.
An entourage of vehicles follow racers from one city to another in parade fashion, escorted by police and officials in an 'ad hoc ballet' to ensure both safety and a viable competitive arena. Without a technical director there's a distinct possibility that it isn't going to happen.
Hodge oversees the daily race operations but the planning - arguably the most important aspect - occurs upwards of a year in advance for races such as the Tour of California. And a lot more goes into it than just picking two points on a map. "Everyone thinks that we just pick the start and finish and then go where we want," begins Hodge. "But there are a huge number of considerations - everything from the hotel situation to the transfers to the economics of the bid package. Combining all those factors we hope that everything comes out in the end," he explains.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for a full feature on the Tour of California's technical director.