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Inside the race: AG2R La Mondiale at the Tour Down Under

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Stijn Vandenbergh speaks with team manager Laurent Biondi ahead of the stage start in Glenelg

Stijn Vandenbergh speaks with team manager Laurent Biondi ahead of the stage start in Glenelg
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Fans line the road at the KOM competition at The Range

Fans line the road at the KOM competition at The Range
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Nans Peters did his fair share of bottle collections for the team

Nans Peters did his fair share of bottle collections for the team
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Matteo Montaguti chases back on to the back of the peloton

Matteo Montaguti chases back on to the back of the peloton
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Pierre Latour cools himself down in the sweltering conditions

Pierre Latour cools himself down in the sweltering conditions
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Even Lotto-Soudal team leader dropped back to grab his teammates bottles during the stage

Even Lotto-Soudal team leader dropped back to grab his teammates bottles during the stage
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Current race leader Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) is chaperoned back to the peloton by Jack Bauer

Current race leader Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) is chaperoned back to the peloton by Jack Bauer
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Bottles were taken by AG2R La Mondiale riders at every opportunity

Bottles were taken by AG2R La Mondiale riders at every opportunity
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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The riders also dropped back occasionally to top up the the sun screen throughout the stage

The riders also dropped back occasionally to top up the the sun screen throughout the stage
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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AG2R La Mondiale are on Factor bikes for a second season

AG2R La Mondiale are on Factor bikes for a second season
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Nans Peters drops back for more bidons from Laurent Biondi

Nans Peters drops back for more bidons from Laurent Biondi
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Matteo Montaguti heads back into the race following a nature break

Matteo Montaguti heads back into the race following a nature break
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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The AG2R La Mondiale kit is provided by Rosti Maglificio and Ekoï supply the team with helmets and eyewear

The AG2R La Mondiale kit is provided by Rosti Maglificio and Ekoï supply the team with helmets and eyewear
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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The sweltering temperatures left salt stains on the iconic team kit of AG2R La Mondiale

The sweltering temperatures left salt stains on the iconic team kit of AG2R La Mondiale
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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The stretchy jerseys accomadated up to nine bidons in a single run

The stretchy jerseys accomadated up to nine bidons in a single run
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Two helicopters follow the Tour Down Under providing live television coverage of the race

Two helicopters follow the Tour Down Under providing live television coverage of the race
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Stage 3 featured two intermediate sprints and a King of the Mountain competition

Stage 3 featured two intermediate sprints and a King of the Mountain competition
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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The team mechanic has a simple plan of bikes on the roof, so the correct spare is ready for any bike changes during the race

The team mechanic has a simple plan of bikes on the roof, so the correct spare is ready for any bike changes during the race
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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General Manager of the team Vincent Lavenu examines the general classification and stage details

General Manager of the team Vincent Lavenu examines the general classification and stage details
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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In the neutralised zone of a scorching stage 3, Team Sunweb wore ice vests to keep the core down

In the neutralised zone of a scorching stage 3, Team Sunweb wore ice vests to keep the core down
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Stage 3 traversed through McLaren Vale to the coast at Victor Harbor

Stage 3 traversed through McLaren Vale to the coast at Victor Harbor
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Enric Mas of Quick-Step Floors works his way through the team cars to rejoin the bunch

Enric Mas of Quick-Step Floors works his way through the team cars to rejoin the bunch
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Mechanic Michael Szkolnik passes ice filled stockings to the riders to help battle the heat

Mechanic Michael Szkolnik passes ice filled stockings to the riders to help battle the heat
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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A huge cooler chest stored enough bidons for half the stage, along with plenty of ice

A huge cooler chest stored enough bidons for half the stage, along with plenty of ice
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Highs of 47 degrees were reported, and the stage was consistently above 40 degrees

Highs of 47 degrees were reported, and the stage was consistently above 40 degrees
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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A musette full of energy gels is on hand for ease of access

A musette full of energy gels is on hand for ease of access
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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The race radio is attached to the centre console via some toe straps

The race radio is attached to the centre console via some toe straps
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Laurent Biondi checks his race notes during the stage

Laurent Biondi checks his race notes during the stage
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Stijn Vandenbergh did several bottle collections from the team car throughout the day

Stijn Vandenbergh did several bottle collections from the team car throughout the day
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Vincent Lavenu speaks to the riders via the team radio

Vincent Lavenu speaks to the riders via the team radio
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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Stockings are filled with ice and placed on rider's backs in an effort to stay cool

Stockings are filled with ice and placed on rider's backs in an effort to stay cool
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)
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The race convoy passes through Victor Harbor on the final lap of the stage

The race convoy passes through Victor Harbor on the final lap of the stage
(Image credit: Josh Evans / Immediate Media)

In a stage shortened by 26km, in line with the UCI's Extreme Weather Protocol, only a selection of sprinters and overall GC contenders had their minds on glory during stage 3 of the Santos Tour Down Under. For the majority, simply surviving the stage without any ill effects of the 45-degree Celsius temperatures was the priority.

The scorching weather in South Australia offered a real risk of heat stroke, sunburn and dehydration for those just spectating on stage 3 of the WorldTour opener. For those racing, fluid intake, core temperature control and skin protection all needed to be managed carefully throughout the stage simply as a matter of safety.

French-registered AG2R La Mondiale welcomed Cyclingnews into their team car for the day to sit alongside directeur sportif Laurent Biondi, mechanic Michaël Szkolnik and team general manager Vincent Lavenu, for an insight into how supporting the squad is the order of the day.

A short drive out of Adelaide, stage 3 began in the seaside town of Glenelg where temperatures were already in the high-thirties. Minutes before the stage was even underway, medical assistance was required at the start line for a spectator who had passed out in the extreme heat.

While this announcement was being read on the public-address system, AG2R La Mondiale DS Laurent Biondi, likely unaware of the situation metres away, talks through the stage with veteran domestique Stijn Vandenbergh and the remainder of the team liberally apply sunscreen and make any final kit adjustments ahead of stage start.

Each of the seven riders for AG2R La Mondiale began the stage with two full bidons and by the time the squad crossed the line in Victor Harbor 120km later, more than eighty bottles had been passed from the team car to the riders.

A cool box full of ice in the back of the team car kept bottles – half of which were water and the other half a mixture of electrolytes, sugars and minerals – cold. The team's mechanic filled stockings with ice from the cooler ready to pass to riders throughout the race.

The stockings let the cool water run off the ice as it melts, helping to regulate the riders' core temperatures as they race.

The stage took just over three hours to complete and every 10-15 minutes, an AG2R rider dropped back to the team car to collect a round of bottles for their teammates. Water bottles in cages and the front of the jersey, electrolyte mix in the rear pockets and back of the jersey for easier distribution when back in the bunch.

The sheer consumption of bottles meant a rendezvous with the team's other support vehicle mid-way through the race for a resupply was necessary, where dozens of filled and chilled bottles are bundled into musettes and flung through the rear windows of the team car onto our laps.

In the end, the stage ran faultlessly for the team that is one of the longest-standing outfits in the peloton, the first real challenge of the 2018 season completed.