The Giro d'Italia made its 2700 kilometre return trip from Ireland to south-east Italy on Monday morning, with the riders taking a chartered flight for the three-hour flight. They landed in Bari at lunchtime, and were met by warm temperatures and their team buses on the tarmac.
Sunday evening was far from straightforward for the team personnel, with mechanics and staff rushing to take bikes and logistical equipment to the team hotel and then on to the airport for a separate cargo flight to Italy.
"It's all got to be done as soon as possible," Garmin-Sharp head mechanic Geoff Brown told Cyclingnews on Sunday morning before the stage three start.
“We'll have to pack them in the transport bags, load them on the team truck and take them to the cargo area, for the flight to Italy." (For the record, each Garmin-Sharp rider has two bikes, with team leader Ryder Hesjedal having three.)
"I think we're on a cargo flight, and every team has a designated time period, it’s like five teams every 30 minutes have to drop their stuff off. It's gong to be a really busy time."
"People are saying ‘oh, have a nice glass of Guinness in Dublin' and I'm like 'OK, maybe around five to midnight!'" the experienced mechanic laughed.
The logistical operation from Ireland to Italy is similar to when Denmark hosted the opening three stages of the 2012 Giro d'Italia and then flew to Italy. "It's not like we haven't done it before, but it's a stressful situation," Brown said.
Most of the WorldTour teams had their second team bus and a second group of staff waiting for the riders when they landed in Bari airport around midday local time.
"It's a question of using almost two entirely different sets of vehicles and staff," Garmin-Sharp sports director Charly Wegelius told Cyclingnews.
"We have just one vehicle driving from here to Italy. But it's not a crucial vehicle. So Robbie Hunter, another sports director, is already down there, we've got a different truck down there, a different bus and so on."
Even the non WorldTour teams on the Giro d'Italia, some with much smaller budgets, took the same approach.
"We’'ve got one lorry here, and another in Bari," Colombia team manager Claudio Corti said. "We hired a camper van here for the riders [as a team bus] here in Ireland for three days and the usual team bus - we only have one - is back in Italy.
"So we’ll drive three team cars back to Italy, we've got two there already. But with such a short stage on the Tuesday, it's not so important. We've cut down on personnel a little bit in Ireland and that mattered a little more in the team time trial, but for the two road stages it wasn't so important. Maybe by not changing all the staff like the big teams can afford to do, we’ll end up gaining a bit because the same people will have been working with the riders since the start of the race."
An afternoon ride
The decision to fly the riders out on Monday, at 8 am and 8.30 am rather than on Sunday evening was met with approval from most team staff that Cyclingnews interviewed. Riders did not have a full rest day in the same place, as a result, but - on the plus side - they did not have a late night arrival in Italy either.
"What you gain by staying in Ireland is that the lads will get a massage and will eat well," Team Sky’s Performance Manager Rod Ellingworth told Cyclingnews on Sunday. "It's a rest day on Monday, so they'll get an early plane out, get down there, then get a ride in."
"I think you could have got it all done on one day, but I think this is possibly the easiest option, from a physical point of view."
"If you got on the plane on Sunday afternoon, it would mean 187 kilometres in the rain, a lot of waiting around because everybody’s going on the same two planes and they'd all get to the hotel that evening at different times. I think you're better off getting back to the hotel and getting some proper rest, even if it is an early start."
On Monday afternoon the riders will train for an hour or so. "The good thing is that the racing doesn't start until Tuesday, so you have the option of a little spin in the morning too, if somebody wants to.”
As for those making the long drive from Dublin to Bari, the few team personnel and journalists doing so are allowing up to 48 hours for the journey by ferry - first to England, and then across to France - and then down to the very far heel Italy, arriving some time Tuesday afternoon.
Racing resumes on Tuesday with a flat 112-kilometre stage from Giovinazzo to Bari.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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