As in 2010, 2012 and 2014, after three days racing on foreign soil, on Monday the Giro d'Italia faced a major transfer south from a northern European country to more familiar terrain - and for all 22 teams that means one of the biggest logistical operations of the entire season.
Riders headed out of Amsterdam's Schiphol airport at 9.20 this morning. Their flight will reach Lamezia Terme in southern Italy around midday, then they will head onto their respective hotels from there. But as Sky's head of performance operations Rod Ellingworth tells Cyclingnews in the Netherlands, a hefty proportion of their initial Giro d'Italia staff, bikes and management won't actually see Italy at all this May.
"We did this a couple of years ago when the Giro d'Italia started in Ireland so it's a fairly similar operation," Ellingworth says. "For the last six weeks we've been having weekly calls on all our logistics anyway for the Giro d'Italia and talking about this, obviously, is a big part of that."
The key element for Sky is that no team vehicles are heading all the way from the Netherlands down to southern Italy on the rest day, instead they have a new set of vehicles already there. There's also a big changeover on the staff side.
"All our new vehicles turned up there [in Italy] already, we hired some external drivers to get them down there," Ellingworth said. "We've got five staff who are carrying on on the race, but who are down there waiting and four staff, like myself, who do this Dutch part and then will go home and somebody else takes over the role I'm doing here.
"Everybody else is flying down on that flight with the organisation on Monday. It's pretty straightforward, we're going with minimal stuff, we're not flying with any wheels or tool boxes and everything's already down there, beds, bedding and so on. Everything is doubled up. We've got three of each of those, more or less, per rider and double up on that so that's not so tricky."
The fact that Sky is not, like some French teams, doing the 4 Jours De Dunquerque or the Vuelta a Madrid in Spain like Movistar makes the operation a lot less complicated. AG2R-La Mondiale's riders in the French stage race, for example, had to make do with a camper van to get ready in at the start, as both team buses were on the Giro d'Italia.
"It's fairly straightforward because there's only one race program this week after the Tour de Yorkshire. If there was another race on the time that'd be really tricky, but that was part of the plan - that we wouldn't," Ellingworth said.
"The bus here [in the Netherlands] though, will go back to service course and we have another bus, with another driver doing the rest of the Giro. We've got one mechanic, one carer, one bus driver, and myself here in Holland all moving on. The only truck we've got down there which we haven't got here is a kitchen truck. We've not bothered with it here because we've only been in one hotel so it's not quite so bad and the chef can work from the kitchen here."
"The only stuff that's going down to Italy, is two bikes in each race box, which is nine boxes and one kit box with a few extra little bits in."
As Ellingworth recounts, the team's previous experience of a long Giro d'Italia transfer south in 2014 is a bit help. As for the riders themselves, they will make the most of the transfer's final leg and ride the 50 kilometres from the Lamezia Terme airport to the team hotel as their light training for the rest day.
"They get picked up by race organisation at 7.40 and fly out at 9.20 Monday after a night in a hotel at Amsterdam airport," Ellingworth said. "They reach there (Lamezia Terme airport) at midday and our chef is giving them food which they'll eat on the flight.
"Then the other bus meets them at the airport and the bikes which are already down there will come over on car roofs. The riders will have another little bite to eat, get ready, get changed, and then head back to the hotel by bike. They should be there at the hotel by around 3. They'll be there by the rest of the day."
It's a fairly elaborate operation for Sky, but Ellingworth feels the game is worth the candle in this case. "It's only three days in, four days in, but there's still a gain to get if you get it right," he points out.
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