The racing season may be over and most riders are enjoying their holidays but for team staff and management at the MTN-Qhubeka service course in Tuscany, the next few weeks and months are arguably the busiest time of the year as they prepare for the 2016 season.
The squad will be known as Team Dimension Data in 2016 and could perhaps step up to WorldTour level thanks to the arrival of further sponsorship from Deloitte and others brands. Mark Cavendish and several other riders have come on board, giving the team an even bigger presence in the peloton and higher goals to aim for next season.
Like every service course, MTN-Qhubeka’s European headquarters is in a non-descript business park, in this case on the outskirts of Lucca. Behind the brown brick façade there is the logistical nerve-centre that keeps the team running as smoothly as possible. Only the sight of the black and white striped team vehicles reveal it is a service course but a sophisticated alarm system ensures all the bikes and equipment are kept safe.
The team has its offices and training base in the same building, while a huge warehouse that holds the team’s bikes and equipment and allows the two huge mechanics' trucks to sit inside. Team buses are kept elsewhere. Office staff are already busy, planning and booking travel for training camps, and early-season races. General Manager Brian Smith was kept in the service course this week, talking to his new riders, overseeing the inventory process and preparing the final details for the team’s 2016 campaign.
The training rooms and lounge area are quiet in the absence of the riders during Cyclingnews' visit. However, many of them are based in nearby Lucca during the season. They often drop in for a coffee, some work on their training bikes or to leave a jersey they may have won in a race. Several from the 2015 season already decorate the lounge area created for the riders and guests.
The main warehouse area is packed with Cervelo bikes, Enve wheels, Castelli clothing and other components and equipment. During the season the trucks and bikes are almost constantly on the road. Three mechanics work full time at the service course during the winter to ensure everything is ready for the season ahead.
A few of the 2015 team issue Cervelo bikes will sold to the public but most will be returned to Cervelo. A number of yellow and silver Tour de France numbers bikes, with race numbers still attached, sit in a passageway awaiting shipping. Other bikes are being build-up and will be used by riders for winter training at home. New Cervelo time trial frames fill a rack, ready to be built up with new Rotor and Shimano components. Long rows of Enve carbon fibre wheels wait to be cleaned, serviced and new tubulars attached for the 2016 season. Every item of equipment is accounted for in the component room, with boxes of Shimano components, handlebars and other equipment.
Some of the 2015 equipment will be sent back to the sponsors and suppliers, making room for new equipment. While the riders enjoy their holidays and time off the bike, the 2016 season has already begun at the service course.