Words and pictures by Ayse Van Laethem (@ayse.vl)
On the 12th and 13th of April Endurance Stories was invited to join Team Sky on 2 of their press days. We kindly accepted the invite, and made our way to Kortrijk for 2 days full of information about this incredible team.
12 April ’17
Having no idea what to expect in the next 2 days, I got to the hotel at 7PM and was kindly greeted by Ben Wright, who is the Head Of Communications, and Dave Callan, head of the partnerships. After some small talk they told me about the planned events and I made my way to the hotel room.
The rest of the evening was fairly easy, the people invited, mostly brand partners and press got to know each other over a lovely dinner and drinks. With a bunch of people there who are either working in cycling, or reporting on it, it isn’t very hard to guess the subject of the conversations. Something that is very noticeable as a newbie in this business, is that most people you meet have a vast passion for cycling. I honestly believe that cycling isn’t a world you get into to get rich, you do it because you love it, because whilst you know all about the fluctuations you may encounter, you don’t see yourself doing anything but it.
The next day was the most interesting one and the reason we were all invited, to get more information about what is going on behind a team like Sky.
We started the day with a ride towards the Team Sky Service course, during the ride we were joined by two of the riders of the team, Jon Dibben and Benat Intxausti. Jon who had ridden Flanders and Roubaix in the week prior, told me he was happy to get some easy miles in, It was riveting to hear the first year rider for Team Sky, who is leaving his passion for track for a new adventure of the road, talk about his future goals, his favorite races so far, and how excited he is to ride back home in England for the Tour Of Yorkshire. After about 2 hours of easy riding, and some chats with both the riders and the other people in the event, we arrived at, as I would like to call it, the CANDY STORE of cycling, or the official name “The Team Sky Service Course”. Together with the garage door opening upon arrival, so did the mouths of anyone who was even remotely into cycling.
Rows and rows of Pinarello bikes perfectly lined up next to each other, helmets, kit, fuel, so on, so on. What a beautiful sight it was.
Before getting a tour of it all, we got the chance to take a shower in the flat above the service course. This is where you start to notice the teams professionalism even more. Above the Service Course you find a completely ready flat that can be used by at least 6 people, staff or riders. Then downstairs a service course made for productivity.
As someone who puts great value into efficiency, it was great to notice and admire the thinking behind it all. Why they had put this thing here, that thing there, so on.
The tour around the center was given by Carsten Jeppesen, head of technical operations & commercial. Jeppesen is someone who does his job with great pride, it’s intriguing to see the passionate way he talks about everything behind the scenes at Team Sky, how he tries to find a fascinating answer behind every question asked. This is something that is very noticeable about most of the staff members who lead this great operation that is called ‘Team Sky’, these people love what they do, and carry great pride with that.
Carsten led the tour by starting to talk about Pinarello, the bike brand the team has been riding with since entrance in the world of pro cycling in 2010.
Showing us the newest Dura Ace Disc groupset, on the Pinarello disc brake bike, which also has the newest form of shock absorbance right underneath the seat post, which they hope is tested and close to perfection by the classics of 2018.
Next to that was the Wahoo Kickr. Wahoo is a brand they’ve been working with since 2014 for their market leading power trainers. Team Sky demands a product that is reliable, robust and able to withstand the demands of the toughest races and conditions. The KICKR is also key to structured, indoor training programmes, providing a ‘real ride’ experience. Team Sky was one of the first teams brining trainers to races, which they use before for warm up, and after for warm downs, which are key to a quicker recovery. But this isn’t the only positive that came with bringing these trainers to races, as Jeppesen tells us. When the riders finish their race, they immediately step on the Kickr, before that, they were harassed by the press the moment they stepped of the bike. Now the trainer gives them a sort of barrier. This allows them to answer the questions in a more relaxed way, whilst doing their recovery.
A new brand the team works with this year is Castelli, their brand new clothing provider. Whilst using most products from their already existing clothing lines, they also provide some specific products for Team Sky that mortals like us can’t get in bike shops.
Carsten also told us about the research behind the new Kask TT helmet. Showing us the prototypes they used for testing, and telling us out of his head the exact number of watts saved with each individual prototype.
You notice the organization of this team in every detail of this building, and it’s quite incredible.
In the right corner in the back of the building, we could find 3 mechanics preparing the bikes for the Amstel Gold 4 days later, including the bike of Kwiatkowski, who came second on sunday after a fingerbiting sprint agains Philippe Gilbert.
After finishing the tour around the Service Course, we finished with a look at the busses, trucks and cars.
It was time to make our way back to the hotel, we got a ride back in the famous Team Sky bus. It was a nice feeling, quietly sitting on this bus, juggling through the very few pictures on my camera. Having nice conversations with like minded people on this trip and getting so much information about what is going on behind this team, made me forget to capture the moments. But it wasn’t something I was bothered by. Putting the camera back in my backpack, I continued to gaze around the bus. The bus where all the races end, where a lot of strategies have been decided on and where many emotions have been experienced. It’s a special feeling sitting here, all the way in the back.
But there is this one feeling that I can’t seem to shrug, as a female rider myself. After seeing this big budget team, the gap between men and women’s cycling feels even clearer to me. Following the Canyon//Sram women’s team around, the contrast is just baffling. I myself can do very little to change this big world of cycling, but I can hope that the press and sponsors come to realize, sooner or later that women’s cycling is as exciting as the mens, all it needs is a little more attention.
Thank you, Team Sky, Wahoo and Twotone Amsterdam, 2moso (Wahoo Benelux)