At the Tour de Suisse, professional road cyclists fight for every metre, every second and with every breath over eight stages in the men’s and four stages in the women’s race. In the worst case a sudden puncture or mechanical failure can mean the end of the race. For almost 10 years Trek and DT Swiss have been providing Neutral Race Support to prevent such situations from occurring.
The neutral service has three vehicles in operation. Each vehicle is equipped with three Trek bikes from the Émonda, Madone and Domane model series, up to 18 wheels and a supply of water bottles. In contrast to the team vehicles, the Neutral Race Support carries spare parts from the most popular component manufacturers and can therefore support all riders in the field when necessary, regardless of bike make or model.
Each vehicle is manned by a driver and a mechanic. In the event of a puncture or mechanical defect, the mechanic jumps out, changes the wheel and pushes the cyclist back into the race. In order to be prepared for any situation, the vehicles act as a mobile office for the teams overseen by Martin Obrist, the head of neutral support. To ensure they can respond to any scenario at any time, they are constantly connected to each other and the race via radio. Depending on the course of the race, two vehicles are in front of the peloton and one directly behind.
The neutral service rushes to the aid of the Pros when their own team vehicles are not in a position to do so. Particularly in a stage race like the Tour de Suisse, the course of the race can mean that the team vehicles are not able to attend to all of their riders. Often a leading group breaks away shortly after the start. Also, on hard mountain stages, the peloton tends to break up into many small sub-groups.
How often the Neutral Race Support is called upon depends greatly on the course of the race and weather conditions. In the rain the riders are put to the test even more and unforeseeable incidents and crashes occur more often. On such occasions, the neutral service works double time. And the job doesn’t end at the finish line – after each stage, a material check is carried out to ensure that spare wheels and bikes are in perfect condition for the next race day.
Safety Campaign #alwaysbeseen The three Neutral Race Support vehicles have a striking design. The front is finished in neon yellow, a reference to Trek’s #alwaysbeseen safety campaign. The bright colour contributes to greater visibility in traffic. The same applies to the daytime lights which are fitted to the road bikes and switched on throughout the Tour de Suisse.
Photo Credits: Gaudenz Danuser