The mechanics will be busy during the rough and tumble of the Ardennes Classics.
We catch up with AG2R Citroen Team to see what’s involved…
Mid to late April means one thing on the professional road calendar – the Ardennes Classics.
Three prestigious one-day races – Amstel Gold, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège – are held in the Ardennes of Belgium and the Dutch Limburg region, and are characterised by their punchy hills. That’s why all three are suited to the puncheurs of the peloton and the climbers. All three races feature highly competitive women’s versions, too.
Campagnolo-using AG2R Citroen Team will line up at all three with their main man likely to be Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet. The 35-year-old knows the Ardennes roads well as he has a holiday home in this region, and he’ll look to be supported by the talented Bob Jungels and Stan Dewulf.
He’ll also be supported by the French team’s diligent backroom staff including their world-class team of mechanics.
The mechanics are arguably the heart of every WorldTour team – including Lotto-Soudal, UAE Team Emirates and Cofidis, who also use Campagnolo groupsets and wheels (just groupset for Cofidis) – ensuring the world’s best keep on riding strong. I
t’s why we’ve caught up with AG2R Citroen Team mechanic Marc Chevènement (MC) to see what goes into a day at the Ardennes and how the riders choose their gear…
How do the parcours of the Ardennes Classics, specifically Liège-Bastogne-Liège, influence wheel choice? Which wheels will the AG2R Citroen Team riders use?
MC When it comes to the Ardennes Classics, the riders choose wheels that excel on the gradients so we want them as light as possible. That’s why they’ll go for Bora 35s or Bora 50s with tubulars depending on the rider.
How many wheels and bikes will you as a team take to Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the truck?
MC During the whole season, we’ll have 50 pairs of wheels in the truck across the Bora range. Each rider will have three bikes.
How many wheels and bikes will you take on course at Liège-Bastogne-Liège?
MC We’ll need 19 pairs of wheels for race day. This breaks down as seven pairs for the race bikes; seven pairs on the bikes on the roof of the car; four pairs inside the car; and one pair for an assistant who’s present on the roadside. There’ll be two of us mechanics on the course during the day.
Does the weather at Liege influence wheel choice?
MC The weather doesn’t influence the choice of wheels but rather the tyre pressure. Changing wheels looks as swift as it does in Formula One.
Is this a skill mechanics will practise back at the service course?
MC It’s still slower than in Formula One! We don’t train at the service course as we’re not there all the time, but we do practise at training camps, particularly at the beginning of the season with technical support from our partners including Campagnolo.
How do the parcours of the Ardennes Classics influence groupset choice and cassette choice?
MC For these races, the riders will use Campagnolo’s Super Record 12-speed with 11/32 cassette. They’ll use electric groupsets as they’re more reactive than mechanical, which is really important for these kind of punchy races.
Do you choose the gear set-up for the rider?
MC It’s a collaborative decision – one made by the rider, directeur sportif and mechanic. I feel confident of offering my input as I used to be a mechanic in a cycling shop and still ride around 7,000km a year. But if there’s any hesitation, the rider has the final decision.
Finally, can you talk us through a normal Ardennes day?
It’s a long day! Here’s the breakdown of a normal day at Liège:
6.30am Start the day ensuring the tyres are inflated to desired pressure and install the bikes onto the roof of the car.
8.00am Transfer to the start zone.
10.00am Race start. During the race You’ve always got to be alert in case of mechanical problems, especially for crashes, which often lead to a puncture. It’s hard to find a moment to eat a sandwich!
5.00pm The end of the race and transfer to the hotel.
6.30pm Wash all of the riders’ bikes.
Around 8.00pm End of the work day.
Time to go and prepare for dinner before enjoying a well-deserved rest.