Tour de France 2017 Behind the Scenes: Stage 2

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We left off yesterday with the first of my two weekend days at the Tour de France.  Don’t worry (or maybe you will), I’m not going to all the stages.  I’m going to pop in and out where it seems interesting and/or close by.

While the first day was a short 14KM individual time trial done one by one on TT bikes, the second day was a group start for the 200KM+ long stage.  So the atmosphere was significantly different than Stage 1.  With the TT stages it’s basically like a full day at the beach: You stake your spot as a team, and then you wander to and from that spot all day long.

Whereas for Stage 2, it’s kinda like dropping off the kids at school.  The team buses arrive about 2hrs prior to the start, and then after dropping off the riders and getting them on their way, the team buses head out on the road to the stage finish/hotels.

Like yesterday I’m going to recap the boatload of behind the scenes tweets I did, with a bit more detail to boot.  Plus, I’ll stash in a bit of a photo gallery at the end of some interesting tidbits from the previous two days that I didn’t share on Twitter.

Let’s get started!

I began my morning leaving the team hotel.  I had the massive race book with me as I tried to figure out how to get to the start.  As you can see from the illustrated route – it was a bit complex, as they were trying to funnel race traffic around various closures, ultimately right into the paddock.  As I left the parking garage, I immediately ditched the plan to follow the book, and instead just followed the team buses.

That plan worked out great. I managed to find a parking spot about 100m from the entrance to the paddock and called that done.

The differences between the time trial days and the normal road racing days are massive.  For this second stage (a non-TT stage), the entire race flotilla is about being more agile.  Everything was very precisely lined up to be able to quickly exit the moment the riders went out.

I think these next two tweets pretty much cover themselves:

While riders and teams have race radios and all assortment of gadgetry to help them through the stage, the reality is that sometimes a little piece of paper is the easiest. It only takes a second to glance at and gives you a sense for what pain is still to come.

Sometimes though, you just march to your own drum:

Don’t worry folks, I haven’t forgotten about the Team Quick-Step fruit basket situation.  Today the fruit was apparently in very high demand.

The entire starting area was sprawled over about a mile long length along the river.  First the paddock, then a long empty area too skinny for team busses to stage, and then finally the starting area.  This is as I made my way through that long empty area.

As always, UCI is constantly scanning bikes for motors.  It was interesting watching them count and record bikes, as well as validating they’ve captured all rider bikes for that day.

The riders head to the start, and the jersey wearers are always at the front.  In this photo though you might mistake Froome on the right as wearing the white jersey, but in reality that’s just Team Sky’s new kit.  Because this is the start of Stage 2, there wasn’t yet a king of the mountain (red polka dot) jersey handed out yet.

Until you’ve been to a Tour and watched all the team vehicles go by, it’s hard to explain just how many there are.  Aside from the caravan, it’s one of the most impressive things about the tour.  And just remember, that’s only a fraction of the entire team vehicles present.  The remainder have to take the non-race route to the finish.

As all the press was waiting for the team cars to go through so we could escape, behind us nobody noticed a single Cofidis rider that had some sort of mechanical issue a mere 50 meters from the start line.  The poor guy was just standing there next to the fencing waiting for his car to come by.  No race officials noticed either, due to the slight bend in the curve and the trees.  He was sorta in a hidden gap.  It was only about the time that traffic broke that everyone looked to see why.  Officials came running to sort it out, but by then it was already being resolved by the team car.

Moving backwards a little bit in time, there was the signing in process, which every rider must complete.  As part of that today, the current winning team got a care package of sorts.

Meanwhile, I took the chance to pull up some random bike tech notes that I had seen that morning.

It’s just amazing how quickly things clear out after the riders depart.

Speaking of gear, the back of all those team cars are stuffed with bags.  Lots and lots of bags.

Almost all riders do stop, however briefly, to sign an autograph or two.  About the only exception I saw might be Froome, but I’m sure he does from time to time as well.

There were so many groups/peoples/etc out doing 360* camera stuff, including Le Tour themselves.  This is actually a really damn expensive setup for what it is.  I’m kinda curious why they selected it over some other options.  I might try and find out in one of the next stages.  I’m sure there’s a reason for it.

Turns out that Cycling Tips was actually filming a Facebook Live session.  Close enough though.

The GoPro/Velon camera guys were everywhere.  Constantly moving around to place small Hero session cameras on various bikes (and having to change direction when a team declined the previously agreed plans), as well as chasing folks down.  They were most often using the clamp mounts to place cameras onto fences and such, as well as the Karma gimbal for stabilization.  I talked to them a bit more about the 360 Fusion cam and whether they planned to use it.  They said they thought about it, but at present it’s not in the cards.  They did note that maybe in the last few stages they would, but that was still TBD. They noted that the local team (the one that travels with The Tour) does all the editing each night themselves. It’s a small team of about 5 people, and the ones that do the editing are different from the ones running around getting footage.

Boom!

With that, all the tweets from behind the scenes on Stage 2.  For fun though, here’s a small gallery of some pics I took on both Stages 1 and Stage 2 that didn’t make it to Twitter.  After all, I took over 1,500 photos between the two days.  So most things didn’t make it anywhere.

I am working though to add in some gear pics into the previous TdF 2017 Gear post, as some things were different on Stage 2 than Stage 1 (as expected).  I’ll update somewhere once that’s finished.

With that – thanks for reading!  I may try and make it out on Thursday to that stage, since it’s pretty close by to Paris (about an hour away).  We’ll see though.

Don’t forget my other two TdF 2017 posts though:

Tour de France 2017 Behind the Scenes: Stage 1
Tour de France 2017–The Trainers, Power Meters and Gadgets of the Pro Peloton

And of course, all past Tour de France posts can be found here.

Enjoy!

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16 Comments

  1. daniele

    I should start following you on twitter.

  2. Peter Speight

    Great post Ray. Thanks for sharing some behind the scenes stuff for “Le Tour”.

  3. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your site! My son introduced me to it several months ago and I now read it daily! Aside from the outstanding technical information, I really appreciate how interesting and exciting you depict your life overseas. I spent some time abroad as a child, (Germany, Switzerland and Taiwan) and we raised our family mostly out of the US, (Tunisia, Yemen and Jordan). Both of my sons are fearless about living out of the US and one moved his family to Germany two years ago.
    Anyway, great articles, both technical and non! Keep writing and taking photos.

  4. likepend1

    great stuff! love those behind the scenes posts!

    question: you have a press pass right? what are you allowed to do with it? photos & interviews (audio)?? is recording videos also allowed?

    • Yup, press pass this year.

      It’s actually interesting, I’ve yet to receive any document from anyone on what I can or can’t do with it. The only document I ever signed was actually for vehicle stickers/pass, which basically amounted to not breaking the speed limit or running things over. I found the lack of documents kinda interesting actually.

      I saw some of the recent Cycling Maven stuff around video rights, kinda messy. In my case I’m just focusing on photos since it’s honestly easier to edit. I had thought about doing some video stuff, but the time involved would take too much away from other product reviews. Plus, CM does it better. :)

  5. Thanks for the TdF information.

    Wondering what your thoughts are on the Leomo Type-R unit and their collaboration with SRM? They seem to have been at the TdF start and started accepting orders just now.

    • Interesting, maybe I’ll have to see if I can find some of their guys out in the paddock to chat with a bit more.

      The problem most of these motion analysis platforms have (be it cycling, running, etc…), is the lack of backend support in other platforms (i.e. the Training Peaks of the world), which reduces adoption and interest among most coaches.

  6. Bob Goodman

    Hmmmmmm….I spy with my little eye a Giant head unit labelled NeosTrack……..interesting.

  7. Daniel

    Really, really impressing. You are putting so much effort in your work to bring us all that pics and informations. Great! Absolutely great! Thank you!

  8. Al Vucic

    Awesome! Love these candid shots!

  9. Jet

    Would you know why the follow car has a Garmin Edge?

    • Yup! It was paired to the riders bike/data, so that the team car could follow along on power and such. It also had distance/etc so that they could know exactly how much was remaining as well as upcoming turns (like those 90* ones).

  10. Andrew

    As someone who’s trying to stay awake watching the TDF from the other side of the globe it’s great to see all the behind the scenes pics. Just wish you could do all the stages, especially the mountains? Thanks Ray.

  11. Ned mcculloch

    What does the trash can signify on the course guide? The knife and fork and the category climbs are obvious, but the trash can has me confused?

  12. Thank you for the coverage, DC