Here’s another behind-the-scenes report from Sophie Chavanel, physiotherapist at French WorldTour team FDJ, who has kindly agreed to share her experiences and insights. Her first report explained how the team coped with sunburn, heat, niggling injuries and the wildlife. But there were different issues for the team and support staff to overcome at the rain-soaked Tirreno-Adriatico.
Hi, I’m just back home from Tirreno-Adriatico and GP Nobili Rubinetterie [where Bob Jungels (RadioShack-Leopard) recorded his maiden professional victory – Ed] for a day or so before leaving for the Belgian Classics. I’m excited because they are my favorites races! Here’s a short summary from Tirreno. I know I won’t need to tell you what happened during the race, so instead let me tell you what it was like for us in the race.
On the eve of the team time trial, I went to San Vincenzo with all the FDJ staff. We were staying in a very big holiday residence, nice but very big … so not easy for us to work. We spent lots of time going from the room to the bus, to the restaurant et cetera. Nice for holidays but not ideal for work! Here we began our pasta diet. In Italy the cooking is so nice – it’s a big problem for the staff. We eat too much because it is so delicious! Pasta, risotto, tiramisu and, to finish, limoncello (a lemon flavoured liqueur). [My stomach’s rumbling – Ed].
For this race, as usual I massaged Arnaud Demare, former under-23 world champion, and, for the first time, Laurent Mangel – who joined FDJ this year. Massaging a rider for an hour every day is the best way to get to know him. For me it is important to be more efficient and to massage the same guys regularly. Then you know them, you know their legs, you know how they like to be massaged, you know if they prefer to sleep during massage or if they prefer to laugh! And all these details are so important for the daily recuperation in these big stage races.
It was a very hard race for both the riders and the staff. The stages were very long so the starts were always early. We often began work at 05:30 and sometimes at 06:30 and finished the massages at 20:30. Every day we had rain and cold, so we always made hot tea!
On balance …
Our riders did their best, Arnaud was sixth in the only sprint he did while Anthony Roux was at the front on a difficult stage. Tour du Haut Var winner Arthur [Vichot] was very strong in the big stage on Monday. That stage was just incredible. We were at the feed zone at the top of the 30% climb. It was raining and all the climbs were so hard. I saw how they were all so courageous – I was very proud of them. Even though we didn’t have a very good result that day they showed everyone what a cyclist is: a brave fighter!
Even if the race was hard for everybody, we spent ten beautiful days in Italy. We had a nice ambience, always laughing at the table every evening over a late dinner and every morning at an early breakfast! It was the first race as director sportif for Frederic Guesdon, the winner of Paris-Roubaix in 1997. It was very nice to work with him! He learned how the staff works and he bring his rider’s eye and his motivation.
I adore working in Italy. It is such a beautiful country. For me it is important to always keep our eyes wide open. We saw Tuscany, Umbria, the Chianti vineyards, the Mediterranean sea, the Adriatic sea – it was all so beautiful! Italians are so open and welcoming. I started learning Italian this winter so it was good practice for me to speak with them.
The Pirate remembered
Another important time for me was our stop in Cesenatico. After Tirreno-Adriatico, we went to Novara for GP Nobili. But first we spent the evening in Cesenatico, Marco Pantani’s home town. It was strange to be there in the city of the famous climber. I went to see his statue and I hope to go back one day to visit his museum. It brought back big memories, sad memories. I remember Pantani and I have a lot of respect for him. And I think that all of Italy still misses him. Last year during the Giro I was impressed by the number of banners bearing his name.
Then we went to Novara and we caught sight of beautiful mountains. And then I had to go home to have a little rest before going to Belgium!
(All images are courtesy of Sophie Chavanel.)