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By Matt Pacocha
The first four stages of this year’s Tour take place on the windy, often rain-soaked roads of
northwestern France. The riders don’t truly escape it until the first time trial in Cholet. Because of the conditions, many teams, or individual riders, take special measures to ensure their safety and ability to perform in the less than perfect weather on less than perfect roads.
Lampre outfitted all of its riders with Vittoria’s 24mm Pavé; the whole of the team will ride them until the first time trial. The tires are glued to an array of Fulcrum wheels including the aluminum Racing Zero and Fulcrum’s top carbon wheels: The Racing Light and the Racing Speed. Damiano Cunego, the team’s GC star, always rides the Racing Light, but each rider is allowed to use the wheel of his preference. More than a few of the Lampre riders choose the alloy Racing Zero on Sunday’s stage two, which featured a dangerous last kilometer.
CSC’s Fränk Schleck left the start of stage two with only one water bottle. His second cage housed a bottle with the top cut off and a rain jacket stuffed in it. It’s a similar method to how some European pros carry a spare tube and tools when training, with two bottles cut in half and mated like a clamshell, protecting tools and tube from the elements.
Columbia’s team car had two big thermoses in its trunk filled with hot water for tea on the road if the weather turned too sour and cold. “We also have ice,” said one mechanic. “Sometimes they come back to the car and want hot tea, and then the next time they come back looking for cold drinks. So we have both.”
The key, especially at the start of a three-week tour, is to not deplete the reserves and, most of all, to stay upright. It’s the little things, like those listed above, that make a difference.