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Power drills, emergency gels, and an under-chassis metal plate: Inside a team car at Paris-Roubaix Femmes

VeloNews takes a tour of AG Insurance-NXTG's team car to discover the unique demands on team mechanics, directors and vehicles in the 'Hell of the North.'

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DENAIN, France (VN) – A day out in “hell” takes some preparation.

From the carefully strapped riders’ hands to the finely tuned team bikes and carefuly considered nutrition plans, Paris-Roubaix Femmes pushes the limits of what the pro peloton is accustomed to.

And the story’s the same for the carefully stocked cars that direct team tactics and support riders with wheels, bikes and gels through 125km of the “Hell of the North.”

“For Roubaix today it’s going to be much more crazy than any other race. It’s going to be chaos in the peloton, and behind the peloton for us in the cars. On a day like today, making sure the car has everything possible we might need is very important,” AG Insurance-NXTG Team director Christian Kos told VeloNews shortly before getting behind the wheel Saturday morning.

“And the driving? Ooofff, Driving a team car at any race is like having a race behind the race. Today could be very stressful for sure … We’re not stressed though … yet. We’ll have to battle over the cobbles the same as the riders.”

Also read: ‘Wood head’ Longo Borghini bosses Paris-Roubaix

Kos, the recently retired pro-turned-DS Jolien d’Hoore, and team mechanics were busy loading the AG Insurance-NXTG car with iPads, wheels, and tool boxes in a flurry of activity before the start of the “Hell of the North” at the startline in Denain.

The U23 Belgian-registered team was planning to make an impression in the breakaway, and everything had to be “just so.”

Pinarello bikes were loaded onto the roof in a pre-determined position. Each iPad had a specified position in the car’s cockpit. A wheel-changing power drill had its own home alongside the mechanic’s seat.

Oh, and a reinforced metal plate was coming for a ride, too.

“We have a special plate underneath the car for protection. We added it just for today,” Kos said. “This race is the only time it’s used and becomes helpful. But we need to have it under the car to protect all the parts. Hopefully, we don’t really need it. The recon wasn’t so bad, but it feels like anything can happen in this race.”

Some five hours later, Kos and Co. successfully navigated their six young racers through “hell.”

Team leader Mylène de Zoete didn’t beat the time cut, but Gaia Masetti made the break, and Ilse Pluimers blasted to a standout 23rd place.

“My legs were great today and I managed to follow the first group on the cobbles well. Sadly, I crashed in the final because they fell in front of me. I then rode from group to group and finished in 23rd place,” Pluimers said. “Compared to last year it was a much better race for me. The positioning went great and Jolien and Christian helped me really well from the car.”

Here’s a tour of the Skoda Octavia team car that kept Pluimers serviced and in position at the 2022 Paris-Roubaix Femmes.