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Tales from the gutter: The real cost of stage racing

We are preparing for the first stage race of the year: the Fleche de Sud, in Luxembourg. The longer that I spend in Europe, the greater appreciation I have for the incredible support needed to race. Going to a stage race in the U.S. is a lot easier, really. Yes, it is comforting to have someone in the feedzone to hand up a bottle, but not necessary. I know plenty of riders, good riders, that have done races like Gila, or Fitchburg unassisted. Well, that’s just not possible in Europe. At a minimum, you need someone in the feedzones, and someone driving the team car in the caravan (that

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By Jed Schneider, in Oostende, Belgium

The wind has finally stopped.

The wind has finally stopped.

Photo: Thibaut Van Goubergen

We are preparing for the first stage race of the year: the Fleche de Sud, in Luxembourg.

The longer that I spend in Europe, the greater appreciation I have for the incredible support needed to race. Going to a stage race in the U.S. is a lot easier, really. Yes, it is comforting to have someone in the feedzone to hand up a bottle, but not necessary. I know plenty of riders, good riders, that have done races like Gila, or Fitchburg unassisted. Well, that’s just not possible in Europe.

At a minimum, you need someone in the feedzones, and someone driving the team car in the caravan (that also means you need to vehicles!). However, it is also really nice to have a masseur, a mechanic, and your director sportif going to the race briefings. Once you factor all that help in, a good ratio is two riders per support person.

For a team of eight riders that means two extra hotel rooms per night. Stage racing costs money. Big money.

It is true that some of the expenses are covered by race organizers, but still there are all the unrelated expenses that must be covered by the team. I have heard that to do some of the bigger UCI 2.5 races it can cost the team up to $20,000. Sure, most teams can get an invite, but hardly any teams can afford to go! Consequently, it is a great privilege to do the stage races, and I am super-excited to get out the door.

In preparation for the race we have been doing quite a few kermis races (four of them over the last seven days) and some good long rides with car support. After my last journal entry, the windy weather has passed and the last week has been remarkably calm and sunny. This of course translates into really fast racing, and all the races I’ve done in the last week have been over 43 kph average. On Wednesday, in fact, the kermis in Beveren (the Beveren near Antwerpen) came down to a pack sprint: a fairly rare event in Belgian racing!

While Pete Barlin, Trevor Irons, and myself rode in the hills on Sunday, the other part of the team raced Oomlop Van de Kempen in Holland. Mark Fitzgerald was 16th, Matt Sadauckas, and Mariano Freiderich ended up in the field. As I understand it, the front group of 15 got away on a 15 km section of cobbles (ouch!), and Mark, scoring major tough man points, out rode the rest of the field for 16th. AXA outsmarted Rabobank and rode the majority of their team into the top 10!

Well, it is time I get back to packing. The thing about packing for a stage race is that I feel like I am packing up my whole life (what a great feeling to know your life fits in a bag). Packing for a season in Europe is the same as 4 days, minus a few changes of clothes. You never know the weather, but plan for rain anyway. Remember to pack a good book (but not too good, as to distract you from racing) and don’t forget the Woolite!


Jed Schneider is racing a second year with ABC-Aitos, an Americansquad based in Hertsberge, Belgium( www.cyclingcenter.com). He is a two time collegiate cyclo-cross national champion, and a four time All-American. Schneider holds a Master’s degree in Geography from the University of Kansas, which usually keeps him from being completely lost while riding the roads of Flanders.