To win the Tour de France you obviously have to get to Paris in less time than anybody else. Whilst no doubt all riders dream of winning the race, only a few have the all-round talent to actually achieve this. But there is no doubt that the success of an individual winning the modern day tour is dependent on how strong the team around them is.
It is perhaps unique to this sport that a team will work so selflessly for their leader. The members of the team who are there to do this support role are fondly known as ‘domestiques’, and their jobs are some of the hardest in modern day sport.
Their job can include waiting with their star if they have a puncture or bike problems, then letting them sit behind their wheel whilst they do all the work to bring them back to the peleton. Or if no help is at hand they will happily hand over their bike and wait for the support car. On hot days the domestiques will make journeys back and forth to the team cars collecting drinks, or information from the team cars. Then work their way back through the peloton dropping off supplies to the riders further up the ranks!
Its not all housework though, they also have to be incredibly strong riders themselves, able to control the pace or lead their team leaders up mountains, or provide protection as the peloton comes into mass sprint finishes.
Whilst the flat stages can be fast and furious with dramatic sprint finishes the race is invariably won the in mountains. The CG riders will want to gain time on their rivals in the mountains, but to get to the later stages of the day again the domestique is key. The team will do things like shelter their leader from the wind and focus on keeping him close to the front whilst expelling as little energy as possible. Pace setting if often important in mountain stages and one by one the domestiques in the team will take their turn on the front until they have expelled all of their energy. When they have nothing left they will drop off and crawl to the finish hoping to get there before the dreaded cut off time.
They work for the collective glory of being in a successful team, and usually a share of the prize money if their leader wins. But whilst the GC contenders or the sprinters in the team tend to get all the press and prestige, these riders are what make the tour what it is. Although the prizes are for individuals, no-one could actually win the tour without their team.
So Bon Courage raises its Friday night glass of Vino to all the domestics out there, you're doing an amazing job out there, and only 14 more days to go!!