All eyes are on the competition for the iconic yellow jersey at the Tour de France cycle race, but supporting Team Sky’s world-class riders behind the scenes is an unsung team of specialist carers whose work begins long before the race starts and continues long after the riders have crossed the finish line.
Led by the team’s lead physiotherapist and former elite amateur cyclist Dan Guillemette, a crew of five Team Sky carers works alongside the chefs, drivers, equipment managers and mechanics to bring the riders to the start line in peak condition, and keep them in great shape whatever the race throws at them.
Preparation for the July race begins at a training camp in January, where Guillemette looks at each rider’s performance and sets up a personalised strength and conditioning program to help them improve. This can include optimising the rider’s position on the bike using a wind tunnel and sophisticated 3D computer analysis that can find the best angle for the riders’ joints as they pedal.
During the Tour de France the focus is on maintaining the health, well-being and performance of the riders. Every morning the carers ensure riders have a full check-up with the team doctor. After the stage they administer an hour-long massage for each rider. This helps relax tired muscles after an average six hours in the saddle, leaving them ready to tackle the next day’s racing. The carers also assess and treat minor injuries during the 2,500-mile race.
Since joining Team Sky in 2011, Guillemette has formed close relationships with the riders and helped the team to three Tour de France victories. He knows which injuries to monitor, how each rider’s body works, and how to adapt the preparation and recovery methods for different riders and even different types of stage – whether fast and flat or featuring mountainous climbs more than 2,000 metres high.
“Normally the first few days of the Tour are very stressful, with narrow roads, flatter stages and quite a few crashes. If you hit the tarmac at fifty miles an hour, something’s going to knock out of line,” said Guillemette. “It’s my job to ensure the riders are cared for, treated and ready to ride the next day at their optimal level.”
And Guillemette’s team don’t just support the riders. The high-stress, action-packed Tour de France can leave Team Sky members like Rod Ellingworth – who drives the Team Sky Mustang scouting car ahead of the race – in need of a tension-relieving massage.
Ford is Team Sky’s exclusive supplier of cars and vans. The Team Sky fleet includes the Ford Mustang, Mondeo Estate, Mondeo five-door, S-MAX, Edge, and Transit models. The S-MAX and Mondeo feature multi-contour seats with massage function, designed to reduce muscle fatigue, especially on long journeys.