The Directeur Sportif (DS) has one of the most important roles in professional cycling. She will create the team strategy for the race and plan all of the logistics for both riders and staff prior to the event. During the event the DS will follow the team by car and warn the riders of obstacles or challenging terrain, update them on the situation in the race and boost morale when it is needed. In short the DS has one of the most important roles in pro cycling.
Here we catch up with the DS for the Wiggle Honda team, Simon Cope ahead of the Friends Life Women's Tour to find out more.
In terms of the race strategy, do you have a good idea now of your race strategy for the entire race or does it vary day to day?
It is event dependent and with a stage race, it depends on what happens after the first day. You could be going with one strategy and something could happen which would change the whole outcome of the race. For a one day you would go in with a strategy to work for one person or two people.
Talk me through your average day:
Normally if we look at an 11 start, I would do a day plan the night before which outlines when the riders need to eat breakfast etc.
I get up around 7am. Soigneurs make their bottles and do their stuff while I check logistics to make sure I know the directions, put them in the sat nav and check the map.
I’ll check the mechanics and swannys have everything they need. Just go over the plan – what stuff is going where.
We leave at a designated leave time, we would usually arrive at the start line an hour and half or two hours before the start time.
Obviously then we get set up and then it is pretty easy until we start the race. Mechanics get the bikes out, Soigneurs will do anything they need to do.
Then once it starts, off we go, following the race for however many kilometres the stage is and then when we get to the finish depending on what’s happened, we all leave for the hotel. If we have someone on control or that’s won the stage and needs to go on the podium, normally the rest of the team will go back and I will stay with that rider. We might have a Soigneur stay back too just in case we need them.
Also if there are any complaints to be made to the jury, if there has been any infringements or anything, that also has to be done in a certain hour so I would do that too.
And then it’s back to the hotel for dinner, I make plans for the next day. We then have a staff meeting and a rider meeting and the same again happens the next day.
What is your favourite thing about what you do?
All of it. It is something I have done since the late 70s, I was a rider and then went into management. I guess it’s been a hobby that’s turned into a job.
Are there stressful elements to your job?
Oh yes definitely. I have to get a result. Especially this week will be very big for Wiggle as it’s a UK based sponsor and things. There is a lot of expectation. Obviously if you have a rider and your key rider has an accident, it is stressful but also disappointing when a plan goes out the window.
Last night of the race is quite stressful thinking about whether you are going to win the stage or not. But that is good stress. I guess it’s just making sure that everything comes together – not getting lost and not making any mistakes.
Do you have any techniques for dealing with stress?
I think you just have to take it in your stride. When you get tired things get more stressful and maybe a little bit more moody but you try not to bring it out, you really try and take it in your stride and try and relax. That’s the best way I find.
When you are out there on the road you have a huge influence on the riders, do you feel a big responsibility to boost rider morale during low moments?
Yes I do, it depends I guess if they have done their job. If they have done all they can and they are coming through not feeling the best, you do what you can to encourage them to get to the finish. If you have a rider who is not fit and not racing fit you've got to do what you've got to do to get them through to the finish. Or if you have a rider who obviously doesn't really want to be there you need to chat with them and get them in the right frame of mind, it is all positive influences really isn't it.
What is the worst thing that has happened out there?
I suppose hospital trips is not the best one is it?!
What is the worst injury you have seen a rider sustain and carry with them to the finish line?
I have seen riders finish with broken collar bones , other broken bones, usually in the upper half of the body, not really the lower half. They have a high pain tolerance.
You see riders crash on the track and on the road and skid and their skin will be in pieces and they will still get themselves to the finish. So I have seen a lot of nasty crashes and some people not getting up too. You never want to see that happen to a rider. It is amazing how much the body can take and actually bounce back though.
Coming up to a big event like The Women’s Tour, how do you prepare?
I let the athletes know that it will not be just about the bike race, there will be a lot of media attention too. It’s about managing that and seeing how that hopefully is a positive influence rather than a negative. The girls need to take it in their stride, they can’t get too uptight about it. It is probably one of the biggest races in the world from a media point of view, it is massive. I feel it’ll be big, not just in the UK because it’s the sort of thing that women’s cycling is crying out for. It’s a step in the right direction.
Who do you think is the rider to watch at The Women's Tour?
Oh I think there are several. You have Vos and her team. Lizzie (Armitstead) is on fire at the moment. You have Georgia and Linda from Wiggle. It’ll be a good battle I think. If anything you can’t put one rider ahead of anyone else at the moment.
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