Stage nine of the 2018 Tour de France is a highly anticipated change. With over 50km of cobblestone roads, it requires some special consideration for equipment.
Filip Tisma, a mechanic for Team Sky, provides an overview of what has been done in preparation for the race to Roubaix on 15 July 2018. He also explains other details about the equipment used for other days at the Tour de France and which mechanics work with which riders on the team… and why.
– RIDE Media on Tour with Bennelong Funds Management–
Click the SoundCloud file to listen to the interview and/or read the transcript below.
RIDE: I’m with Filip Tisma who is a mechanic with Team Sky. It’s the day before the day before the cobbled stage and you’ve been busy, I would imagine. Can you tell me a little bit of a technical summary of what’s required for the pavé stage?
Filip Tisma: “So, we packed special bikes for Roubaix, three bikes per rider for [stage nine] only. Those are [Pinarello] K10s bikes and K10 – with no suspension – bikes. The reason for it is because on the Roubaix bikes, we can fit bigger tyres and obviously they’re made for comfort. And they are all built up with aluminium bars in case of crashes, so they can continue.
“There’s a little bit more carbon in the frames [than on their usual bikes] and stuff like that which allow riders to endure ‘The Horror Of The North’.”
When you say aluminium, it’s so that if there is a crash there’s no risk to the handlebars of there being catastrophic failure, is that correct?
“Yes, because carbon handlebars with a high speed crash can crack, aluminium may just bend but you can still continue.”
You’re riding, let’s say, 28mm tyres? Or are you going bigger tyres these days?
“We’re going to use 27mm, but it actually measures at about 28, yes.”
We see behind you some low-profile carbon-fibre [Shimano] Dura-Ace rims. What happens for Roubaix?
“We’re going to use [Shimano] C40 – the majority of the team will use C40 – with 27mm tyres and then maybe one or two riders will opt for C60.”
Gianni Moscon in Paris-Roubaix in April 2018 (above).
Photo: Yuzuru Sunada
What about the usual tricks for Roubaix, like double handlebar tape? Are there many requests for that at the Tour?
“Actually there was not request at this year’s Roubaix stage apart from one rider, so it’s just a little bit toned down compared to Roubaix.”
Who was that?
“It was G Thomas.”
And we know Chris runs the O-rings [ovalised chainrings]. Will that change for Roubaix, to negate the risk of chain-slap?
“Yeah, there are some chain catchers there on Chris’ bike, which he also uses on his normal bike. But it’s very similar, the set-up of the gears on both bikes – it’s just the ratio [that changes]. It’s an 11-25 cassette for Roubaix and all the rest of the stages will be 11-28 or 11-30.”
And up front [for stage nine]?
“I think it’s a 54/42, if I’m not mistaken.”
And in the mountains, what’s the standard?
“Ah, for normal riders, so normal rings would be 53/39 and 11-30 – maybe a day or two with a 36 small ring at the front.”
What am I missing about the Roubaix stage? Surely you’ve done some little tricks, you’re a tricky guy…
“It’s getting very tricky for us… so, we have obviously a groupset that needs charging. There’s suspension that needs charging. And there’s a crankset that needs charging (for the power meter). So, to get everything charged fully it takes about two days and we’re thinking about employing an electrician to do it.” [Laughs]
And what about the stress on you? When you have to prepare three bikes for one stage, for eight riders, is it a little bit ridiculous?
“We came in a couple of days before we actually left for the race and we prepped all those bikes so they’re ready in the service course. There’s a mechanic who is going to do all the charging, double-check everything, and load them onto a separate truck and bring them to the race the evening before the stage.
“They tyres will be pumped in the morning and they’ll [race] the stage on those bikes and then straight back to that truck and back to the service course.
“It’s just a matter of logistics so we packed them and they’re ready to go.”
I’ve seen you in action, I know how fast you can do a wheel change. When it comes to the pavé, do you get heart palpitations when it’s time [to change a wheel] – is it a different scenario changing a wheel?
“The time you saw me change a wheel was on a nice wide road in Australia. It doesn’t get as wide in the pavé sections – it’s super-narrow and there are people always on the side of the road. And cars are passing so you need to be really careful for yourself, for [the] rider that you’re taking care of and just in general the stress level is a lot higher.”
We know Gary Blem, the South African mechanic, is assigned to Chris. Do you have other riders or does everyone cooperate?
“We tend to share the other riders based on how many races we’ve done with them. So, for instance, I’ve done quite a few races with Egan [Bernal] so I will take care of him. There’s another mechanic who will take care of G. And then it’s based more on the relationship you have with the riders from before.”
– Interview by Rob Arnold