While I was in Belgium for the Spring Classics last month I stopped into the Team SKY Service Course to say hello to my old friend Andy Verrall. Andy used to be the Rapha-Sharp team mechanic and has now moved onto the position of manager of the SKY Service Course. For any cycling enthusiast, checking this place out was absolute heaven.
A professional cycling team with 28 riders, 3 concurrent race programs, over a dozen vehicles and over 50 staff requires a lot of stuff. This is no amateur operation. This requires countless hours of planning and organising. Bikes need to be maintained, buses and mechanic vehicles need to be restocked, and truckloads of equipment needs to be stored. Team SKY does all of this in the small town of Deinze in Northern Belgium. Previously their Service Course was in the Belgian town of Mechelen, but after team Highroad disbanded SKY moved into this location. It’s not the most central place to be in Europe, but it works well for them and is close to their home country.
The building itself is a nondescript warehouse with a front office, upstairs kitchen and living room area, sleeping quarters for staff on the move, laundry, and large open space with enough room for all the equipment. Upon first glance it’s not really very special, but once you begin noticing all the details and speaking with Andy and staff, this is an incredible operation.
Below is a video made by Shimano with Andy taking you for a tour of the SKY Service Course, as well as some photos I took during my visit.
This is where it all happens. Andy Veerral at the control center of the SKY Service Course
Over SKY 140 bikes need to be maintained during a season. Each rider is allocated 5 bikes. Empty wall-mounts are for the bikes currently being raced.
Boxes and bags full of team kit for each of the 28 riders on SKY. Did I get any freebies? I asked, but am still waiting….
The fleet of Pinarello Dogmas with the 2013 Dura Ace 11-speed prototype groupset. I can’t show you any close up images, but if you Google it you’ll find all sorts of leaked photos
Left: The wheels that were used at Paris Roubaix. Interestingly, the traditional box-section wheels on the right are hardly used anymore. Carbon wheels are built so strong and light these days that the riders opt for them. Another interesting note, not one puncture occurred during Paris-Roubaix for Team SKY
A while cage full of team clothing, helmets, shoes, etc. Notice on the right photo, the helmets for the green and pink jerseys. Just in case…
The workshop area and cabinet full of degreaser, lube, tyre glue, etc. I’ve tried the Morgan Blue stuff before and it’s the goods.
Assortment of spare parts. On the top left is a photo of the Elite alloy bottle cages used in Paris-Roubaix (better because they’re bendable). The only mechanical that SKY had in Paris-Roubaix was one broken bottle cage. On another note, the team goes through approximately 25,000 bottles per season
Managing 28 riders (3 race squads at a time) requires lots of planning, organisation, spreadsheets, task lists, etc
The team bus. Not much to get excited about. It’s just a bus…
In the back of the bus there are 3 showers, a fridge, a Nespresso coffee machine on the counter, and a small room at the back where the riders can spread out and relax or get changed.
Left: Team SKY Rider Rules. Top Right: Wiggin’s bikes Bottom Right: Cav’s bikes (if you look closely you’ll see something different than a standard Dogma)