Last week the world of women’s cycling was shocked when team owner Rochelle Gilmore announced the demise of Wiggle High5 in a short film released on YouTube.
Not the least remarkable thing about this film – and there are many remarkable things about it – was Ms Gilmore's proud mention of the fact that Wiggle High5 boasted an amazing 26 vehicles. This seemed to us rather a lot given that the team only employed 17 riders and 14 other full-time staff. It made us wonder just what vehicles a team can possibly need if it needs 26 of them.
Today provided a chance to explore this topic further as the men’s peloton took on the RideLondon-Surrey Classic, which therefore, in a bold piece of scheduling, clashed with the last day of this year’s Tour de France.
This did not have a negative effect on the quality of the field, for the simple reason that so many riders had abandoned or been timed out of what has been a very demanding edition of the Grand Boucle and therefore were available to ride in today’s event: Mark Cavendish, André Greipel and Michael Matthews all came from France to line up on Horse Guards Parade.
However, it did mean that the rest of the teams’ resources would be sorely tested, with all the best equipment surely already in use on the other side of the Channel. In particular, it gave us a rare opportunity to see the teams’ second-best buses.
Now, we all know that the WorldTour teams in particular have some very swish wheels. Famously, Team Sky’s black bus emits such an intimidating air of ruthless efficiency that it is known as the “Death Star”. And, to their credit, a couple of the teams did put on a pretty good show. BMC’s bus shows the sort of thing:
It’s everything we have come to expect from the top teams: sleek, smart, stylish and with all mod cons for the riders. Sunweb, Trek-Segafredo and (of course) Sky had similar top-of-the-line models.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for the rest of the teams. This is Lotto-Soudal’s effort:
Now, this may look like a smart new bus. But don’t be fooled: that’s just a clever paintjob. Underneath the showy red-and-white skin is a vehicle that can otherwise only be seen in BBC4 documentaries about The Golden Age Of Travel. Check out those hubcaps. In fact, look closely and you will see that the clever paintjob completely covers all the windows, presumably so that no one can see the horrors inside. Of course, I’m not talking about US Postal-style jiggery-pokery with blood bags. I’m talking about those scratchy nylon seat covers that used to ruin school trips to the zoo, and the 40-odd years’ worth of Belgian cigarette smoke and flatulence they have absorbed.
Nonetheless, Lotto-Soudal should be given some credit for at least bringing a proper bus. Contrast the conveyance of their compatriots at Lotto-Jumbo:
It was the Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte who painted a pipe then wrote beneath it “Ceci n'est pas une pipe.” Someone should have written under this one “Ceci n’est pas un bus. C’est un camion.” Is this an example of Belgian surrealism? Non. It’s a truck.
Also breaking with tradition are Dimension Data, who appear to have found their accommodation on Ebay. With its integrated awning and on-trend styling, it truly is the perfect home-away-from-home for any adventurous family:
BORA – hansgrohe did bring a bus, albeit one that looks like it spends most of its life taking pensioners to the Macclesfield Asda:
Other teams were so embarrassed by their buses that they simply tried to hide them behind a team car. There’s Astana . . .
. . . and AG2R La Mondiale . . .
. . . and EF Education First Drapac p/b Cannondale, who even painted their team car neon pink in an attempt to divert attention from their vintage Swift Sprite:
Katusha appear to have invested in an Eldiss Autoquest 180 – “the perfect blend of space and facilities” – and are all set for a few nights touring the Peak District:
Katusha's budget option is put to shame by the de luxe model of the more-modestly-funded Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, though one of their riders’ dads is going to have a devil of a job getting the stickers off before his next trip to Koksijde:
Come to think of it, this tour of the pit lane may explain why so many strong riders turned up to compete today. As the world’s richest one-day race, RideLondon-Surrey represents a unique opportunity for the teams to top up the bus fund.
Oh, and one more thing. In case she is looking for something to do, there’s clearly a business opportunity here for Rochelle “26 vehicles” Gilmore.