The Red Car
The Tour’s director, Christian Prudhomme, travels in car number one, allowing him and his guests to be close to the action. Prudhomme and his VIPs have the task of waving a flag at “Kilometre Zero”, where the race officially begins each day. To accommodate this, the car has an unconventionally large, custom-made sunroof. The car also comes with special holders where guests can place their champagne flutes. On top of that, the Red Car also has a bespoke communication system that allows Christian Prudhomme to communicate with everyone important down the stage.
The four Tour directors’ Superbs on show this year are the company’s latest model of Superb, which was released last year. The other Škoda vehicles in use at the race were new for the season of 2014 and will be used until 2018.
Škoda takes its involvement in cycling and the Tour de France as seriously as you’d expect for an official car supplier and partner. It supplies around 250 cars, mainly Škoda Octavia Estates and Superbs. Since it began supporting the Tour de France in 2004, Škoda has covered several millions of kilometres without once breaking down.
Workshops on Wheels
Cars are not only used by the Tour de France organizers, but also by teams and companies as support vehicles. In fact, the Mavic neutral support vehicles – which provide bikes, wheels and tyres to riders in emergency situations should their team cars be otherwise engaged – are some of the most eye-catching cars in the Tour. These cars are especially handy when the race spreads out, for example in high mountain stages where the leaders are far ahead of the rest of the team.
This year’s Mavic support vehicles are Škoda Superbs and Octavias, with yellow paintwork to make them stand out in a crowded field. Each car is a cycling workshop on wheels that includes a bike repair outfit, a feeding station, a hotspot for communications, and even a counselling service.
The cars are crammed with spare tyres, chains and crank sets for bikes, food and drinks for the riders, and spare kit like raincoats for when the weather deteriorates. There are also entire tool kits and fully assembled bikes on the roof. Some teams squeeze as many as eight road bikes on a specially designed roof rack, allowing them to account for every eventuality.
Ex-Cyclists behind the Wheel
Reaching stricken riders is difficult, and when a call comes via the two-way radio, the team car has to accelerate its way through the traffic. That’s why almost every driver is a former cycling pro. It’s all about understanding the flow of the peloton and anticipating how professional cyclists are going to behave. If you’re lucky to win the trip to see Le Tour in our contest, one of your drivers may be for example Tim Harris, former pro cyclist with 13 years of experience who raced in every country in Europe. So spending a day in his car listening to his erudite commentary interlaced with the typical British humour is a unique experience in itself.