The Mavic Support Vehicles of Le Tour de France

Jens Voigt has crashed his bike hard in the 2010 Tour de France. The frame is snapped like a twig, the derailleur bent, and the driver of the broom wagon asks Voigt if he wants a lift. Voigt is a hair’s breadth away from abandoning.

Voigt demands a bike, but both his team cars are covering the race leader. When all hope is lost, a yellow ŠKODA SUPERB appears – the neutral Mavic race support has arrived, and Voigt is handed one of their iconic yellow bikes and finishes the stage.

We Love Cycling spoke with Mavic’s Jacques Corteggiani to find out what it takes to keep riders in the race…

Size matters

Jens “shut up legs” Voigt is a funny guy, and the media relayed his joke about finishing the stage on a “child’s bike”. The reality is Mavic carry as wide a range of bikes as possible to suit as many riders as possible. Remember, Dumoulin is under 5 foot 3 whereas Voigt is over a foot taller.

Jacques tells me that as well as frame sizes, Mavic offer a seatpost that uses, “the same system of telescopic saddle as in the mountain bike”. Mavic are nothing but practical, and adopting drop-posts for road cycling makes perfect sense in an emergency.

Having the right tools

Jacques shares that the Mavic cars are “most important for the riders on the cobbles and on the mountain stage”. These are both areas where the peloton could break apart and team cars have to make difficult decisions about which riders need their support the most.

Chris Froome is given a bike after crashing during the 12th stage of the 2016 Tour de France.

Mavic have a range of spare groupsets, ranging from Campagnolo to Shimano and Red. Not only that, but wheel hub ranges have to be catered for, including disc brakes. Each ŠKODA SUPERB is kitted out with Park Tools, and Mavic even offer “a range of helmets to the medical team” in case any rider trashes theirs.

Stacking the car

Each Mavic car is stacked with 6 bikes, Jacques says, each with “different sizes with different pedals”. The pedals can be swapped out quickly by the mechanic riding in the back, and the bikes are a range of different brands, usually retired from pro-peloton use and sprayed yellow.

Mavic place two cars at the front of the peloton, but one car stays near to the race director with three bikes set up for the top three General Classification contenders – ready to be deployed to keep the likes of Froome and Nibali in the race…

Making a difference

Rigoberto Uran was doing well in the 2017 Tour de France when a crash involving Richie Porte on the descent of Mont du Chat damaged his derailleur and left him with only a single gear. Uran was in a break-away and his team cars were out of reach. Jacques said that that was when Uran spied a Mavic vehicle.

Uran pulled alongside the ŠKODA SUPERB, and the Mavic technician leaned out the window to adjust the derailleur, popping the chain onto the 11 sprocket. This gave Uran the choice of a high 53/11 gear and a medium 39/11 gear – enough for him to not only stay in the race, but end ahead of Froome, beating Barguil and Fuglsang in a sprint finish.

Mavic’s neutral service vehicles may be important for riders, but arguably they’re even more important for all of us fans of the sport.

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