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A Deep Dive with Alpecin–Deceuninck: The Role of Team Cars at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

By Františka Blažková

The legendary Liège–Bastogne–Liège, also known as La Doyenne, “The Old Lady”, is right around the corner, coming up on April 21, 2024. The oldest of the five Monuments is run in the Ardennes region of Belgium famous for its hilly profile – which means killer climbs and a lot of fun-to-watch racing. However, while the riders will always stay the most visible aspect of any race, we wanted to touch base with those involved in the background processes surrounding pro teams at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

We had the pleasure of speaking to Jonas de Win who has been the Logistics Manager of UCI WorldTeam Alpecin–Deceuninck since 2019 and who gave us some of his precious time in the midst of Liège-Bastogne-Liège preparations.

We kicked off the chat with a quite common sentiment these days in the sport: given the rapidly changing nature of pro racing, what have been the major changes in the Alpecin–Deceuninck team within the past few years?

“From my point of view as a Logistics Manager, it’s definitely the size of the pro team, which grew a lot. Everything is changing with it: the rolling stock has become bigger, we have now about 80 riders in all groups, so more travel plans, more races, and more travelling within and outside Europe. We’ve been to China, Canada, Australia… Also, the crew is growing still, more mechanics, soigneurs, and sports directors, and all these people need to be transported as well. Luckily, I’m not on my own anymore, I have two colleagues who are helping me with the men’s team, women’s team, the development teams, and the MTB/multi-disciplinary team.”

Jonas de Win
Jonas de Win, the Logistics Manager of UCI WorldTeam Alpecin–Deceuninck

Naturally, given Mr de Win’s job, we were curious about how long it takes to transport the entire team, crew, and equipment to the site of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and get everything race-ready.

“We are based in Belgium and most of our riders are Belgian so Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a lot less complicated than other races logistics-wise. Furthermore, some riders and crew are already in the vicinity because of past races such as the Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne, etc. For other races, sometimes almost everybody has to fly in but for LBL, we are nearly all local. For example, we have a kitchen truck already ready from La Flèche Wallonne and also most of the vehicles including the team bus and truck, so they can hit the road right away.”

Škoda is the main vehicle partner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, several other UCI WorldTeams use it as well, and the automaker also just became a new partner of the Alpecin–Deceuninck team. What changes and benefits does this partnership mean to Mr de Win?

Alpecin Deceuninck

“I’ve never worked with Škodas before and we are really excited, mainly because of the bigger volume of things we can fit in given the cargo capacity. For example, last year, we had to transport three riders and their luggage from the airport and it wasn’t possible with one car but with Škoda, it is. There is also more space and comfort for passengers, which is especially useful for sports directors and other staff members as they sit in their cars for 4-5 hours at a time during races.”

There are 35 Škoda cars in total at the team’s disposal with 7-8 directly on the ground during Liège-Bastogne-Liège and 4-5 during Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes. Each of them serves a role and a specific purpose.

“Our fleet is made up entirely of automatic cars as the race rules now require, to increase safety and effectivity. We specifically asked for Škoda Superbs to have more space and we also requested more horsepower for the sports directors’ cars so they can keep most of their attention on the race and quickly get where they need to or overtake the peloton. 16cars are fitted with radio communication and 20 have a bike roof rack.

“In the first DS car, there is the head DS, assistant DS and a mechanic. In the second DS car, there is sometimes a second head DS, if the race is important and if we expect a breakaway in the peloton, and another mechanic. The other four or five cars are assistants’ vehicles that are coordinated by the DSs, one of them is always a feeding car that also mostly acts as the finish car, with two soigneurs on board tending to the riders. About four other cars are managing the bottle points. In LBL Femmes, the DS-to-assistant car ratio is about 1:4. Although our entire fleet counts 35 cars, we try to reduce the number of vehicles used at races because of environmental concerns. During the race, the cars carry cooling boxes with bidons, a mechanic’s toolkit, spare bike parts, helmets, shoes, raingear for cyclists, etc.”

According to Mr de Win, it’s very hard to say at which point the cars are the most indispensable; seemingly, it’s even when they are standing still.

“Every minute is important. When they are parked in front of the hotel, they’re there ready for the crew and riders. Then, of course, without them, we wouldn’t be able to cover the race and assist our riders. After the race, they’re needed to do hotel or home drop-offs for the whole team. They are important all day and night long, making sure the plan is rolling.”

Logistics timelines differ from race to race. For Paris-Roubaix, e.g., they’re more demanding and require flexible planning but Liège-Bastogne-Liège is more laid back due to Alpecin–Deceuninck’s base in Belgium, as Mr de Win already mentioned.

“We are trying to finalise all plans seven days before the race. It also depends on whether the riders are doing a recon[naissance ride], that’s usually two, three days ahead, but that’s already been decided a long time ago before the race itself so the ideal scenario is just the plan rolling forward smoothly.”

As the last note on the inner workings of the logistics of a UCI WorldTeam, Mr de Win shared with us an insight into the technology they use to stay up to speed and get organised more efficiently.

“We are working with an online logistics platform made especially for cycling teams. We add everything there: flight tickets, train tickets, travel itineraries, hotel addresses, which guests are coming, who is driving which car, etc. We do all of the bookings ourselves without using a third-party company. When I started working with Alpecin–Deceuninck, we used printed-out PDFs and Excel files but as we grew as a team, it was impossible to keep working like that. Luckily, our team managers Christoph and Philip Roodhooft were open to improvements so now we can make last-minute changes with just a few clicks and everyone stays in the loop.”

Mr de Win, thank you again for your insights and time and we wish all the best to Alpecin–Deceuninck not only in Liège-Bastogne-Liège but also in the entire 2024 season!