World Cup photographer and writer Irmo Keizer is traveling with the GHOST Factory Racing Team and getting a close look behind the scenes. Over the race season, he will share his insights and provides you with the stories behind the race results.Support at the highest level
As the last tent is packed, the team sets off to the next destination. The season is in full swing. From the team’s base in Waldsassen (Bavaria), riders, staff and material find their way to anywhere around the globe. It’s a logistic puzzle, taking hard work and dedication from everyone behind the scenes. Ever wondered what it actually takes to get to a World Cup? A brief glimpse into the efforts needed. When it all starts
Preparations start earlier then you’d expect. Bookings for hotels and flights are done months in advance by Tom, the Team Manager. A good accommodation provides ample workspace for everyone, a kitchen to prepare the team’s food and space for everyone to relax and rest. Besides the bookings, there’s an awful lot going on at all times on the background. Contacting trainers, ordering spare parts, setting meetings, sending invoices, doing PR related work. All put together there’s a tremendous amount of work going into every single World Cup. Packing & preparations
One and a half week prior to the event, Tom starts by making sure all the cars are clean and washed. The cars are then packed and checked, whilst packing lists are made and checked. Any missing parts or goods are ordered and either sent to Waldsassen or the event’s location directly.
Team mechanic Uwe checks and cleans every single bike during this time. For all riders, this careful procedure takes about one and a half day. After having checked all the bikes, Uwe checks all the spares in the team van, replenishes where necessary and orders more if needed. The van and cars are loaded seven days prior to the event normally, leaving for the final destination on Sunday, leaving from the team’s HQ in Germany’s Waldsassen. All cars are cleaned and washed before setting off. At the same time, Sebi starts packing his physio materials. Massage oils, first aid kits and all other necessary materials are checked and refilled.
Uwe sets off to Freiburg, where Andy and Sebi join him for the remainder of the journey on Monday. The caravan sets off to Andorra, arriving approximately 13 hours later. In the meantime, Team Manager Tom handles final business at the office before leaving in the very early morning for Andorra by car with the GHOST trailer with most of the girls.On location
On Tuesday, Uwe starts by setting up the bikes for the riders so they can leave for a spin. After the girls leave, the complete crew starts unpacking and preparing everything needed. Unpacking all the gear takes about two hours, then depending on the World Cup, Andy, Uwe and Tom Uwe build up the pits area on the same day or Wednesday. A full build-up of both the team pits as well as the accommodation takes anywhere from three to six hours, with everyone helping out.
Meanwhile, Sebi has already set up the physio area in the accommodation and starts any necessary treatments for the girls. Tom manages any issues on location, whilst keeping the business side of the team running by answering e-mails.
On Wednesday, with the race looming around the corner, everything kicks in a higher gear. Andy takes care of breakfast preparations, helped by others when needed. Tom had meetings with journalists, photographers and sponsors. Sebi, Tom, Uwe and Anja (our second physio) stock up on groceries and prepare food throughout the day to keep the athletes fueled up. Sebi and Anja meet and check with the girls to see if there are any problems or massages needed. Sebi goes to the course with Andy, Sebi makes sure the team pit is in order and sets up any remaining equipment whilst Andy goes on course with the ladies. Midday, the team gathers for lunch. Andy analyzes video of the girls on course if needed and in the afternoon they can opt for another go. In the evening, around 7 PM, the team gathers for dinner and talks through the upcoming days. After dinner, Anja and Sebi take care of any treatments whilst Uwe works on the bikes. Off time for the crew will be between 9 PM and 12 PM, but if needed they will continue working. Thursday prior to the race
Early morning start for all. Food is prepared for the girls and Andy talks to them to see what they still need on course training today. Together they spend around two hours on course before coming back to the team’s base at location. Sebi joins the team and helps out where needed, prepares lunch at the same time. Friday
Uwe prepares the rollers for the girls’ warmup. The bikes are race ready, often nighttime work for him on Thursday. Weather changes will mean extra work with wheels needing different tires. Uwe checks tire pressures and if everything is in order in general. After short race practice, bikes are cleaned, checked, and adjusted when needed. Anja, Sebi and Tom are at work supporting the team on location. Sebi and Anja provide the final treatments when needed. Food is provided on schedule, with enough time prior to the race. Andy starts lunch preparation around 10.30 AM, lunch is served at noon. Around 3.30 PM, the team starts preparing for the XCC race. As soon as the race starts, everyone gets going. Sebi, Tom and Andy help out in the warmup boxes, get cooling vests and will help the girls after finishing. After the race, the team packs up and sets off to the accommodation. Saturday
Tom goes to the Team Manager meeting to discuss any problems with the course or venue. Last minute changes will be communicated to the team by him during the final meeting at dinner time. Meanwhile, Anja, Sebi and Andy get groceries and can be found in the team area throughout most of the day. Lunch is provided in the team pits. Cool vests and other materials needed are prepared for Sunday by Sebi. Andy joins the girls for a final course check, which is mostly only short. In the afternoon, there is time for some rest at either the team pits or the accommodation. Bikes are cleaned and prepped again by Uwe. During dinner, Tom communicates the final plan and any specifics for race day. Race day
Breakfast is served at 6.15 AM, as the U23 race is set for an early start at 8.30 AM. The team divides tasks, with riders both in Elite as well as U23 categories. Andy leaves to the venue at 7.00 AM to set up everything needed and awaits the riders. Sebi takes care of transport, bringing the girls from the accommodation to the venue. He also prepares all the bottles and nutrition for the races, whilst providing help in the start box, feed/tech zones and finish areas during the day. Any treatments for the girls is also done by Sebi or Anja in the morning prior to the race. Cool vests are prepped for the finish. Tom is present throughout the day and keeps oversight, helps out during the day and is present in the start/finish area helping out. During race day, everything is taken care of for the girls. Every single team member has his/her work cut out and provide support where ever needed. Tech/feed zones are manned, riders are kept cool before the finish and after finishing they will be met by the team members who provide drinks, cleaning and any support needed. Podiums are after the women’s Elite race and after this the support crew starts to break down the pits at 3.30 PM. A team effort. Bikes are cleaned before transport. Around 6.30 PM, everything is packed and ready and the crew sets off to the accommodation for dinner and celebrations. Photos are prepared by Tom and posted to social media.
Tom finishes the press release and sends it out to all contacts. Girls are dropped at the airport, whilst the others join in the car for the journey back… or to the next race.Travel
This is a very brief insight into what it takes to prepare for and support a race. There’s a lot more going on and every race is different. Every team member has his/her own tasks, yet will provide help where ever needed. Throughout the year, contracts, sponsors and other tasks will provide ample work for the team management. All in all, the team provides an impressive logistic support. Invisible from the outside for the most, invaluable to the riders. Long days, hard work, yet the payoff is so worth it.Photos: Attention Builders, Video: Lars Veenstra