Planes, vehicles, and bikes — the logistics of equipping an international cycling teamBlog
Working behind the scenes towards a shared vision
There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to keep a professional cycling team on the road. As the team managing the logistical operations for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, we’re responsible for making sure each of our 27 riders and 45 staff members has the right equipment, wherever they are in the world. We stock everything the riders could possibly need: their bikes and related equipment, but also on-bike gear like jerseys, helmets, socks, rain jackets and eye-wear, team casual wear, and nutritional products.
You could say we’re the operations behind the aspirations: we make sure our team have the gear they need to train, compete, and, one day, reach the podium of a Grand Tour race.
Service Course in the Netherlands is the hub of logistics for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka
Off the plane and on the bike
Cycling is a sport of milliseconds. Here at Service Course, our warehouse in the Netherlands, we focus on the detail. Each rider has a different physique, personalised training and race goals, and their own specific setup specifications for equipment, literally down to a fraction.
Our riders compete in cycling events in different locations around the world, 270 days a year. We can have up to 22 riders in three different global events at any given time. We need to coordinate the movements of the riders, the staff, and 21 vehicles so that everything arrives at the right place, on time. That means knowing when a rider’s plane is landing so we can get them and their gear on a bus or truck and on the road in good time. The rider should be able to step off the plane and get on the bike, with no delays.
Each rider has their own specifications, sometimes down to the millimetre, for the equipment they use
Each rider has at least three bikes at a race. Depending on the nature of the race and what they want to achieve, this could be as many as six or seven. Then they need different wheels and equipment for different terrains and weather conditions. The mechanics choose this equipment and the support team ensure the appropriate weather gear is available to the rider. Weight and dimension restrictions of packed items are key when traveling by plane, as are the ground shipments that have to fit in our vehicles, so we make sure this is taken into consideration, too.
Keeping track of all the moving parts
Key to any successful race are at least four things: the riders, their bikes, the wheels for the bikes, and their important gear (helmets and rain bags).
Usually, everything is sent from and delivered back to Service Course, but there are times when we have to send equipment directly with a rider or someone else on the support team. In the past, it wasn’t always easy to follow the chain of communication – emails, WhatsApps and so on – to find out where things were.
An app developed by Dimension Data helps the logistics team keep accurate records of the whereabouts of equipment
Now, we have an app that anyone on the team can use, from any mobile device. The app, developed for us by Dimension Data, helps us with two key processes in logistics: stock management and asset tracking. Whenever a piece of equipment changes hands, it’s logged on the app.
This helps us speed up our processes and keep accurate records of stock. It’s not only making us more efficient but also helping us to report back to partners that give us sponsorship in kind.
The app has made a difference in helping us spend less time on stock-taking and more on what we can do to help the riders achieve their goals. We’re mindful of the fact that any team is only is strong as its weakest link. Here, we’re really seeing how technology can strengthen our capabilities and help us make a significant contribution to our broader goal.