Team Novo Nordisk have been fighting their mid-season American campaign under the guidance and watchful eye of DS Pavel Cherkasov. Pavel is an ex-Road & Mountain bike pro with ten years racing under his belt and boasts a world title to his name in the TTT for Russia as a junior and signed his first pro-contract after victory in the Giro Delle Regioni (beating Laurent Roux & Oscar Camenzind in the process) back in ‘93. Ciclissimo! caught up with the world’s first all-diabetes pro-cycling team’s Russian DS at the Colorado Classic to get a view on life from the other side of the race-dossard amidst a fortnight of fast, aggressive racing through America’s Mountain States of Utah and Colorado.
Ciclissimo! When would the race planning for an event like this start? Are we talking days or weeks in advance?
Pavel Cherkasov It’s all starts with our roster and the goals we are trying to achieve at that race. This actually starts months in advance so training plans can be designed with coaches to help prepare a rider for a race. Then we look at profiles, competitors, weather conditions etc. We start putting together the actual race strategy usually a day before the start.
C! What would that involve as far as ‘the big picture’? I mean, the riders only have to worry about training hard enough and making sure not to miss the flight to arrive at the race sign-on!
PC The first part of the logistics plan that we focus on is getting all the equipment dialed in. The support staff sits down and coordinates all the logistical needs (vehicles, transfers, etc) that need to happen during a race. The ultimate goal for everyone is for the riders to have the best support possible throughout a race so their only focus is performing.
We determine our roster based on their race season goals, their fitness condition and how that particular race fits into their overall goal for the season. We absolutely do route recon—recon is absolutely crucial for a successful race strategy.
C! On the day: What’s running through your head as far as prepping for the stage and making sure the team is ready physically and tactically?
PC Heading into Stage 3, my main thoughts were how to keep morale high, continue to have the guys motivated to perform after racing at altitude and climbing for 10 straight race days, ways to get the best recovery.
C! The flag drops: Did the stage pan out as hoped? What did you encounter on the day?
PC There are always adjustments along the way. Sometimes it is dealing with a mechanical issue, extreme weather or simply responding to an unexpected race scenario where you have to redefine your strategy on the fly. For Stage 3, it was weather, which has been true all race. It was very hot, so we had to make sure we had enough bottles to keep the riders hydrated. Then very strong storms rolled in, so we had to ensure everyone stayed safe. Luckily it was still hot, so clothing wasn’t an issue. The final sections of today’s climb had a dirt sector so we worried about mechanical issues but the guys made it through fine—just extra dirty bikes for the mechanics!
C! How does the car work as an ‘office’?
PC The main communication happens between the team car and the riders via two-way radio and when they drop back to speak directly with the car. In the car, we typically have a director, doctor and mechanic. Along the race route, we have staff members who provide support, such as water, food and wheels. We also receive constant updates from Radio Tour (race radio), which is the race channel and they let teams know time splits, if a rider needs attention and any other important details happening within the race. In the car, we always have spare wheels and a full tool box along with spare bikes on the roof. In the back is a cooler full of water bottles—with water and Nuun. Throughout the stage, there is always interaction between team cars; it tends to be playful. On more intense days (like Stage 3), there is less interaction and everyone is simply focused on their riders.
C! After the finale, what sort of debrief and evening schedule do you have?
PC We have a team meeting every day where we debrief and talk about what worked and what didn’t work. Then we discuss strategies for the next day and go over logistics and the daily schedule.
C! What time is lights finally out for a DS?!
PC Sometimes very early because if the next stage starts early, the staff always needs to be awake before the riders. I aim to be as well rested as possible during a race.
Photo Credits: @VeloImages