Steve Thomas: What will be the team’s leaders situation for grand tours in 2018?
Vilalii Abramov, Astana Team Media: The situation for the Grand Tours is clear – we have Jakob Fuglsang and Miguel Angel Lopez.
Has the new UCI/less riders ruling changed your plans and strategy for 2018?
We will not reduce the team’s roster for the next season – we will have 29 or 30 riders.
How many riders and staff in total will the team have in 2018?
More or less the team will have the same balance in riders and staff for 2018. In all there will be the 29 or 30 riders, plus full and part time support staff - around 50-55 people in total.
Where is the team service course? How many team vehicles are there, and service course staff?
We have our headquarters/service course in France not far from Nice. Four or five staff members are working there daily. We have two team buses, two trucks, a camper, as well as crafters, minivans and 10 – 12 team cars.
What happens to the team bikes at the end of the season?
We return them to our bike sponsor Argon 18, and receive the new bikes for the next season.
Do riders have a dedicated bike for training, and only see race bikes at race - and are they the same bikes?
Each rider has a bike at home for the training as well as a racing bike, plus one spare bike in the race. and a few more bikes stay at the service course. Also, they have two TT bikes.
Do riders, mechanics, or sponsors choose which models of bikes, saddles, trees, shoes and other equipment that they ride?
Each technical sponsor, usually, has several different models of their product – for example we have two bikes from Argon 18 – Gallium Pro and Nitrogen Pro.
The same goes with saddles, helmets, bike computers, etc. The rider chooses by himself which model he likes more, which model suits him better and which is more comfortable.
They can get an advice from sports directors, or trainers for a better choice. Also, they can try one model after another and to compare.
Race food/nutrition - apart from sponsored product do riders choose what they eat in race bags, at dinner, breakfast, or is it all standard issue?
Yes, of course, before the race our soigneurs (who are responsible for the food) ask each rider what does he prefer to have in the race. They prepare different kinds of cakes, small sandwiches, etc.
Also, the riders have a good choice of food on the breakfast table, and during a stage race the soigneurs try to combine different meals after finish; pasta, rice, cereals, or fruit salads.
in the big races we always have a chef with us in the team,. He is a real professional, and tries to follow the diet of every rider. For the dinner he can cook many nice plates, depending on riders tastes.
What vehicles, staff, and numbers of bikes and equipment go to the cobbled classics and grand tours?
For Grand Tours (in 2017): nine riders; one general manager, three directors, five soigneurs, three mechanics, one doctor, one trainer, one press officer, one bus driver, one chef, one osteopath.
In the race, normally, we have one bus, one truck, four or five cars, maybe, one minivan or crafter.
Bikes depends on the number of riders; if it’s nine, there are at least 18, plus several spares and also, TT bikes if needed.
For a classics race (in 2017): eight riders, two directors, three soigneurs, two mechanics, one bus driver, one doctor, one press officer. Also, there may be a general manager and osteopath, trainer – depending on the situation. As transport – a bus, a truck, and two or three cars.
For a fly-in race (like the Tour of Turkey) what goes with the team?
This depends on the race; it’s hard to say exactly. Normally we take two bikes for each rider. The number of staff – one or two directors, three masseurs, two mechanics, a doctor, and a press-officer.
When flying like that how do you carry so much gear? Do the organisers sort out excess baggage or do you need to be careful?
We try to organise all logistics at a high level (arranging what is required in advance - we have a very good office staff for this). We take only what we really need for the race; bikes, food, accessories, coolers, bottles, clothes, etc.
When your riders have special coloured bikes and jerseys at grand tours - how does it work? Are they prepared in advance, or are sponsors on?
For the big races, such as the Tour de France, both, the team and sponsors are ready for everything. But all depends on the situation. Sometimes, a team and the rider want to get a coloured bike for the jersey, and the sponsor does all possible for that. Sometimes, the rider doesn’t want it or may want just coloured bar tape on the handle bar, for example.
Astana has been involved as main sponsor for many years; how do they see the investment and return?
Astana – is a capital of Kazakhstan, not a sponsor. We have several big Kazakh sponsors, who support Astana ProTeam as a part of a big national sports project - The Presidential Club Astana.
One of the biggest goals of the team is the promotion of the image of Kazakhstan and its capital Astana around the world, and also the development of Kazakh cycling.
During the last years, Kazakh cycling has had some important achievements. In the team we have now 10 Kazakh riders, so everything is going by plan.