The team managers were recognisable by the fact that their phones were continually vibrating with incoming calls. Between the sessions, they would go out into the corridor to handle the latest developments in their teams. Professional cycling teams are now considerable enterprises of some 50 people or more, including the riders. Team Managers represented a quarter of the participants at the UCI training course for Directeurs Sportifs at the World Cycling Centre in Aigle, the final training session of the year.
In this way, those in charge of UCI WorldTour and UCI Professional Continental teams rubbed shoulders with those who usually operate under their direction, namely the directeurs sportifs. But all were happy to contribute their experiences to illustrate the participantsâ€™ presentations. "We recently had that situation in the Tour de France," was a common opening line.
The connection between team managers and directeurs sportifs is quite natural as a majority of the former have previously carried out the role of the latter. Their functions partially overlap and the UCI training addresses their everyday experiences.
A passion for the job
Yvon Sanquer, a team manager for Cofidis-Le CrÃ©dit-en-ligne, explains: "The courses feature work on coaching, personal relations and leadership. What we have learned is cross-disciplinary in nature."
Some team managers signed up for the training because they occasionally carry out the role of directeur sportif in competition in addition to managing their teams. "We mustn't stereotype the professions of cycling," emphasises Vincent Lavenu, a participant on the course. "I'm a team manager but I'm also passionate about working as a directeur sportif." In fact, the AG2R-La Mondiale boss leads his troops in the field some 80 days a year.
Whether a part-time or full-time directeur sportif, any individual who carries out this role at a UCI WorldTour event must have taken the UCI training. And from 1 January 2013, they must all have the appropriate certificate issued by the UCI.
Two team coaches also took part in the training in order to comply with the requirements. They work as directeurs sportifs for a few days each year, driving the second team car at an event as a backup."You do it to help out the team," says Jacques Decrion, whose main task at FDJ-BigMat has been to coach a dozen riders, both at home and during training camps.
His colleague Julien Pinot, aged 25, is a physical conditioning expert and also acts as an assistant directeur sportif four or five times a year. "When I work as directeur sportif, I work in conjunction with the first DS", he explains. "We are like trainers during the race, close to the riders. Then the bulk of the work is done after the stage, analysing the efforts made during the race, the fitness, the psychological state..."
A rare opportunity
Those who take part in the directeur sportif training even though this is not their profession may do so as out of necessity or simply as a matter of personal interest.
Even though he is not likely to act as a directeur sportif at all next year, Yvon Sanquer still wanted to take part in the four-day course. "I take part in professional development courses as much as I can,"he says. "Itâ€™s a matter of taking every opportunity possible because they are still few and far between in the world of cycling. Training courses such as this offer us information on the development and environment of cycling and also offer the opportunity to exchange points of view with colleagues from other teams."
The "real" directeurs sportifs, those who carry out the role throughout the season, made up two-thirds of the participants on the course. The representatives of associated professions offered the benefit of their additional knowledge. Directeurs sportifs also sometimes act as coaches or team managers. The UCI training programme takes into account the diversity of the directeurs sportifsâ€™ role and their central place within a team.
Photo: The UCI training course for the sport director also includes coaches and team managers(copyright: Francisco Castro Santos/UCI).