The most famous bicycle race of all is celebrating it’s 100th Anniversary in 2013. It is much more complex than just a race: it includes an advertising caravan (parade) and a tent carnival. But there is a tremendous effort behind the scenes to make it all happen. From a logistics standpoint, it ranks up there with an army fighting a war or a circus traveling around the country.
The actual race is run by 22 teams of 8 or 9 bicyclists each.That means about 200 participants; but the actual “show” involves about 4,500 people.
The advertising caravan (goes ahead of race and distributes advertising “gifts” like hats, candy, etc consists of 180 vehicles representing 44 companies, but the number of “official” vehicles (team cars, scorers, et al) may be 10 times that. Then you have “suppliers”. Vittel Water seemed to have several tractor-trailers to capitalize on being the official supplier. Going back into history, preceding the race was more attractive to advertisers because spectators gathered by the road long before the race or could be attracted from their houses. Advertisers following the race found that many who had watched the race had already gone home. The advertisers distribute publicity material to the crowd. The number of items has been estimated at 11 million, each person in the procession giving out 3,000 to 5,000 items a day.
The tent carnival (I like to call it a “vendor village”) moves as the Tour moves: tents up, tents down, crowds in, crowds out. Norbert Dentressangle has been the Tour’s official partner for more than 30 years, transporting all the facilities and equipment required to set up the start and finish villages at each stage, along with ancillary items including safety barriers and advertising hoardings. The company also transports all the equipment needed to organize each stage at different points along the route, such as intermediate sprints and arrival at a pass. In total 22 tons of equipment is transported from stage to stage in support of the event. A fleet of 20 Norbert Dentressangle trucks and trailers and a team of 33 drivers will be accompanying the riders along the way to the finish line in the Champs Elysee in Paris.