The name Lotto has been affiliated with professional road cycling since 1985. Originally known as Lotto, the Belgian lottery has sponsored the team since its inception, with its name present at all times, despite various co-sponsorship changes over the years. From 2015 onwards, the team is known as Lotto Soudal. Soudal is the team’s newest co-sponsor, producing a range of silicons and caulks, foams and adhesives for the European market.
Steven Van Olmen is one of several mechanics employed by Lotto Soudal, having spent the past 12 of 13 years working exclusively with the team. We caught up with him before the 2016 Tour Down Under kicks off, to ask him all manner of questions about the bikes and how he keeps them running smooth. Here’s the answers…
BIKERUMOR: How do handle the logistics associated with shipping bikes from Europe to Australia for the Tour Down Under?
STEVEN: We bring only what we need for the race. Typically that includes 12 bikes in bags, a materials box, boxes containing bidons for the team and two coolers. Everyone, including the riders, brings one of the above-mentioned items with them to Australia. It is a team effort, but the organization in Adelaide make it very easy for us.
BIKERUMOR: For the Tour Down Under, do you make any special preparations for the race bikes?
STEVEN: We often start the Tour Down Under with new bikes or components, but sometimes carry over equipment from the previous season. This year we changed saddle brands to Selle Italia. With new components, there are generally no complaints from riders in training. But if they have bad legs during the race, they may cite the new equipment as an excuse (laughing).
BIKERUMOR: How do you prepare the team bikes for different weather conditions? For example, do you use different grease or lubrication as part of your preparation?
STEVEN: I do not use grease on the chain. I use the same chain lube for wet or dry conditions, but apply more if bad weather is expected. The most important thing for bad weather is the tire pressure of the tubulars.
BIKERUMOR: With regard to the tubular tires, do you choose different tires for bad weather conditions?
STEVEN: Our tire sponsor Continental supplies us with two choices – semi-slick (Competition Pro LTD) and treaded for grip (Competition Allround). The riders always want the fastest – some riders feel the semi-slick tire loses nothing in terms of grip in the rain, but makes gains with less rolling resistance. Other riders prefer the treaded tire.
BIKERUMOR: You mentioned the tire pressure is the most important thing. I assume you decrease tire pressure when the weather turns nasty?
STEVEN: Yes, we bring the pressure down, but the actual pressure depends on rider weight.
BIKERUMOR: What are your thoughts on road tubeless?
STEVEN: I first had experience about 12 – 13 years ago with tubeless technology. The companies were confident we would not have any flat tires. Unfortunately in our first race with them, we had a flat tire (laughing). I think there is potential in the future, but at the moment, I do not see any advantage over our tubular tires.
BIKERUMOR: What are your thoughts about road disc brakes?
STEVEN: For sure, you cannot dispute the disc brake performance in the rain. But it will be very difficult to integrate into a peloton with 180 riders. For mechanics, we have a much slower wheel change and there is the worry about what happens with a very hard crash. The discs may cut into other riders, it could be a big problem. I think the technology is good for small groups or cyclo-tourists, but not so much in the peloton.
BIKERUMOR: What do you think about the UCI’s plan to possibly scrap the 6.8kg weight limit on bikes?
STEVEN: Safety must be the primary consideration. Manufacturers are building very light frames, but they may not be stiff or strong enough to be considered safe. Perhaps some rules relating to the frame, i.e. a one kilogram minimum for frames, but with no restrictions on say drivetrain components. Right now, sometimes we have to add weight to the bikes to get them to the 6.8kg marker. This restriction is ridiculous considering how far the technology has come over the past 10 years.
BIKERUMOR: If you could make improvements to a bicycle, what would it be?
STEVEN: Now that we have wireless electronic gear shifting in the market, I think a powermeter that is integrated with the shifting to automatically shift gears could be the next step – a similar concept to how an automatic transmission works in a car. Possibly not for racing, but anything is possible nowadays.
BIKERUMOR: How do you like the Tour Down Under?
STEVEN: This is a stupid question to ask me (laughs), because this is my 12th Tour Down Under in a row! I usually arrive early for a little vacation before the team arrives, and have made many friends in Adelaide. I love coming here.
BIKERUMOR: Is there a favorite rider you have worked with?
STEVEN: I like working with all of the riders, but I particularly like those who have a lot of respect for the work that the mechanics and other staff do. One such rider is André Greipel, he is an incredible guy. André is always so thankful for the work we do, and sometimes gives the staff presents, etc. It is not about him being a big name rider, rather how good of a person he is.
BIKERUMOR: Final question. Any special tips for bike setup?
STEVEN: When I lock the quick release, I never do it in the stand – always on the ground – the wheel will always be aligned straight on the ground versus the stand.
BIKERUMOR: Steven, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us.
STEVEN: My pleasure!
Photos and interview by Gravel Cyclist.
Jayson O’Mahoney is the Gravel Cyclist: A website about the Gravel Cycling Experience.