Essor Breton: “Sometimes you want to eat the wheel”, a day with the sports director of Dinan Sport Cycling – L’Essor breton dans le Pays de Morlaix

“Sorry I’m in a bit of a rush, but it will be better when it starts.” It is 11:45 am and this is not the time for discussion, warns Jean-François Bodenec. The start of the race is in less than an hour and the sports director of the Dinan Sport Cycling team is everywhere. “Jef” gives advice, shakes hands, deals cards, assembles bicycles and takes the time for jokes. “It doesn’t look like much, but he has an inner stress,” admits Océane, one of his assistants.

The race of the sports directors

After a brief briefing on the circuit, Jean-François Bodenec gets into his car at exactly 12.45 am, departure time. Accompanied by Matthieu Boulo, the team’s mechanic, he started “the other race”: that of sports directors (DS). For this first day, Jef inherited tenth place out of 23 team cars by drawing lots. In the DS peloton, he is far from that of the riders, but he can enjoy the scenery. “We’ll have to look there,” he said, still relaxed, as he crossed the Dourduff-en-Mer Bridge. Then, at the 48th kilometer in Lanleya, the walkie-talkie spewing out the race director’s instructions gives way to the first phone call from Éloise, the team’s assistant. “It’s a nice moment when we talk a little bit about tactics and we laugh,” explains Jef, even though the pressure rises a notch.

In rally mode

The first gear occurs at the first exchange of gourd. The moment the talkie calls Dinan to refuel one of his drivers, Jean-François “starts rally mode” and honks the line of cars. Around the 80th kilometer, the DS race starts while the runners’ race is divided into several platoons. The cars jostle to get closer to their protégés and the race is tough, fast and the corners tight. Used to slaloming between safety bikers, cars and racers, Jef admits that “sometimes you want to eat the steering wheel”.

It’s like a roller coaster ride by car and almost as tiring as on a bike.

Maximum tension in the last corners

In the 100 km, the Jef-Matt duo is concentrated in this second race and the exchange of water bottles and advice is almost as short as pit stops in Formula 1. The tension is at its maximum in the five laps before the finish in Carantec. “It’s going to explode in the last two,” Jef announces, crisscrossing at full speed between the artichoke fields to approach and support his riders. And then, as soon as the finish line is crossed and a green jersey won by his runner Johan Le Bon, second of the day, the pressure drops for the DS. “It’s like a roller coaster ride by car and almost as tiring as on a bike,” he breathes. But no rest, another race awaits him: that of recovery for the next day’s stage.

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