behind the scenes of the caravan, long-term logistics

In the Tour de France advertising caravan, everyone (or almost) has already seen the vehicles of the gendarmerie and its teams, which distribute prevention messages and hand out small promotional items, like the other caravanners. Each year, this particular mission is prepared months in advance. In particular, it requires a major HR operation to select the participants, as well as a huge logistical maneuver, all managed by the Sirpa image agency, in collaboration with its private and institutional partners.

The preparation of vehicles

At the heart of the logistics component are, of course, the vehicles, traditionally loaned by the manufacturer (Peugeot – now Stellantis – for 10 years) for the full duration of the Tour de France for men, and, for the first time this year, the women’s event, that starts immediately after. Therefore, any development must be carried out with respect for the integrity of the cars. In other words, they must be temporary and perfectly removable so that they can be returned to their original state.

The five vehicles are generally collected in May from their depot in Nanterre, to be transported to Rosny-sous-Bois, where they undergo a first major transformation: installation, by a private company responsible for several other brands present on the Tour, screen printed and financed by the Communications Department of the Ministry of the Interior (MI DICOM). At the end of this operation, which can take three or four days, the result of the “covering” is closely monitored by Sirpa teams. “We are really down to the details says Major Philippe, historical pillar of the Tour caravan in the image office. For example, this year we noticed that the mirrors and door handles were not covered. It was quickly necessary to adjust the estimate and complete the work. But we can also ask the manufacturer upstream to ask for standard options, such as whether or not chrome parts are present. »

Around May 20, so decorated with the colors of the Tour and the gendarmerie, the cars, which then had only two kilometers on the clock, went to the Automobile Support Center of the Gendarmerie (CSAG) in Melun to be rested there. . with roof racks, then variable message panels (ramps), a sound system and, for the front vehicle, a radio; all this also requires the installation of proper wiring. The unit thus has less than a month to complete this technical preparation.

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The CSAG of Melun working since 2016

In 2016, the Melun CSAG took this mission into account in the short term. “We were two months away from the Tour and fourteen days from touching the vehicles when we learned of the unavailability of the previous structure, remembers Major Philippe. We explained our needs to the CSAG in Melun, whose commander at the time accepted the mission and introduced us to Thierry. It was the beginning of the story. »

Leaving school in January 1999, Chef Thierry joined the EOGN as a mechanic before joining 1er April 2004, until the founding of the CSAG of Melun, in 2009, where he serves to this day. “In a consortium, I started to get interested in ramp systems and electronics. It has become my specialty.underlines the mechanic, today during the maneuver on the vehicles of the gendarmerie caravan.

Keeping this mission in mind, Melun’s CSAG decided to start from scratch and take charge of the layout work by carrying out a real reflection to adapt the equipment. “Despite the existing situation, the CSAG commander and I decided to start from scratch and redo everything by hand, from installing the ramps to the mounting system, including the wiring, in order to get a permanent device. This last one must be designed to last three weeks with daily use from 5 to 6 hours. For example, usually the roof is drilled to pass the wiring harness. There it has to go through the door seals. So I had to make wiring for our specific needs, in a reinforced sheath, Thierry explains. We evolve the mounts according to the needs, but also the changes made from one year to the next to the size of the cars by the manufacturer. » And Major Philippe adds: “We report the problems to him and Thierry finds solutions for us! The CSAG provides the staff and expertise, but of course it is SIRPA that finances the necessary equipment. »

The mechanic takes an average of one and a half days to complete the complete equipment of a vehicle: roof racks, ramps (on loan from Sirac, a partner company for 16 years), sound system, radio, interior controls and wiring, knowing that the connection to the battery hybrid vehicles must be done according to a specific protocol.

The MDC Thierry is therefore seconded to this mission for a month, which is part of the daily work of the Rapid Mechanics Unit. Period when it doesn’t work “emergency only”he says

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His experience with logisticsIC at the service of the caravan

Then, during the 2018 Tour, chef Thierry was invited to join the Tour de France caravan on the occasion of the final stage. Based on his 27 years of experience with the Red Cross of Val-de-Marne, the mechanic notes on this occasion: “various logistical problems” and suggests Sirpa create a special post to remedy this.

His advice is followed and chef Thierry is one of the candidates for the Tour 2019. “I explained my vision on logistics and the function. When I was selected, I set up the mission in my personal time. It worked before, but based on the system D. Today, the goal is to try to anticipate everything so as not to leave room for improvisation, even though there can always be surprises. This required structure and modernity. »

“Previously, the logistics were managed by a rotating set of caravanners. The establishment of a dedicated position, which we have changed from year to year, has been a major step forward. The logistics employee has the role of supervisor, both in the preparation phase and during the Tour. USAOperational support allows everyone to focus on their mission, especially the head of secondment. The aim is that the caravanners have nothing to do but their mission and repair the vehicles every evening on arrival and every morning before departure.Major Philippe notes and specifies that: “Thierry remains a fully-fledged caravanner, but committed to caravan logistics. Every day he works with a different caravanner for assistance. »

The logistics employee’s work therefore starts well before the event. Indeed, since the inception of the position, in 2019, MDC Thierry and Major Philippe have formed a “married couple” throughout the preparation phase. “Once the plot is revealed, to the I will start looking for hotels in mid-October. I then exchanged a lot with Thierry about the relevance of the pitches, because he saw the Tour live. Even if I too, by force, I know well the testI like to have his opinion”, emphasizes the major.

Everything is prepared in amto have !

Indeed, it is important to choose the best location for the hotels, in order to reduce the travel times in the morning and the movements of the logistics truck. Thierry then checks a number of points at the hotels or accommodation (the caravanners can be accommodated in secondary schools or others): number of rooms, breakfasts, presence of underground or closed parking, possibility of charging the vehicles, provision of a washing machine and a dryer, etc

At the same time, the military creates a map of nearby laundromats, car washes and gas stations, “one between the end of l’stage and accommodation and another at the start of the next stage to compensate for the small volume of the tanks »

The catering component is also managed upstream, “Because during the Tour the day goes by too fast. » He must therefore find and reserve a restaurant for each evening, but also anticipate the lunches that the caravanners will take on board the vehicles, taking into account the limitations of each. Carrying a cooler by car was also one of the first improvements MDC Thierry made as a logistics employee.

For the big departure it is also necessary to send the packages from giveaways (this year 140,000 key rings for the Tour for men and 30,000 for women, editors note), for each day and each vehicle, which will find their place in the “log” truck, in addition to three life plots that represent the detachment of fully autonomous (vehicle maintenance, laundry, breakfast preparation, etc).

In order to perfect this organisation, the MDC Thierry, in collaboration with the LCL Joël Scherer, liaison officer of the TDF, and the head of the detachment, is also developing a away book detailing of the caravan system day in and day out: mileage, times, number giveawayscircuit of the ‘log’ truck, daily composition of the caravan and sleeping accommodation teams, caravan driver assigned to the ‘log’, accommodation, catering, fuel and washing stations, official visits… A real Bible!

“With his experience, Thierry made us think about logistics, anticipate. Since then, things have continued to evolve according to the needs he tells us. Today we have a system that works well”Major Philippe concludes.

Four weeks on thethe roads of France !

With the start time of the Tour, MDC Thierry marks the start of a three-week journey on the French roads at the wheel of his logistics truck, which he will continue this year with the Tour de France for women (from 24 to 31 July 2022 ). As a family man, at least as a non-commissioned officer of the squadron to stay in a more “gendarmic” jargon, he ensures the smooth running of each day, especially the passage of the luggage, which the caravans leave in the evenings. find their room, manage the power supply, resolve incidents that may occur during the stage, or even check the vehicles in the evening. ” On the TOur Thierry is a logistics worker, but he may also have to intervene on a vehicle or on one of its installations, even if we are in direct contact with Stellantis, whose network is alert throughout our journey, as well as the groups that are crossed »remarks Major Philippe.

At the end of the two laps it will still be necessary to “undress” and equip the vehicles, to return them to their original configuration… For a well-deserved rest, at least until the next route is revealed and the machine does not reboot. “ It is a great adventure, which also changes my daily life. I am willing to go back every year. I got the virus”laughs the MDC Thierry.

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