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Who has the best seat in cycling at the Giro D’Italia?

Former Belgian National Time Trial Champion Bert Roesems travels Europe with a trunk full of products to support Shimano-sponsored professional road teams and riders.

Getting ready for the Giro D’Italia

At Shimano, we believe that the best way to prove our products is to put them in the hands of the most demanding cyclists in the world. So we sponsor seven professional road teams and support many other road and mountain-bike professionals worldwide.

With the 2016 cycling season well underway and the first Grand Tour of the year, the Giro D’Italia, looming, servicing all those professional riders takes a lot of work. They need products, help solving challenges, and advice to optimise their equipment for world-class competition. How much work is involved? Just ask Sports Marketing Officer for Road, former Belgian National Time Trial Champion Bert Roesems. 

Meet Bert Roesem’s, Shimano’s pro road athlete liaison

Based in Brussels, Roesems is Shimano’s main contact for professional road racers in Europe. He works with a small but dedicated Shimano team that supports pro athletes. “At Shimano,” Roesems says about his role, “it’s important that we offer the highest level of support and service for everybody who rides Shimano, whether they are sponsored or not.”

It’s a job that puts him on the road up to 150 days a year including every stage of every Grand Tour. His main responsibility? To fulfill the product needs of riders, which he accomplishes with the help of the support team at Shimano Europe’s Nunspeet, Netherlands headquarters. “Also,” he says, “we have an emergency kit of Shimano products in the back of the car in case anyone needs immediate help."

“At Shimano it’s important that we offer the highest level of support and service for everybody who rides Shimano, whether they are sponsored or not.”

Year-round support

Shimano has a strict philosophy that professional riders are supplied with products that are the same as anyone can buy through their distributors and dealers. “Yes,” Roesems explains, “everything is off the shelf. This is our main principle; we sponsor what we sell. What is on Chris Froome’s bike is on your bike.”

Roesems interfaces with primary team contacts. “Any rider on any team can contact me, but teams are big now, 50 to 100 people, all with different jobs. To streamline things, we coordinate all requests for product or service solutions through each team’s technical managers and the mechanics.”

Special requests for the Giro

Besides acting as the pipeline for products, Roesems puts his experience in the pro peloton to work on behalf of the riders, finding solutions from the product families at his disposal. For the Giro, this means supplying the widest possible gear options for the Italian Grand Tour’s toughest climbs. 

“The pros don’t like to use those small 34 tooth and 36 tooth inner chainrings for the hardest climbing stages” Like the Stelvio and Motirolo climbs in the upcoming Giro D’Italia. “If you drop from the big chainring to the small one in a race situation, to keep the same speed you have to pick up the RPMs. When you’re on your limit, it can make you asphyxiate or lose the feeling with the rest of the group.”

Dura Ace comes with a maximum cassette range of 11-28, limiting the gearing for riders on standard inner-chainrings. The solution for a tough Giro? “When we introduced 11-speed Ultegra, it came with 11-32 cassettes and a dedicated long-cage derailleur. So we were able to solve the problem by supplying alternate derailleurs and cassettes for the toughest climbing days.”

The best seats to the Giro are paid for in lonely kilometres

On the surface, Roesems seems to have the best job in cycling. “I would agree,” he says, “But don’t forget about the travel. I’m on the road a lot and in comparison to a team, I always travel on my own. It’s hard sometimes.”

“But,” he adds, “The best part is that I have front row seat to the action. Cycling is a pretty accessible sport for the fans but my behind-the-scenes access is one or two levels closer to the riders. I am inside the sport. It is amazing.” At the Giro, that access could mean a visit to a team bus, hotel, or a ride-along in a team car to meet and help riders and teams with gear. 

Looking forward to a tough three weeks of supporting athletes, Roesems says he has plans for the end of the Giro. “To go home. Get some rest. Get ready to do it all again a few days later.”

“Everything is off the shelf. This is our main principle; we sponsor what we sell. What is on Chris Froome’s bike is on your bike.”

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