Caravan Etiquette

Chris Clinton, Sept 02

I am beginning to feel that it is beneficial for videos to show only the racers and not the caravan. I used to joke about how the best part of the race was the action behind the caravan. Most cycling enthusiast know what is going on in the race but few get to see what it takes to keep the riders on the road and moving forward. I still feel that everyone should get a chance to see the circus behind the riders; however, over the past couple months, my mind started to change.

Recently, I have been in some caravans that were downright dangerous, for both the mechanics and the riders. It feels as though the drivers either lost their minds or forgot how to drive in a caravan. Numerous times my life passed before my eyes and this was while I was on the right side of the road with my support car providing a safety zone. I have also been stuck in a support car attempting to get to a service while other vehicles crawled along in the wrong place.

So, in order to help with my sanity and hopefully prevent a nasty accident, I felt a refresher on caravan etiquette would be helpful. Here goes:

1) First and foremost, drive on the right side of the road. The most general rule of the caravan is that you stay in the right lane and use left side as the transportation lane. Don’t pull left unless you plan to progress and when you do, pull forward and get the hell out of the way.
2) When you get to the front of the caravan, pull to the right and do your service or feeding. This allows the other vehicles to pull around you and continue without disrupting the race.
3) When you are done with your feed or service, stay to the right so that the other vehicles can pull around you. Pull into your position as it appears.
4) Keep the vehicles tight in the caravan. This prevents spectator vehicles from getting caught up in the group, provides a drafting buffer for riders attempting to get back into the race and alleviates the minds of the police force who think we are already driving out of control.
5) Stay off the radio unless it is an emergency. If you want permission to pull your car to the break or feed a rider, pull up to the ‘comm’ car and ask for permission. This keeps the airways open so the officials can do their jobs and the rest of the vehicles will know what is going on.

The items listed above are technically rules. The items below are recommendations that allow things to run smoother and safer:
1) Stay in your caravan position. Okay, it really does not matter if you are in the wrong place but this can wreak havoc with small minds. I have seen team directors freak out because someone was in their spot and would not get out of the way. I have also seen accidents due to people forcing other cars out of their spot.
2) Let neutral support or another team know when you are leaving the caravan for gas or a pee stop so that your riders will be taken care of. There isn’t much more embarrassing that a rider screaming for a feed for half an hour and their team vehicle is nowhere to be found.
3) If you are neutral support and there are more than eight team cars in the caravan, you should ask the official to put you in front of the team vehicles. This way every team has the opportunity to get a quick wheel change. Likewise, if your team car is past position eight in the caravan, ask neutral support to take care of your riders as neutral will get there faster than you can.
4) Don’t put a team car in the caravan unless you have spare equipment like wheels and a bike. If you only plan on feeding from the car, ask the official to put your vehicle at the back of the caravan so that you are out of the way of the vehicles attempting to do more work.
5) Don’t use vans or SUVs as your support vehicle as they are too big and make it difficult for other support staff to see what is going on. Plus, smaller cars allow the rider who is attempting to regain the race to see how far back they are.
6) Never pull to the left lane to see what is going on. Most of the time you are going to be too far back to see anything and, if you can see the riders, you will only be staring at the butts at the back.
7) Never hang out of a moving car to do a service, especially a van. There is a reason why UCI does not allow this and it is because you will get hurt. Many of us saw a member of the media get airlifted from the Sea Otter this year after falling out the side of a moving van and then dragged under the rotating rear wheel. Don’t think it won’t happen to you because it will…

And lastly, here are some things for the event promoters and officials to think about:
1) Please run the medical for the race from a motorcycle. Cars are great but a motorcycle is not in the way of the crazy caravan and can actually attend to damaged riders faster. There must be a reason the main medical support for huge races like DuPont, Coors Classic and Saturn Classic are done from motos.
2) Call out riders who need feeds or service over the radio. This allows the team vehicle to get up to the front of the caravan and fix the problem before a mess ensues.
3) Make sure the broom wagon does not pass any of the team cars. Their position is at the back of the race and should never pass a vehicle that is doing a service as they are then out of their position.
4) If there is a police escort at the back of the caravan, ask them to stay with the last vehicle, especially if they stop for a service. This way no team or neutral vehicles will feel the need to break laws in order to return to the race.

Please understand that many of the above points are not commandments. Rather, they are guidelines to help the race run more smoothly and safer. Jim Copeland, Saturn team director, mentioned “driving in the caravan is all about one thing and that is maintaining the safety of and supporting (their) riders as completely as possible during the race.” If you follow the points mentioned above, you will be able to insure the safety of your riders, yourself and the others around you.

As a last point, Shimano’s Andy Stone asked me to remind everyone that things may be different for certain events. Thus, you or someone on your staff should attend the managers’ meeting to determine how the officials and promoter want the race to be run. It is here that you will learn when feeding is allowed, if there is a police escort, how many vehicles are in the caravan and where yours will be placed.

That’s all for now. Keep it safe and, if you see my butt up in the air during a tire change, try not to run me over. Thanks.


Owner of and long time professional race mechanic.