By European standards, the two motorhomes sitting behind the five-star Hotel Parc Beaumont were gigantic: 37 and 40 feet long, with slideouts that consumed the width of a highway lane. They were also at the center of a new round of debate over whether the Tour de France is becoming too big for its own good.
The New York Times reported that the motorhomes, one of which was built by Alabama-based Tiffin Motor Homes Inc., were intended to be the latest weapon of Team Sky, the British team that includes the current Tour leader, Chris Froome. Team Sky, which is believed to have the largest budget in professional cycling, planned to have Froome and two other top riders spend the three weeks of the Tour sleeping in motorhomes rather than hotels, whose quality varies greatly from town to town.
When Dave Brailsford, the head of Team Sky, unveiled the plan in the spring, he cited a recent race hotel in which the riders had to contend with music from a birthday party, and he noted research about the contribution of sleep toward recovery. He also did not forget the general inconvenience of changing rooms every night for almost a month.
“Even though we have our own mattresses and pillows, when you change hotels every night, you must unpack and pack every day and go into a hotel without knowing what it’s like,” Brailsford told reporters during the Giro d’Italia, where the motorhomes had a test run. That, he added, got him thinking about a world in which riders swore off hotels and took their own beds around the race.
The leased motorhomes were with the Tour on its rest day Monday, but it was Brailsford and another member of team management who slept inside. (A third motorhome leased by the team was having a drive belt repaired.)
While Brailsford has raised the prospect of a future Tour de France without hotel stays, the International Cycling Union, or U.C.I., as the governing body is known, has other ideas.
Last month, its management committee changed its requirement that the organizers of professional stage races feed and house the riders to clarify that every rider must take advantage of that forced hospitality.
“The decision was made in order to reaffirm absolute fairness between all riders,” the body said in a statement.
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