When I say true stage racing, I am in no way belittling the Ohio Spring Series stage race that several of our juniors raced, but the level of detail of Rimouski (as well as l'Abitibi) really takes it to the next level.
The biggest difference is the support caravan. Those cars driving just behind the riders and providing wheels/food/support/instructions? Yep, that's me this week. Behind the wheel of a vehicle following the race each day. While I am looking forward to this responsibility and seeing my own kid race from the relative safety of the follow caravan there are certainly responsibilities that come along.
At the forefront is the possibility of being fined. To drive in the caravan at a UCI stage race you must have a UCI license. Pretty sure this is just to be sure there is a way to fine you for screwing up - and as I am learning there are a lot of rules to being in the caravan. Fines in Swiss Francs are worn by riders as badges of honor in some cases - I remember one rider getting fined in the pits at Masters Worlds for an infraction that frankly was ludicrous. Though I guess if you read the rules really close it could have been legit.
Now I have follow specific order of rules - something Mackenzie will tell you I am not really good at doing. As opposed to a funeral procession where the direct family slots in first and then everyone else fills in the gaps to make a line, the stage race caravan is in the order of the fastest team overall to the slowest team overall (with a couple possible exceptions). This means I have to know which team is in front of us - and recognize the car. In le Tour that is easy - the first thing they do with Tour cars is wrap them in logos making them unmistakably recognizable. At Rimouski I will have to remember whether I am being the gray Camry from Missouri or the gray Camry from Quebec. Or maybe just get fined.
But that brings us back to my driving responsibilities. Do I want to be responsible for running over the next Taylor Phinney? I don't know if the next Taylor Phinney is going to be here, but what if the next Ryder Hesjedal is here? Geez...now I have to not hit cars and not take out the next famous North American cyclist at the same time. I can't wait to support the team as a driver. It may be my personal most interesting experience of the trip.
We brought footage from 7 different Tour de France's to watch in the car on the way up - you can bet I will be watching the follow vehicles hoping I get my chance to be Manolo Saiz riding up Jan Ullrich's bum while yelling ALLEZ! ALLEZ! through the radio.