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A directeur sportif (French for sporting director, although the original French term is often used in English-language media; plural directeurs sportifs) is a person directing a cycling team during a road bicycle racing event. It is seen as the equivalent to a field manager in baseball, or a head coach in football. At professional level, a directeur sportif follows the team in a car and communicates with riders, personnel and race officials by radio.
The directeur sportif warns of obstacles or challenging terrain, updates the team on the situation in the race, and provides mechanical help. The car carrying the directeur sportif also usually carries a bicycle mechanic with spare bikes, wheels and parts. It also carries spare water bottles, food and medical equipment.
In recent years the role has increased, in keeping with better team cohesion, tactics and communication and telemetry equipment. The directeur sportif can have split times, find where riders from other teams are in the race, and dictate orders to riders. This has made teamwork and tactics more important.
Probably the first thing is that I’m the person who has to come up with a tactical plan at the races that will maximize the potential of the team. I’m also a motivator. I have to have a good eye for talent. I have to have recruitment skills. I have to be good with media and sponsors. And it’s best if I’m not a reckless driver since I spend so much time driving in close proximity to people riding bikes. But really, it all goes back to having the right plan in place, and coming up with a good set of options, then making sure those scenarios are communicated to the riders so they can execute that strategy during the race.
Several directeurs sportifs are also associated with famous riders whom they have nurtured. Patrick Lefevère with Johan Museeuw and Tom Boonen, Cyrille Guimard's relationship with Bernard Hinault, and later Laurent Fignon; Jean de Gribaldy with Sean Kelly and Joaquim Agostinho; and Bruyneel with Lance Armstrong are examples.