THE Somerset County Gazette is an official media partner in this year's Tour of Britain cycling event sponsored by Somerset County Council.

Here we take a look at what life is like behind the scenes for the cyclists taking part in the gruelling event.

A Day in the Life of a Professional Cyclist: The Tour of Britain, Stage 2 - Tuesday 11th September The riders might be the main focus of a professional bike team, but there's a whole lot more work going on behind the scenes on each team than you'll actually see when you visit The Tour of Britain. Here's how a typical day, such as Stage 2 of this year's race will unfold.

0600 With the rest of the team still asleep in the hotel, the soigneurs (team assistants, often specialising in sports therapy or physiotherapy) get up and prepare the food and the water bottles for each of the six riders for the stage ahead. They have to ensure everything's ready, for when the team come to leave the hotel.

0700 The rest of the team will get up, the mechanics perhaps more reluctantly than most, as they'll have been up late the night before cleaning and preparing the team's bikes for today's stage.

0730 Breakfast time and the riders wolf down enormous amounts of pasta in readiness for the day ahead. Professional cyclists use up to 7,000 calories during a days racing, so it's important to stock up at breakfast time. The next time the riders will have the opportunity to eat will be at 12:15 when the race passes outside of Minehead which is the official feed zone on Stage Two.

The other team staff enjoy a more conventional breakfast, although in reality they require almost as much energy as the riders.

0830 The whole of the team leaves the hotel, all heading for the stage start at The Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, except for a couple of soigneurs who will go straight to this evening's hotel. There they will wash the riders' spare kit, prepare them some food for after the race and set up a room ready for the post-race massage.

0900 On the team bus the directeur sportif holds a team meeting to discuss the tactics for the day's stage: how the stage should play out, who will be the leader, who to watch out for on rival teams and any major obstacles on the race route. Today they might pay special attention to the First Category climb of Porlock Toll Road, which will be a decisive moment in the stage.

0915 Having arrived at the stage start at Yeovilton, the riders have to sign on at the presentation podium. Here the fans can see them up close, as the riders sign the start sheet and are interviewed by Hugh Porter MBE. The stage start is usually the best chance for fans to get autographs and photos of their favourite riders, as they prepare for the days racing.

0945 The remaining couple of soigneurs help the riders get ready for the stage, applying warm-up oil to their legs and giving them a quick pre-race massage. They'll depart the start area shortly after the riders, and head for the mid-race feed zone outside of Minehead. Here they'll hand out lunch in the cotton musettes, or bags, which will contain more water bottles, energy gels and sandwiches.

Twenty minutes before the start of the stage, the leaders of all the jersey classifications are required to attend a ceremony on the podium. If any of the team's riders are wearing one of the races' four jerseys, they'll have to attend. The four jerseys are - the Yellow Jersey for the race leader, the Green Jersey for the rider with the most points (i.e. the most consistent finisher), the - red and white - King of the Mountains Jersey for the races' best climber and the Red, White and Blue Jersey for the leader in the Hot Spots Sprints competition.

1015 The start of the day's race begins with a neutralised section to allow the riders to leave the start area safely. The real action will begin a few minutes later at 10:30. The team's directeur sportif will follow behind the peloton (the pack) in their team cars, together with a mechanic in the back seat, surrounded by spare wheels, tools and a cooler box of spare bidons (drinks bottles). A second car will carry the assistant directeur sportif and another mechanic further back in the convoy, so they can help any of their riders who have to drop back with problems.

1110 The race tackles the first of the day's three Hot Spot Sprints at Othery. This is a great opportunity for a rider to get some points towards the Red, White and Blue Jersey. Alternatively if one of the team is close in the Overall standings, they can target the time bonuses available at these sprints to move them closer to the Yellow Jersey.

1230 The soigneurs stand by the roadside in the feed zone outside of Minehead dressed in team jerseys so they're recognised by their riders. Here they'll hand out the musettes of food and drink that they prepared early this morning to the riders as they fly by.

1250 The day's real climbing begins with the ascent of Porlock Toll Road. From here to the stage finish in Taunton the riders will be constantly ascending or descending, as they make their way across Exmoor and the climbs of Watersmeet and Wheddon Cross. The points won on the climbs count towards The E.ON King of the Mountains competition, awarded to the races' best climber.

1430 The riders pass the final sprint of the day at Goosemoor and continue on towards Taunton. The team's riders will be hoping to have made the winning move on the climbs of Exmoor so they can take victory on North Street in Taunton.

1500 Stage 2 is over for the riders, and for the directeur sportifs, is almost done. For the soigneurs and mechanics however it's barely begun.

If any of the riders has won the stage, or is wearing any of the races' four jersey then they will have to attend the podium presentation and drug testing.

On the podium they'll be presented with their jersey or a bouquet if they've won the stage and the photographers will take the pictures for the next day's papers.

1530 On the team bus, riders will eat something like a sandwich or a protein drink and take a shower and get changed. Then they are ferried on to their hotel for the night. With Stage 3 starting at Worcester Race Course the teams will be staying in the Worcester area overnight - generally teams will stay within 30 minutes of the stage start.

1700 At the hotel the mechanics will begin stripping down the bikes, washing them, changing tyres, swapping bar tape and altering the gearing depending on the next day's stage profile.

The riders will wait their turn for a massage; in the room the soigneurs will have setup during the day.

1930 Dinnertime for everyone, with the riders in particular wolfing down another few thousand calories by the way of more pasta, steak and bread, to replace those used up during Stage 2.

The mechanics will return back outside to carry on working on the team's bikes while the riders head back to their rooms, which they share with a team-mate. They'll chat, call home, watch TV or maybe surf the internet or watch a DVD on their laptops, while relaxing from their exertions. Some of them will take a look ahead to Stage 3, studying the profile and perhaps planning an attack on the climb of Sutton Bank above Ironbridge, in the knowledge that if they can break away on the climb, they could well stay away on the roads into Wolverhampton.

2230 It is bed time for the riders and team staff, but not for the mechanics, who will work long into the night to ensure all the bikes and equipment are ready to carry on racing in the morning.

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