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For the fans and the riders, the Tour de France is the ultimate cycling race — but for those who maintain the tech infrastructure behind the 21-stage 3,664km extravaganza, it feels a little different.
"It is a circus," says Henri Terreaux, "and I am..." He mimes balancing on a tightrope and smiles. "It's terrific for me because every day I have problems, but the journalists don't [see] because I repair them."
Terreaux (pictured) is the technical director of Orange Events, which supplies the telecoms and networking the Tour needs — whether it's racing through a city or high in the alps. He gave ZDNet a behind-the-scenes tour at the London stage which, complete with Gendarme and French brands turned a little piece of the capital temporarily into a Paris arrondissement.
What makes the Tour more complicated than other events is that it's on the move on a daily basis, with each location throwing up new problems.
Images: Steve Ranger/ZDNet
Away from the cameras the Tour looks more like a truck stop writhing with all manner of cables. There is plenty of wi-fi around too, but solid connections are still essential — up to 25km of cable to support the 12 tonnes of IT infrastructure that needs to be moved daily.
"Today is a difficult stage and we connect 12km of cable just on The Mall. It is very complicated like an alpine stage, because this area is very long," he explains, and stewards must scour the course for any tiny pieces of debris that might cause problems for the riders.
But across the epic journey, awkward spaces are among the least of the challenges. "We have snow sometimes and trucks run on your cable and cut your cable, many things," Terreaux says.