Sarah has driven the broom wagon since 2007. It's a long time to be picking up racers who stop racing. To the fan, the broom wagon signifies the passage of the peloton, the time to wind down the fun. The real purpose of the broom wagon is to sweep the course of riders left behind. The tired, poor, huddled masses - ok the quitters.
For those with the stomach bugs, accumulated injuries that disallow the body to fight, cells depleted of energy, or hearts defeated - there is a place of sanctuary in the midst of a bike race. A quiet ride in the back of a car where a rider can question their life as a bike racer and yet somewhere along the miles find comfort and their reason for racing.
The driver who carries those war-torn riders needs to be a special soul. Her name is Sarah, and she is part nurse, part technical support, part friend. And a darn good driver who drives miles through throngs of fans, over mountain passes and into city blocks. Sarah alone navigates the broom wagon at the Amgen Tour of California and the USA Pro Challenge.
"What do you keep in here?" I asked of Sarah as I peered in the back seat of her shinny black Dodge Caravan. "Oh they know I have cookies," she shared with me. "Cookies, aren't you giving them an incentive to get inside the car?" I replied. She smiled back at my comment and added that she also has twizlers, drinks and sometimes even sandwiches.
"Do you know when they want to talk and when it is best to be quiet?" "OH yes," Sarah responded, understanding that being in the broom wagon is not the intention or hope of any bike racer at the start of a stage.
The broom wagon is a long tradition in the competitive sport of multi-day stage races. First placed on course to support riders in the 1910 Tour de France after riders complained that the course was too difficult and wanted assurance they would not be left out in the high cold mountains of the French Pyrenees. The broom wagon is now included in the long line of support vehicles at UCI races as a requirement.
This vehicle gets used. Count them - 5 bike racks and 5 seats inside, plus Sarah the kind-hearted driver.
|Very fitting that the broom wagon is sponsored by Bissell (vacuum cleaners)|
|The car that no rider wants to see the inside of, but inside lie the riches of cookies and sandwiches and a smiling Sarah.|
|Ok, no - this is a joke, this was actually the back seat of the Nissan KOM RV that was at the race handing out free tshirts to all of us. Sarah's prority is rider safety, the bikes go on top of the car.|
|Sarah and her brooms on the broom wagon|
|Sarah coming through on Vail Pass|
|The last passage of the broom wagon on Stage 7 into Denver after 599 miles of racing and many more miles of transfers.|
Sarah drives the official broom wagon, as opposed to the sweeper/sign picker-upper truck. Its purpose is to clean the course and collect all signage. If Sarah's car is full, they have a second backup vehicle on route able to carry riders safely home.
|The official 'Routing and Signs' Truck, which carries brooms but is a cheap imitation of the real broom wagon.|
UCI rule 2.2.030 A rider dropping out of the race must immediately remove his body number and hand it to a commissaire or to the broom wagon. He may not cross the finish line. Unless he is injured or feels seiously sick, he must travel in the broom wagon.
UCI rule 2.3.016
Technical support for every mixed team will be provide by a neutral vehicle. The organizer must ensure that there are at least 3 other adequately equipped neutral support vehicles (cars or motorcycles) and a broom wagon.
UCI rule 2.3.029
Riders may only receive technical support from the technical personnel of their team or from one of the neutral support cars or else from the broom wagon.
Finishes and timekeeping
UCI rule 2.3.040
... time keeper commissaires shall continue to officiate until the broom wagon appears.
Next time the race is in town, be sure to follow the adventures of Broom Wagon Sarah on Twitter at @broomwagon
Met the original U.S. broom wagon driver Mr. Barbie Brewer. What an honor! pic.twitter.com/o74IANrz
— Broom Wagon Sarah (@broomwagon) August 24, 2012
@karenrake only two riders but a lot of driving! Loved the routes. It was so nice to meet you! You have a very positive spirit! :-)Read more: The Broom Wagon - a Tour de France rider's biggest fear. By Graham Jones for BBC
— Broom Wagon Sarah (@broomwagon) August 30, 2013