A Day in the Life of Danny Van Haute, Team Director
About Danny: Now entering his 10th year as a Team Director and 8th with Jelly Belly Cycling, the man they call “The Beast” is a veteran leader. Van Haute has used his vast experience as a pro rider as well as director to create a cohesive unit that seems to get better every year. His dedication to the team and the sport has made him a much-respected figure in cycling.
What time do you wake up on race day?
I usually wake up around 6:30 AM, before the riders and staff, just to go over my check list for the day. I make sure the team vehicles are full of gas to get us through the race. I review the race plan and our strategy to win the stage. I meet with staff members. I check that the team radios are in working condition. Then I round up the riders, which is like herding cats, and send them over to the race either on their bikes or by car.
What is it like before the start of the race?
For me it's really quite easy - just saying hello to staff, shooting the breeze with other Team Directors, visiting with sponsors, and handing out Jelly Belly jelly beans to the fans. About 30 minutes before the race starts, I move the team car into the caravan staging area, behind where the riders line up for the start. I have a print out of all of the riders’ names and bib numbers that I tape to the dashboard of the car. That will come in handy when my team mechanic, who travels in the backseat with a lap full of spare wheels, follows the race commentary and determines who is doing what in the race and whether my riders need to react or just wait it out.
What is it like in the Jelly Belly team car during the race?
Once the race starts and we’ve verified that our race radio works, we follow the riders and just wait for something to happen. We listen to the officials on the radio who keep us updated on what’s going on. They call out bib numbers of riders in the breakaway and we determine whether or not they are threats. I communicate with the riders by two-way radio, each rider has a radio in his jersey pocket with an earpiece and a microphone. If a rider needs assistance or food, he will either notify me or a race official. I try to get to the rider as quickly as possible so my mechanic can jump out of the back seat and perform whatever task is necessary to get the rider back into the race as quickly as possible. That may mean anything from a wheel change to a bike change.
I also pass food and bottles to the riders during the race. Our domestique will drop back to the team car to drop off clothing like arm warmers and rain jackets that the riders no longer need and to squeeze as many water bottles into his jersey as possible. It’s not unusual for him to carry 10 or more bottles back up to his teammates.
When the race officials aren’t looking, I love to toss Jelly Belly jelly bean sample bags out the window to the spectators. It keeps my sponsor happy and the spectators go nuts. We’re the most popular team car in professional cycling!
So that team car of yours is a pretty sweet ride, isn’t it?
We’re very fortunate to have an automotive sponsor (Lexus) who provides us a car that can really stand up to the abuse of a pro-cycling race. On a technical descent, the riders are often moving faster than 50 mph so to keep up with them, I need a car that can really handle the twists and turns. Some who have survived a ride in my car have nicknamed it the “E” Ticket at Disneyland.
What happens after the race?
After the race, the riders and I pull into the team parking lot where the team cars and bus are, and I sit down with the riders and tell them how well they did. We’ll talk about the day, what went right and what didn’t. After that we pack up and head to the hotel to get ready for the next day, when we will do it all over again.