The 4 Days of Dunkirk
Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a profession cycling race?
Each year I fly to Dunkirk, France for a professional UCI cycling race that serves as a warm up to the Tour de France. The race is usually 1 week long (even though the race is named the 4 days). This is my 11th year volunteering as a medical doctor for the race (many have served more than 30 years). This race means a lot to me for many reasons. My French roots are embedded in Dunkirk and it is where I learned French and its customs. It is the town where my French family lives, I have many friends in this town, I lived a French way of life that stays with me even 20 years later.
Normally, I am the doctor for a cycling team, but in this event, I am the doctor for the organization. This means that I am responsible for all of the riders and people in the caravan. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes to make a professional cycling race, it is mind blowing.
History of the race
The 4 Days of Dunkirk dates deep back to the 1955, and past winners include the likes of Bernard Hinault, Jacques Anquetil, Stephen Roche, and Freddy Maertens (all former winners of the Tour de France). Also former Paris Roubaix master Johan Museeuw has won Dunker. Dunkirk is a northern French coastal city dating back before the 1600’s as it was a major European port. Many cycling races have run through or near Dunkirk such as Paris-Roubaix, The 3 days of Flanders and the Tour de France.
It is a 4-day race traditionally but it was increased to 5 days in order to make it a 2 H.C. UCI sanctioned race. Also unique is that this race is organized by the city of Dunkirk, and not the A.S.O. (although they have been trying to buy the race for years). Most impressive, the race is not for profit and completely put on by volunteers. Over 3000 volunteers help to keep this event alive; everyone who works in committee, traffic control and medical service are volunteers. The committee must plan for 600 hotel rooms each night. The sponsors pay for the riders, hotels and the race staff. The 4 days of Dunkirk even has the same speaker as the Tour de France, Daniel Mangeas, who has been the official speaker for the Tour de France for the last 20 years. The committee of the 4 Days of Dunkirk is very proud of this fact. The race is televised on major stations and is really a promotion of the northern region of France. The race is generally held the week before the Giro d’Italia and most teams use it as training for the Tour de France.
Here’s the PDF of the article in French