Originally Posted by Yellow Pig
How does the bivouac work: Is it just show up and take a spot or are they assigned by the ASO?
The ASO sets up a perimeter around a huge area for the bivouac. They set up the catering areas, showers, organization area, media area, helicopter landing area, medical tents, etc. all before the crews get there. ASO does this by having 2 complete sets of equipment which leapfrog the event in 2 truck caravans so they get 2 days to go from bivouac to bivouac. In Africa, they used to fly the whole huge kit in a few huge old Russian military cargo planes, complete with shirtless vodka-swilling Russian crews.
Once the bivouac is set up, it is first-come, first-served with respect to setting up the teams' pits. When we had 2 trucks, we would send the first out very early so that it could get to the bivouac first and get a shady spot near the food, but not too close to the toilets, and in a quiet corner so the crew and riders could sleep. This is actually a critical part of running a good support crew. Our second truck would sweep the course and try to follow the riders on liaisons whenever possible. Robb, Tim and Ted have a challenge with only one truck, but there are some other teams that they can cooperate with to support the riders. Patsy's team actually has our old second truck and we work with her most years.
Robb is particularly good at getting out of the bivouac quickly and high tailing it to the next bivouac to get a good spot. We usually beat Robby's team to the bivouac, even though they have many support vehicles. I remember one time when we got a better spot and Robby chewed out his team for his crappy spot. In the past, and maybe this year too, Robb sometimes holds a spot for Robby's crew when he can. That can be difficult since RG's team needs about half an acre to set up.
In Africa, the assistance crews often had to cross difficult dunes and navigate long off-road stretches using roadbook and GPS, especially in Mauritania. That's where a good team and truck could really shine and could make a huge difference to the competitors. Our crew and F350s did very well there. Plenty of teams got lost or stuck and plenty of riders in Africa became orphans when their assistance dropped out.