2004 World Championships
This article will discuss the 2004 Mountain Bike World Championships held in Les-Gets, France. America's best riders are sent each year to the World Championships. They are supported during the week by USA Cycling and by the USA National Team Mechanics. The US Team was based out of Hotel Stella-Galaxy in Les-Gets. We prefer to have our main shop based in the team hotel. During training and competition days, mechanics also staff the USA Team tent for emergency repairs.
A successful World Championships to mechanics means first and foremost that the competition went safely for the athletes and that no one was limited by the performance of his/her machine. In order to achieve this, we begin preparation early by arranging for spare parts and necessary equipment. We take most of the tooling we require with us, but we try to arrange for an air compressor on site. Additionally, we never fly with certain fluids, such as acetone or brake fluids, and must pick these up locally.
In my 20 year involvement in elite racing, I have seen equipment become much more sophisticated and specialized. This is great for the athletes, but it makes technical support difficult. Just the rubber we must take is an example of this. We must have not only "regular" 26-inch (BSD 559) spare tires, but "mud" tires, "dry" tires, downhill tires of various types, 20 inch and 26 inch tires for trials riders, and now "29 inch" tires. Tubes are mostly in presta, but downhill tubes are also in Schrader type.
In the image below, a parts box is packed for the race. We try hard to stick to the international flight weight restrictions of 32 kilograms (70 pounds). This box will be at 65 pounds for the trip. We try to take a variety of parts. Here we have bottom brackets, headsets, spokes, chainrings, rotors, grips, and small parts. We also have tools, such as alignment gauges, compressor fittings, 220V to 110 converter, machining tools for reaming, tapping, facing, pressing headsets, and a die grinder, a favorite tool of mine. The USA flag, chain ring marks and all, flies at the USA Team Shop.
There were four mechanics in the USA Team Shop for 2004. We would work on anything and at anytime, literally. The 2004 World's mechanics included:
Calvin Jones: Mr. Jones is employed by the Park Tool Company and has 30 years experience in the cycling industry. He is an USA Cycling Mechanic Clinic Instructor and a member of the Mechanics Advisory Council. He is a license USA Cycling Mechanic and is the Manager of the USA Mechanics for the 2004 World's.
TJ Grove: Mr. Grove has worked for USA Cycling at numerous World Cups and World Championships and has worked neutral support for Mavic, Cane Creek and Shimano. Mr. Grove is an instructor at the USA Cycling Mechanics Clinic.
Matt Eames: Mr. Eames is the head tech for the Shimano® Multi-Service MTB program. He is a licensed USA Cycling mechanic with 12 years experience, including Diamondback Racing Mechanic. Mr. Eames is an instructor at the USA Cycling Mechanics Clinic.
Chip Howat Dr. Howat runs the Kurata Thermodynamics Laboratory at the University of Kansas. He has served previously as a member of the USA Team Shop at numerous World Championships, and is an instructor at the USA Cycling Mechanics Clinic.
Sunday, September 5
This is a very important day. The athletes arrive, tired from the flight and drive. The first day sets the mood for the week. The mechanics first build a bike shop out of a garage, and then we begin the assemblies. A well assembled bike will prove reliable, and there plenty of bikes to assemble. There is no competition for several days, but this is a very long, hard day. Staff and riders all could use some more sleep after the flight, but first we have some work to finish.
The bulk of the US Team. Some members are missing, such as Eric Carter, Colin Bailey, etc.
There is a lot that goes into running the team for the week we are here. The staff at the Hotel Stella could not be more helpful. The hotel is family owned and run, and provides us with everything we could want.
Besides running the desk and bar, Phillip Baud maintains this Cummings diesel generator, a tractor with back hoe, and fleet of vehicles. On the right is Jean Marc. As far as I can tell, he runs everything else.
Athletes go through a lot of food, and this 1,000mm loaf will last only one lunch
We begin solving problems immediately with the assemblies. Here, Matt and TJ repair a shifter with a bad screw head.
Monday, September 6
Training and recovery day for the riders, while everyone continues to settle into a rhythm. The repair work gets more intense. Even during training rides, there has been crashing and problems.
This trials bike has a bit of shipping damage. The adjusting barrel broke, and was still inside, making an easy-out invaluable.
The stem of this trials bike had stripped threads. The original threads were 6mm. We had bolts of 1/4-inch by 20 threads per inch, a bit larger. The stem was tapped for 1/4-inch threading. You would have trouble finding a 1/4-inch bolt in France, but as Calvin is from Park Tool, it was in stock.
The bolt head for the stripped stem above was too large, so it was ground smaller with our die grinder held in the PRS-15. Matt Eames runs the cut off wheel as a grinder, while Calvin Jones rotates the bolt, held in a nut. The wrench sizes were SAE fraction ("English"), not metric, but we also have those tools in our collective shop.
The bolt was a bit too long, making it necessary to shorten the bolt.
The hotel is home for all our disciplines, including trials. These bikes have no seat, and many have one gear. In terms of mechanical abuse and strain per mile, nothing beats trials riding. Brian Yezierski (US Trials) can move from road to rail in a blink of the eye.
There are often modifications made on site. Cam Kowall (US Trials) feels the need to widen the rear brace. It is held secure in the PRS-15. It is a shop policy to check with the mechanics for drilling, cutting, filing or hitting the bikes.
Tuesday, September 7
More training for cross country and trials today. Downhillers can walk the course and discuss strategy, and will find places to ride, places we do not want to know about.
Security is always an issue at large events. Two French Gendarme are with us for security, and every thing is bolted down. Bikes are always cabled and locked Kryptonite® tight, giving us security and peace of mind.
Some riders ride nontraditional set ups. The bike below runs only the outer ring with a 42-teeth, and a 32-teeth. The front derailleur ends up high over the ring, but if it were moved down, it would rub the inner ring with the inner cage when it shifting to the big ring. This derailleur is about 6-Euros (about 7mm) higher then the larger ring.
We have two rental vans, and today we had a flat tire before another airport run. Sam Jurekovic (XC- U23) lends a hand for the repair. Automotive lugs nuts typically run between 80 to 100 foot-pounds torque. The lug wrench here is about 12-inches (30-cm), so Sam needs to apply at least 80 pounds effort.
The bikes get very dirty, and a clean bike makes our work of finding and fixing problems easier. The PCS-9 is our rider wash stand, here holding a downhill bike. Unless you are a fit athlete like Judd Duvall (Elite Downhill) here, it is always best to brace your back before lifting these bikes.
Once again, we are working on a trials bike. Chip is removing, with force, the old race.
The new headset has a deep insertion, and the bike was not cut for this. It is reamed with the HTR-1 Reamer and Facer, here with the 769 extension for the reamer. This allows the bike to be cut for these types of headset. The headtube is now cut and ready to be cleaned, and then pressed.
Face plates on stems make bar replacement much easier. In the left image, we replaced a bent downhill bar. It is important to keep the face plate gap-to-stem even, or the bolts may bend. Secure each bolt a bit, working back and forth across the bar, until all bolts are at full torque. In the image to the right, the gap is much wider at the bottom, which again, can stress the bolt heads.
We normally do not work in gloves, but this trials rider wanted NOTHING to touch his just ground rim braking surface. The rim surface looks badly scored....well, it is. He likes it that way.
It is now 23:00 hours, that is enough for today.
Wednesday, September 8
The Team Relay Championship was today. This is one of the few team events, where one rider "hands off" to another. Mechanics take spare wheels and trainers to help the riders warm up before taking their turn. TJ and Chip will work the relay. Matt Eames is stationed at the bottom of the downhill during practice, and Calvin is in the shop. It is busy day for all of us. The USA was 8th today, with Canada winning.
We notice in the early morning one of the four relay bikes has a loose bottom bracket, which does not help the front shifting. The rider was to be our anchor, the last rider. It was critical the work be done quickly, and that the rider not see his bike apart hours before the race, but it is a change easily done. The External Bottom Bracket Crankset systems allow for quick service.
The same relay bike had a miss dished front wheel, pulled to one side. The overall spoke tension is low, so we can also correct the dish and add tension at the same time. The Shimano® system here allows you to hold the spoke from twisting.
The morning is a bit crazy, as downhillers head for the lifts, the XC people head for the trails, and the trials folk head for the pallets and logs.
Airing up for a days workout.
The bike below was repaired with a thread coil in Lugano, 2003 World Championships.. The coil had begun to pull out after another year's service. Perhaps this bike should be retired, but not now, it must be repaired. We install a threaded T-nut, called a dropout saver. The cordless drill was from a trials rider, used to buff and roughen the rim.
Tonight was the opening ceremonies, where all the riders get to meet mingle. Each nation is lead by a local school child with signs made by the children.
Shop hours today 05:30-22:00.
Thursday, September 9
Junior Women's XC Championships, trials semi-finals, and downhill seeding are today. Today is when the preparation pays off. 4-cross training is in the evening.
The downhill seeding is a "dry run" of the main event Saturday. Riders get a full run on a closed course and will test themselves and their equipment.
8-inch rotors are the norm, as they provide better leverage when braking. However, the larger the rotor, the easier they bend. When re-bending, it can be useful to number the spider arms a track the rubbing. There can be bends that simply move around the rotor.
During practice, we set up a station at the bottom of the downhill. We fix flats, hand out water, and simply provide a place to hang out. There are many factory teams here with large vehicles, all with logos. The US National Team vehicle is simply a rental.
We take only minimal parts to downhill practice, as we work out of our home base back at the hotel. This rider pinch flatted and wanted one more run before the lifts closed. His rim strip was completely shot, so we had to use blue electrical tape. This is only a temporary fix, and we will replace it later. Getting by on what we have at the time.
During the seeding runs, we go to the top with a tool roll, tubes, a pump, trainers, water, and energy bars. The water and bars are for the athletes, as the mechanics station is a source of dependability for the athletes.
On a nice day like today, the world seems a perfect place. Mount Blanc is off in the distance, Gale Dahlager (US rider, left) and April Lawyer (US rider, right) are ready. There is no rain in sight, and the bikes are dialed..
Friday, September 10
Junior Men World Championships, U23 World Championships, Trials Championships Women 20-inch and 26-inch, plus 4-cross qualifications. Also, today is downhill practice and preparation.
Today is Calvin's favorite day. There is downhill practice, and then preparation of the downhill machines.
There has been quite a bit of tapping and thread repair here. So far we are able to handle what we have seen. The taps we have include; 2mm, 3.5mm, 4mm in both 0.75 and 0.8mm pitch, 5mm x 0.8, 6mm x 1, 10 x 1, 1/4-inch x 20 and 28 tpi, 10 x 32 tpi, 9/16 x 20 tpi in left and right hand threads, and two heil coil sizes. This does not include the bottom bracket taps and reaming tools we have. It is important to carry taps so they do not touch each other.
Sometimes the best stand is the ground. The downhill bikes can be very heavy, so for only a tire change, we sometimes turn the upside down. This can cause air to seep into the brake lines, so the bike must sit a bit before use.
It is an "inside joke" that the mechanic's motto is, "Who did this?" Yet, we say this several times a day. The wheel below is laced so the valve is difficult to access. There is no reason for this, it is simply wrong, yet the wheel will work, as the rider proves. Notice the open space to the left of the valve. This is where the valve should have been lace. On the valve is a tire core tool, used to depress the core.
This derailleur wire is miss routed through the pinch bolt. This plate should have been rotated 90-degree counter clockwise, allowing the cable to sit properly in the slot.
We are sometimes asked to modify equipment, which is often reasonable. However, we try not to cut on equipment for juniors and younger riders. In the image below, the brace in the linkage is being opened for a larger shock. Matt Eames uses the cutting wheel with the hands of a skilled craftsman to slice through this brace.
There are times when there is no time for a proper repair. This rider had ripped cable housing, chewed from the chain and pivot moving. He had practice runs to make, and would be in soon. I did not want him to see his bike apart, so this repair was made. It is not a repair I am particularly proud of, but it did work. The shift housing is wire tied in this image. The housing was replaced in the evening after is day of practice, with protective tubing.
If a rider is trying to go fast in downhill, smashing the equipment is what can happen. This rim was trashed on one run. The tire would no longer hold the rim, a new wheel was required. However, amazingly this Maxxis® tire was not damaged at all, and the tube was not flat.
Some riders take good care of their equipment, and clean it often. Lubrication of the chain and pivots is important, and is best done one drop at a time. Alex Hagman (U23) know that too much lube is simply messy.
This trials parent is using a 4-inch grinding wheel on the braking surface of the rim, which can add extra stopping power.
It is important for a good mechanic to learn may different skills. Even handlebar wrapping can be useful, as in the chain protection below.
Downhill is an extreme event, even the practice days. We had a broken chain, after it jammed into the frame. We repaired this at the venue pit. The chain was inspected later to be sure it was correctly installed, which it was. Failure was not a the installation rivet.
Saturday, September 11
The mechanic staff remembers where they were on September 11, 2001. Chip, TJ, and Calvin were in a garage, and Matt was at the Shimano® truck, at Vail, Colorado, during the 2001 World Championships. It was difficult to keep our minds on our work, but the USA Team Shop was proud to represent our nation at an event attended by the peoples of the world.
In Les Gets, we have the Downhill Championships, Trials Men's semifinals 26-inch, and 4-cross Championships.
The shop puts out a lot of work. We repair many things on the spot, and the rider is off. However, if a rider leaves the bike, we write a repair ticket, getting symptoms of any problems from the rider. We could not remember every bike, and every detail, so it is recorded.
There was rain in the morning. The downhill riders came to the shop to switch to mud tires. The rain cleared and the course dried, as the photo of Luke Stobel leaving the starting gate shows.
The downhill is a very intense event. Mental preparation is critical, and riders have different techniques to get themselves ready. On the left is Chris Vandine riding a trainer, but in his mind he is seeing the turns and drops. On the right, David Klassenvanorshot study his notes on the course.
It was a long difficult hike to get to the start of the downhill. We do not bring our full box, but just roll ups and some select tools. Calvin's roll is on the top, while Matt Eames is the lower.
The venue is like a circus, and it is well attended. The course above is a small trials course for children. The bikes are provided.
There is a huge screen in town so everyone can watch. The French team celebrates a victory for Fabien Barel, after Steve Peat crashes in the last turn.
There are many trade teams and corporate programs in the venue area. Robert Vunderink runs the Shimano® Multi-Service program in Europe, and without it, there would be no worlds.
There are two team therapists, Bernard Condevaux and Larry Fox. They provide rubs, assists the medical staff when necessary, and take care of the rider feeds in the race. Bernard is working a lower back, a common problem area for mountain bikers.
Mike Carter wins the World Championship 4X. He comes from trailing in third, went high in a corner and dove down to pass both riders for the win. The event is quite a show, with Euro disco music and dancers.
The 4X is basically BMX on a the side of a mountain. The jumps get increasingly intense as the riders play the crowd.
Sunday, September 10
XC Elite Men and Women's Championships, Trials Elite Men and Junior Championships. After that, tear down and packing begins.
Rain, a slow farmers' soaking rain. But, this is Europe and this is the World's, and we are ready. TJ Grove is at the starting pit with Matt Eames, while Calvin and Chip man the garage... the easy, dry work.
The team van is a mess, with sport drink all over the floor. Keeping the vehicles clean is important, as it adds to a professional look, and shows we are proud to be here.
The medical staff also brings a lot of equipment. This is one of their "tool boxes", full of things to patch up injured riders.
Tubeless tires are common at this level, and many riders like the sealant, Stan's Notubes®. It takes practice to install, but Adam Craig here does it without spilling a drop.
The women's elite race is just over, and we hear on our team radio that Gunn-Rita Dahle of Norway wins.
The bikes are actually cleaner than the riders. This one is in need of a good wash.
One the race starts, the mechanic are not allow to do help the rider. We have spare wheels and pump hand just in case there is a problem, right up to the starting gate. Chip and TJ have the job of standing in the rain.
The downhillers have a day off, but still some cannot resist going for a ride on the downhill course again, mud and all. When you get this muddy, don't bother with a shower, just use the hose.
The new Park Tool bucket, an accessory for the PRS-15, is very useful. It keeps parts from getting lost in any service, provides a small work tray, and if you need to get around the venue with a lap top, it keeps things water proof. Calvin was showing the TCC spreadsheet to some other mechanics.
Trials finals are today, again in the rain. The crowd is quite for these efforts, as this is the "golf" of cycling. There is a lot of strategy involved and concentration.
We begin the packing. The mechanics will organize this and help, but the riders pack their own bikes. Even the coaches pack. Juri Mainus, International Competition Director, washes the bike and then packs it.
I must now leave for Zurich, and then home on Monday, so I can post no more. Tonight, the bikes are loaded on a truck. The athletes will get a 03:00 hour wake up call, and then leave for the airport.
I hope you have enjoyed seeing life from the garage.
C. Calvin Jones