2005 World Championships with the USA Team Shop
This article will discuss the activities of Calvin Jones of Park Tool and the USA Team Shop at the 2005 Mountain Bike World Championships in Livigno, Italy.
USA Cycling Team is selected by USA Cycling for the World Championships, held this year in Livigno, Italy. During most of the year, these elite athletes will represent and race for corporate affiliations and sponsors. This is the only race where the riders will represent the United States of America.
The USA Team is a large group and is very diverse. It includes athletes for cross country, downhill, trials, and 4-cross. Some of the riders will have their own team support staff, but for the majority of athletes, USA Cycling provides support services. The USA Team Shop is the technical support for these riders, and any USA rider that needs our assistant. My role for this race is to organize and run the technical support the riders supported by USA Cycling. I work to make this race a special event for the athletes.
We will have about 60 bikes to service, and work from 06:00 to 22:00 everyday. I want mechanics that are not only technically good, but are willing to work and have the people skills needed to work with athletes.
Our flag is the same one we fly at each USA Team Shop. Left to right in the photo are:
Thomas Drane: Thomas works for the U23 program out of the Olympic Training Center.
TJ Grove: TJ is the mechanic for the USA Cycling U23 program.
Calvin Jones: I am the Educational Director at Park Tool and I manage the USA Team Shop at MTB World's.
Than White: Than is a technician for the Shimano Multi Service program.
For the mechanics of the USA Team Shop, pre-race preparation is everything. Planning for the World's begins 6 months ahead. There are spare parts to source out, staff to select, logistics to arrange, and conference calls to schedule.
Being mechanics at a mountain bike event, we need a lot of tooling and parts, compared to the road events. The MTB bikes are very diverse in spec, some with one-off custom systems. We try very hard to pack lighter then the 70 pound limit, with only two bags. Excessive weight above the limit, or a third piece of luggage, is very expensive. My bag is 67 pounds, and my tool box is 66 pounds.
Using the Park Tool commercial scale to insure my bag weight is under the maximum allowed.
We arrive in Zurich, Switzerland, and drive to a rented van to the Park Tool distributor in Switzerland, Velok . Park Tool works with exclusive distributors in over 30 countries, and Velok is holding repair stands for us. You may have noticed I did not fly with a repair stand. We shipped stands to Velok, allowing each of us to bring more parts and other tooling on the plane.
TJ loads up extra gear from Velok.
It is a four hour drive to Livigno, and we look for stores along the way. It is Sunday, and we find very little open. I prefer to fly with everything we need, but some products are simply too mess, and some are illegal and dangerous to have in your luggage. We hunt for soap for bike washes, acetone to clean brake rotors, DOT 3 brake fluid, mineral based brake fluid, degreasing cleaners, and adhesive glues.
We get to our home for the next week, the Hotel Alaska. We will are provided work space which we turn into the shop.
The Hotel Alaska, with a perfect washing area in front
Than install saddles on seat posts for the technical pit.
Park Tool products are sold worldwide by retailers, and in Livigno we are lucky to find DeFox Sports. DeFox sees a lot of work on the downhill bikes, and are a great local resource. Laura and Flavio of DeFox loan us an air compressor for the week, which is practically mandatory for our work with the tubeless tire systems. Without one, it can be difficult to get the tires to seat their bead correctly.
DeFox both sells and uses Park Tool products on a daily basis.
As the name implies, the USA Team Shop is modeled after a professional retail store. If all costs were amortized into an hourly rate, we would be getting a $210 per hour shop rate. While we are worth worth every penny of that rate, we charge nothing. However, we our proud of our professional attitude of service and accountability. We write a repair ticket up for each bike, which allows us to track our work. Athletes and managers will drop off a bike and pick it up later, and the ticket lets us triage the repairs and track what needs to be done. Need a wheel built, a headset installed, bottom bracket tapped, any component installed, tuned, adjusted, or something just bailing-wired, drilled, glued, and/or bolted together? You have come to the right place, the USA Team Shop.
. Our first repair is for a trial rider. A dented rim wall needs to be pushed back, so Than hold the rim flat while TJ give it just the right touch
Before the riders arrive, I am able to visit the expo area. We need parts from both Shimano and SRAM. Park Tool is seen all through the expo area, both at the neutral support and corporate programs.
The Shimano Tech area.
The SRAM Tech area.
At 14:00 hours the riders arrive all at one in a bus, and the madness begins. They have been on the plane all night and then a bus, and just cant wait to ride. We perform quick checks on the bikes, but we will need to do a detailed review later.
Yesterday was a long day. I began at 06.30 and we closed the shop at 23.00. Granted, an hour of that was finding a coffee shop open early, not an easy task here. The day has gone well, and I am proud of my staff, as we see the repair tickets start to stack up.
During this early work, each bike that goes up in a stand will get a "bolt check." This is a systematic check of every fastener on the bike. A wrench will be put to each bolt and nut, each chain rivet is inspected, and all cables are checked for fraying or broken wires. Each of us has a different colored piece of tape we place under the bottom bracket, indicating to one another that this bike has been checked over. It is likely we will see these bike repeatedly, and knowing that the bike has been checked over by our staff will save us time.
A good day's work, and it is just day one.
It is not until 21.45 last night that I am rewarded with a prize, something that makes the entire trip worth the effort. The bolt below is a 6mm x 1mm socket head cap screw. While all fasteners are secured by tightening until they stretch, this bolt was stressed to the point where it exceeded the yield point of the metal, but not enough to exceed the bolt's tensile strength. The bolt is not stripped, but rather it is "necked down." Necking occurs from over-tightening. Notice the both the thinning of the bolt diameter and what is occurring to the thread pitch. This bolt was right on the edge of failure. You rarely see a bolt necked down, as they just appear to break.
This stem bolt will no longer threaten our rider.
Today is the Team Relay, a great event pitting nation against nation. Only one rider per country is on the course at a time. Strategy is critical, and the USA Team Manager Matt Cramer must hand it his start order before the race begins. There are two men and two women per team. Matt's order is Adam Craig (Elite Men), Sam Shultz (U-23), Kyle Hammaker (Junior Men) and finishing the team is Mary McConneloug.
This is the first world championships to use Technical Pits. In past years, a rider was on his/her own. If there was a problem, they had to deal with it with what they brought with them. With the new Technical Pits, the rider must still do all the work, but they may be provided with tools and parts. Again, this is the first year for these rules, and even the officials are figuring out how the pits should run. Thomas and TJ will work the Technical Pits.
Downhill riders are practicing as well. There is no such thing as an "easy" downhill run on this course. One rider twists a chain and bends a derailleur. If I can fix it quickly, he will be able get one more run for the day. It will not shift into the highest gear, so I adjust it as a 8 speed and get him on his way to catch a lift up to the top.
A great day to be working in the Alps.
The trials riders are practicing and getting their equipment ready. The rims are often ground to provide a rough surface for hydraulic caliper brakes.
Brain Yezierski relaxes with a little rim grinding.
The trials riders can practice most anywhere, and there are large rocks just in front of the Hotel Alaska. These are perfect for messing around and doing some hops.
A little rocking fun.
It will be a big day today. We must cover the Junior Women's Cross Country Championships, the Junior Men's Championships, the downhill seeding, as well as the downhill practice in the morning. In addition, the cross country events have technical pits to cover. Tonight, there is 4X training. By the end of the day, we will have earned our pasta, ice cream and espresso. That is if there is time to eat.
There are three technical pits. The only technical exchange we make was for a helmet switch. Kyle Hammaker was ahead of a rider who crashed, and a flying bike smashed the helmet. Kyle was fine, but you need a helmet to finish the race. He stops and grabs a new helmet and is off.
There are riders using the pits today for wheel changes and broken chains. The mechanic can point to tools and talk to the rider, but you cannot even hand the rider a tool.
The Team USA Technical Pit tool set up.
Bernard Condevaux, team therapist, feeding our juniors. He just fed one rider a faction of a second ago, but as a true pro in his field, his eyes are already down the trail, searching for more of stars-and-stripes to feed.
A Canadian rider begins his repair of the chain. Note the bike is laying flat on the ground, a mistake for easy service.
The rider is still attempting to install in the chain, as the mechanic talks him through the procedure. Notice here the mechanic had him lean the bike on the table, making the work easier.
The 4X is a fast, short downhill event, with several riders on the course at the same time. It is a big hit with the fans. The bikes vary from downhill bikes, as they are much lighter and smaller.
A poma lift carries the riders up to the start of the 4X at a walking pace, which makes for a very odd sight.
The 4X riders love "big air," even during practice runs.
"High Fives" from the kids for US rider Eric Carter, defending 4X World Champion.
Downhill seeding is more relaxed then the finals. Than White and I haul up only small tool kits and no repair stand. However, we also bring wind trainers for warm up, and by the time we get there they feel like 50 pounds each. Our job this afternoon is to mount and dismount the bikes, and that is about it. Our early prep work is paying off, but we did help a Ukrainian rider. It is my policy that we help any rider we can with service, as long as our USA riders are covered first. (Clarification: We like to help anyone, even competitors, but there are limits. During the XC racing, the tech pits may decide the race, and we service and help only the USA riders.)
Kyle Strait blasting out of the starting gate for his downhill seeding run.
I try to squeeze in some editing and writing when I can. This is at the top of the downhill between USA riders on their seeding runs.
Trials begins today. There are a series of venues and courses where the athletes complete. They begin at the expo, but will also travel to the woods. Trials is the "golf" of cycling. Concentration is critical, and the audience does not even yell during competition. There is a score card each rider keeps that will determine the World Champion.
A swiss rider negotiates the rocks in front of a huge crowd.
Today begins with downhill training. Yesterday was seeding, and tomorrow will be the finals. Than covers the bottom of the gondola, Tom and TJ are the mechanics for the U-23 Championships. I am the house-mechanic today.
There are five U-23 riders, and the bikes are dialed the night before. We get some other business in the morning, from the Elite Women. We double check shifting, and make adjustments to limit screws. Settings that seem adequate during training may cause serious issues during competition. We also change some tires, and some of the tubeless are very problematic to seat. One bubbles at the bead, right where there are ridges from the molding.
A chain almost over shifting off the outer ring. A loose limit screw is the type of detail that we catch.
A leaky tubeless tire bead. Notice the ribs built into the tire, and the bubbles leaking at those points.
It is quiet at the hotel when the cross country riders leave. I get ready for Saturday, attending to details, like fixing the dolly. The bikes come back for the final prep, and there is plenty to do. This is my favorite day. There are downhill bikes to fix, it is quiet, and there is time to do a thorough job.
Downhill finals preparation begins today. The Hotel Alaska loans us a dolly, as we have tents, trainers, stands, tools, water and snacks up the hill on Saturday.
This is a downhill bike. The hydraulic brake tubing was crushed but not broken. The fork swings over during crashes and smacks the frame. We have polyurethane tubing, which we use as protection in that area. The strong Hayes® tubing did not leak at the crushed area. However, you could feel it expand at the pinch as you pulled the lever. Expansion would not cause brake failure, but it robs performance and results in "mushiness." We replace the line.
The new for 2006, DT-2 is great for aligning rotors. It is useful to number the rotors to help isolate the bends and to track your progress. The DT-2 bends at either the rotor spider or at the outer perimeter. If the bend is at a spider, but the spider accordingly. If the bend is between spiders, bend at the outer perimeter.
In the evening, the 4X riders head up for the qualification runs. It is rough 60 seconds on the bikes, and some riders go down hard. The team medical staff, Nurse Karen Eberhard, Dr. Glen Kotz, and Dr. Mark Purnell, attend to the injuries.
Melissa Buhl, a 4X rider, has a wrist injury. Dr. Glen Coats, team doctor, recommends padding on the left grip. I use Salsa® road handlebar tape to build up the center of the grip and cushion the pounding.
Mike King, a 4X rider, likes to adjust his bar tilt often. This time, however, one bolt strips, and just 15 minutes before he leaves for the 4X qualifying night. Being from Park Tool in the USA, I have with me 1/4 inch bolts, the bolt that hold America together. The 1/4 inch bolt require a slightly larger hole. TJ and I drill and then tap the lower right bolt.
The lower right bolt here is actually a 1/4 inch thread, not a M6. The fix is a good one, the bolt pulls up tight and he has no problems in the race. One problem for Mr. King will be the wrench sizing. 3 bolts use a 5mm hex wrench. Mike need only get the Park Tool AWS-12, a hex wrench with both SAE fractional sized and metric sized hex wrenches.
Trials continues today with the stock class. They must have gears, but the riders don't ride bikes you get "off the shelf" at your local bike shop.
There is no saddle, and no place to put one if you wanted one. Notice the shifter, which the rules state they must have. They have no intention of shifting, as they know the gear they want.
Here is 6 speed, sort of. It is a 15, 15, 13, 15, 12, 16. The derailleur has no pivot spring at the mounting bolt.
One of our trials riders getting in some practice "on the rocks."
This is no training, our rider is negotiating a course. He must drop down into that ditch, but not put his foot down.
Last night it rained, and the riders were all talking about breaking out their "mud tires" so the clay does not pack up in the thread.
Chris VanDine is a senior man downhiller, and he enjoys working on his machine. Tire pressure is important to the riders, and he keeps careful track of what his Maxxis® tires are holding.
This Michelin® tire is an example of a mud tire. The spikes hold less clay and do not easily pack up. However, on dry conditions, this design is slower.
The USA pit at the top of the gondola. This start area could not be better. Brandon Newton stretches just before his run.
I like to put the start times of the USA riders right on the repair stand. I then synchronize my watch to the official time. This way, if a there is a last minute technical problem, I can see exactly how much time I have to get the rider to the gate.
This bike belongs to Chris VanDine. Last night he put on his mud tires, but today it is beautiful and sunny. It turns out to be the USA mechanics who must then change back to his standard Maxxis tires.
US downhill rider Travis Bond talks with the locals. Everyone here has been friendly and welcoming.
The downhill starting gate is right next to our pit, making our job easy.
This event is great for spectators, and they come from around the world. These fans are from Brazil.
Travis Bond and Kyle are warming up before their runs. The top platform of the gondola is a great place to call home for a few hours. Today for the finals, we did no technical work, and it was good to see the bikes working so well.
This is the expo and race venue area. We do not work out of the expo, we work out of the hotel. It will be warmer, calmer, better light at night, and it is where the athletes are staying. The expo area is certainly fun, practically a party, but I would rather the USA Team Shop be a bit more quiet. The Hotel Alaska is below the blue arrow.
TJ is prepping for Sunday's XC Championship. He uses the paper towel holder PTH-1 to hold wheels while installing Stan's® NoTube fluid. The trick is to install one bead on the rim. Then hang the wheel on the PTH-1, pour in the fluid, and then begin at the bottom to slowly work your way up on both side, pushing the bead on the rim. Finish at the top, and always have some floor cover under the tire.
This evening is the 4X, and there will be an ocean of people below watching. I will be at the top of the start with Than White. TJ and Tom Drane will be at the bottom.
Just getting to the will be interesting. I ride Mike King's backup bike with the trainer attached, all my start tools, and the Park Tool pump. These poma lifts are not as easy as they look, so it takes me a couple of tries to get on. I finish at the top of the lift with a spectacular crash, and in front of all the riders. Just what I needed to instill confidence.
A 4X start, which begins with the slamming of the starting gate. The blur of "stars and bars" in the image is defending World Champion, Eric Carter.
Chris Vasquez, known on the circuit as Monkey, uses a GSC-1 to clean the tread of Brian Lopes. The tires need immediate bite at the start, and the narrow stiff bristles of the GSC-1 are perfect to get between the knobs.
Brian Lopes decides he wants a bigger gear ratio for the finals. Monkey has a lockring remover and wrench, but no chain whip. I will act at the chain whip by using a thick rag to grab the sprockets while Monkey tries to loosen the lockring. It is like an arm wrestling contest, with the cassette in the middle. I cannot lose this contest, and I don't, but blood is drawn. Monkey gets the ring off, and the new gear on. Than White provides working light with flashlight and the helps Monkey by acting as a human PRS-15 Repair Stand to hold the bike. Brian Lopes then goes on to win a gold metal. It was a great night, and the bleeding will stop with some compression.
Race day for elite women and men. TJ is the lower technical pit, and Tom is at the upper technical pit. Than White will cover the start. The pits are busy for several countries, including us. Riders are coming in with sliced tires. It is interesting we did not see this in the juniors and U-23. The course is the same, but the riding is more intense.
The thing between the two stem bolts is a piece of pipe cleaner. The theory is to stuff this into a tire slice to help fill the hole, and give the tire sealant something to cling to and stop a leak. The trick did not work for this rider, our top placed American. The hole to too small to stuff this in, and too large for the sealant to block. He had to came into the technical pit for a wheel change, costing him several places.
Back at the base shop, it is packing day for everyone not racing. We borrow a scale from the Hotel Alaska to check we are not over the weight limit. If a rider is over weight, it is best to leave tires. There is a stack of tires 4 feet tall be the time the bikes are packed.
This is the entrance to the USA Team Shop, where all the real fun happens. Tom is just leaving the "cave" where we store some excess equipment. Doors are kept locked, and bikes are cabled, as theft is always a concern at these events.
This bike is getting packed up for the trip home. This rear brake caliper is using a safety wire tie on the bolts. In the image, the left bolt is pulled clockwise, but the bolt on the right is pulled counter-clockwise. It is of no significance, however, as the purpose of the safety wire is to keep the bolt in the hole and to stop if from flying off. Safety wire does not add any kind of extra tension and prevent the bolt from loosening. These bolts require about 60-70 inch pounds of torque to tighten. Assume the bolt head outside diameter is about 5/16 inch (8mm). It would require a pull of about 380 pounds force at the edge of the bolt to equal 60 inch pounds. This is good quality wire, but it will never exert that kind of load. What keeps this bolt from loosening? Simply tension from being tight in the first place.
The racing must be very close. The TV helicopter is right over the Hotel Alaska, while Mary Mcconneloug washes her Seven® cross country bike on a PCS-9 Repair Stand. She just finished seventh at the World's, only 30 minutes ago. But that race is the past, and it is already time to start thinking about the next one.
It is now late at night. The bikes are packed away, the shop is closed and returned to a basement. We thank the staff of the Hotel Alaska for putting up with the USA Team. They worked hard to see we had a great week.
Chef's Frederico and Riccardo behind the scene in the kitchen at the Hotel Alaska.
Bug out day, or should I say morning. We load bikes on the bus at 04:45, roll over the Alps to Zurich, and then get our flight home to the USA.
It is "O' Dark Thirty', as they say. Rider drag their bikes up from the hotel, stumble into the bus, and then our out like a light.
The BW-1 Backpack Workstation fits great into the overhead bin on our UAL flight. Just remember to remove all your tools before check in.
The 2005 USA Cycling Team consisted of:
Elite Mens XCAdam Craig, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, Michael Broderick, Carl Decker
Elite Womens XCMary Mcconneloug, Willow Koerber, Shonny Vanlandingham, Kelli Emmett, Heather Irmiger
Mens U23 XCSam Schultz, Nick Waite, Andy Schultz, Nick Ranno, Sam Jurekovic
Junior Mens XCColin Cares, Michael Cummings, Mitchell Peterson, Kyle Hammaker, Tristen Uhl
Junior Women XCDanae York, Chloe Foresman
Elite Mens DHCody Warren, Chris Van Dine, Geritt Baytagh, Curtis Keene, David Klaassenvanoorschot
Elite Womens DHKathy Pruitt
Junior Men DHTravis Bond, Kyle Strait, Brendon Newton, Kyle Adams
Mens 4CrossBrian Lopes, Kyle Strait, Robin Baloochi, Cody Warren, Eric Carter, Mike King
Womens 4CrossJill Kintner, Tara Llanes, Melissa Buhl, Leanna Gerrard
TrialsRyan Cecil, Brian Yezierski, Cameron Kowall, Edward Gildea, Jeremy VanSchoonhoven