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Calvin's Corner

2008 MTB World Championships

This article will discuss the technical aspects of the 2008 MTB World Championships. The most recent news will be posted at the top.

See also related articles: 2001 USA / 2003 Italy / 2004 France / 2005 Italy / 2007 Scotland / 2009 Australia / 2010 Canada

This year, the UCI MTB World Championships are June 17-21, not in the usual September. The Olympics are in August, so it is common to run the World's early, as no one would particularly pay much attention to a world champion crowned after there is an Olympic champion.

The World's are hosted in Val di Sole ("Valley of the Sun"), Italy. These are Dolomites, the Alps at their best.  Mountain flowers, soaring peaks, great food, interesting history, a complex culture, and friendly people. I just hope someone will be enjoying it all. As for me, I will be at work in my cave...also known as the hotel garage.

The 2008 USA Mountain Bike Team at the Hotel Almazzago. Click the photo for a high resolution image.


The USA Team Shop for 2008. Left to right: Chris Magerl, Brad Cole, TJ Grove, Calvin Jones, and Than White. The flag is the shop flag, and dates from 9/11/2001.


June 23

Concluding Thoughts

The team left last night, at 02:30. This year, I did not partake of the joys of this bugout. The charted bus pulls up in the cover of darkness. Mechanics direct the loading of the bikes. Athletes stumble on board, and away it goes, lurching north to Munich, a 5 hour ride. I will be staying behind for a while, and will attempt to document the cycling world as I come across it.

2008 USA Team Shop has performed well. Like that other profession, we strive to "first, do no harm." Bikes were fixed, and problems were solved. I feel the riders were fairly treated, and that their machines did not hinder their pursuit of excellence.

A side note to our ornithologist-home-mechanics. Our family in the garage has thrived. The two working parents never hit one rider, or dropped anything in an inappropriate place. These adult birds are professional, and were a joy to watch as they raised their family. The little chicks have seen a lot of work the last ten days. If only they could talk, well, besides cheep, cheep, cheep. Our job here is done, and the riders take flight. Our days of constantly flying to and fro supplying bugs (perhaps debugging is better) will begin again some other time.

Our five little chicks are getting their flight feathers. I will miss seeing them take their first flight out of the nest.


June 22

The final day, elite women and elite men XC championships. It has been a good week for the shop. We are strong at our core, bike preparation. This shop tries to exemplify service to others. Each year, I make a logo for the shop that tries to symbolize what we are about. Borrowing from the race logo, this is what we try to do:

The bar is set pretty high in this shop: electrical work, security duty, water carrying, construction, oh, and some bike repair.


The shop empties and gets quiet as bikes are packed. His racing is finished, so what's a bored XC junior rider to do? Stand on your head and walk on your hands, of course.


TJ Grove, former navy man, cannot help but salute when he sees a flag. Actually, the flag is the mechanic's shop flag. We take it to the race start to identify our tent. This makes it easier for other team mechanics to find us.


We have some unique zip ties from QBP, an industry friend of the shop. These are a double head and allow you to lock the zip tie for extra security.


Beer! Seems to be beloved by the bicycle crowd, and bicycle mechanics especially. There are parties and just plain drinking at the expo area. It is all good and fun, when in the right company and at the right time. My choice? #1- whatever you're having. #2- something cold. #3-Newcastle Nut Brown Ale. But not in this shop, and never until the work is over. No beer for us and no beer visitors. This includes coaches, managers, staff, and riders. Sound odd I should have to say no beer of riders? It is. To state it clearly, no one, including riders, may drink beer in this shop. I also ask my staff not to have a beer until work is over for the day, so you can imagine the amount of drinking time that allows. I will not have an athlete thinking that drinking is part of our work. If we mess up, it will be our mistake, all of it, with no excuses. Beer will not enter into the equation.

The expo area was full of brown broken glass. This one appears to have been a wheat beer. Hope it wasn't a mechanic that tried to puncture the athlete's tires right before the race.


Park Tool stands will hold gently or firmly, you control the pressure. Just don't bring that beer into this shop.


June 21

Downhill finals, a very intense day for us. First there is practice, where anything can happen. Flat tires, bent wheels, smashed derailleurs, fork changes, and of course, the dreaded tire changes. The weather is dry, so we luck out, they are running the same tires. The bikes are dialed and the riders come to the top. We set up trainers, water, energy goo, and ourselves under some trees for shade. This is a well tuned routine. I am with the rider, my watch is synced to the official clock. With about 10 minutes to go I pull the rider and send them down to TJ Grove in the start box. TJ has water, tools, and encouraging words. They enter the gate, and then it is time to perform.

In our forested area again for finals.


Our remaining downhill juniors at the top relax next to a stream. Left to right: Naish Ulmer, Joey Schusler, Kevin Aiello, Graeme Pitts. Missing from a crash in seeding, Dustin Belcher


Downhill Elite rider Kain Leonard is on the trainer before his run. He closes his eyes to visualize the run and the lines he want to take.


There is more and more titanium appearing on the downhill bikes, and I am not convinced I like it. Titanium, the heaviest of the light metals, can be used in fasteners, but it is a very hard metal. Because it is very hard to form and work with, the heads for a hex wrench are often very shallow. Inspect a steel bolt cap head screw, and then a ti. Notice the difference of wrench engagement. Always prep a ti bolt, always use a good wrench with a fresh end, always keep the tool exactly aligned. Or, perhaps, don't worry about a ti bolt on a bike that hurts your back to pick it up.

Ti bolts hold the through axle of this fork. Note the shallow wrench fitting.


Yes, that is a skin suit of Graeme Pitts. I am not sure he has seen the wind tunnel test on his bike, but he knows it is a good look, and that is important.

The World Championships includes XC racing, downhill, 4X, and trials. Trials are based on skill, not speed. You must proceed through a course and not dab or touch the ground. The trials are taking place about 10 kilometers down the road in Male.

(Photo credit Michael Friddell)
Our Trials rider, Jonathan Tollerud - Elite 20-inch, in competition.


(Photo credit Michael Friddell)
Vaughn Micciche is competing in the 26-inch. He is closely watched by the judges.


Communication among staff is critical at events such as the World Championships. There is a lot going on and a lot of responsibilities. Each day the mechanics gather together for a round table meeting, reviewing what went well, what went less well, and what we need to do for the next day. The riders are asked to take their riding to the next level, and I ask that of my mechanics as well. We work 16 hour days.

After our meeting, Chris relaxes a bit, and then drifts off. The flag behind him is our shop flag. The downhill riders wanted to use it to cheer on the 4X riders, and it seems to have worked.


We repair whatever needs fixing, including windows. Turns out that staying in the shop at night was a good idea. At 03:00, flashlights were seen in this window. The window chain had been cut. Thanks to my martial arts skills, all was safe. This means I stumbled around for the radio and that kicked off the automatic lights.


(Photo credit Chris Magerl)
Normally we ask the athletes to wash their own machines. However, this is an Olympic year, and if you are on the Olympic Team, you get a free wash-my-bike pass. Next year, however, "there's the bucket, get to it" will be our motto.


Small tricks can help speed you. When installing a rim strip, keep it aligned by placing a screwdriver such as the SD-2 through the strip and into the rim. This keeps the strip from sliding around.


June 20

The G-4 is back up and running. I am behind but here are some things that have been going on.

TT Grove installs a transponder, which are required for each race bike. This keeps track of the number of laps and the finish times.


Sam Jurekovic had an epic crash in the U-23, puncturing the frame, destroying the front wheel, and even ripping off his transponder. The frame holds together, a statement on the strength of these light machines. Still, Sam will need a new bike after this one.


North, south, east, west, who's the shop that's the best? USA Team Shop without a doubt. We pull the race bikes for that day to keep them separate.


Each night we was cable all the bikes and then lock them up with Kryptonite Locks. This just lets us sleep all the easier.


June 19

Chris Magerl has his race face on, and that is appropriate. Today is a World Championships for the Junior Women and U-23 Women. Chris is scanning the starting box for any signs of trouble. He's packing tools and wheels just in case.


Seeding day for the downhill. We make a nice little camp on the mountain. Trainers and bikes are set up for the riders to warm up before their race.


June 17

Rain, again, in the Vale di Sole, the Valley of the Sun. "Sole" is sun, I think, but maybe I need to look that up. No matter, today we will see DH practice and then the Team Relay. I love the relay, each nation selects 4 riders: one woman, one U-23 man, one junior man, and one elite man. One lap each, and you must "tag off" before starting your lap.

Yesterday was a DH course walk. I like to go along to see what will be causing the smashed parts I will be soon seeing. "Oh yeah, you mean the rock below the big spruce, next to the creek, that one?"

The downhill course. Intense, isn't it? Look carefully at the course and select the line. Here's Calvins DH tip-of-the-day: Avoid the blue things, avoid the big roots, go fast.


A walk in the woods, along a "badical" course. "Badical," I must make a note because I really just came here to increase my vocabulary.


These fork tabs slow wheel changes, and are to be removed. Brad Cole does so with a cut off wheel and a hand drill. Luckily he has a steady hand and a keen eye.


A seat stay that is on the way to failure. This was caught by the rider, which shows that paying attention to your equipment can make a difference. We find a new frame and swap all the parts.


The food here in incredible. The Hotel Almazzago dining room is lovely, just what would be in the tourist guide books. You can have it, there is nothing like the abidance of a big cement garage full of bikes needing work.

Preparation is the heart and soul of this shop. The bikes need to leave here ready. However, we are not looking for more work, but sometimes a "project bike" runs into you. My prediction is that a particular Yeti will cause several hours of pain and suffering for me and my staff.

How many mechanics does it take to fix this Yeti? It appears three. Bearing installation into suspension systems is always interesting, and here we use my new walking stick, the best thing I've picked up here.


June 16

The work as really begun. It is 0:12 when I am posting this, but I will leave it as June 16. We are packed with machines of all sorts. All are tucked away, safe under the eye of Chris for the night.

Chris Magerl has completed his first repair ticketed job. During the days to come, he helps the pile of completed tickets grow and grow.


Attention to details makes all the difference. Chris files a dropout when the hanger just didn't quite fit right.


We now have the full team. XC riders, trials, and Gravity. Wednesday promises to be just as busy.


Joey Schusler, the cause of much pain and suffering in the shop, but much joy and learning as well, injects Park Tool Polylube 1000 into the zerk for a smooth sliding Yeti DH breech.

I finally get to the expo area to meet Julie from the promoters office. She is on the cell phone at the same time directing the entire operations. Of course, being in Italy, I bring her a PZT-2 Pizza Cutter from Park Tool. It turns out, she's Canadian. Oh, Canada! That's what you get in our international cycling family.

I present Julie with the PZT-2

We perform what we call a Bolt Check. This is not a performance tune, but simply seeing that everything is tight. We sign off with sticker under the bottom bracket so I can track our work.

If this bike messes up, I will have to have a talk with this guy.


There are more and more of the star-shaped fittings on bikes, making the TWS-2 the perfect tool. This machine is well prepared, this athlete must be serious about their racing.

Morning arrived for me down in the shop. I took the first night's shift on guard duty, and knowing the bikes are safe will allow me some sleep as well. Besides, later in the week, when I am really tired, I can now assign this task to another mechanic.

The evening's work is finished and it's time for some rest. Two pages of this book should do the trick for a night cap.


June 15

We have some problems, but not here. There have been flight delays due to weather. However, some riders are already in Europe and are arriving by car. Good thing we tidied up this morning.

Once again we learn our humble place, as it is necessary clean up after our garage mates, Mr. and Mrs. Swallow and their babies.


The British are in the area. Their Chief of Team knows the importance of a clean professional look.


The hotel again is accommodating to our unusual requests. As we lack a large watch dog, we will instead trade off spending the night here. Time to draw for the short spokes after the work is done for who stay the first night.


June 14

Time to build a shop. The Hotel Almazzago proves to be a wonderful place. The staff is friendly and understanding of our ways. The building is lovely, settled comfortably in a mountain setting, and the food is fantastic. Birds sing to us in the morning, and flowers surround us. As much as all this is important, it shrinks compared to what must be the best garage ever! It is huge, enormous, spacious to the point of cavernous, with room for storage, all five of us to work, and perhaps a bit of room for a test ride. But there is more. It is built from cement, with huge steel sliding doors. You can have the blond woodwork, the brass inlays in the windows and ambiance of the Hotel Almazzago. The real place to be is here in the shop.


An arrangement of four stands make a lovely lotus-like arrangement.


Time for some work. After its bath, Chris brings the "Pinin Farina" in to the shop. Never heard of them? Neither had we.

We have company in the shop. Or, more accurately, we are the company in their home. A pair of swallows is raising a family. We hope we are not to disruptive.

Feeding time seems to be all the time.


A nest full of babies.


June 13

A group of staff arrives early to set up the shop. We land in Munich, and find the usual supplies.


16, count 'em, 16 bike boxes, and only one is a bike. You might also note there are no riders. This is mostly team clothing, and supplies. Hauling it through the terminal is quite a feat.

Team Thearpist, Bernard Condevaux is hoping this was our team rental at the Munich Airport. Well, it wasn't, and it appears some ashes are about to land on his head.


We cannot fly with certain fluids and items. Mineral oil, hydraulic brake fluid, chain lubricant, greases, acetone, all would just cause trouble at the airport. We must pick these up when we land. In Munich we found a great store just off the autobahn, Rabe-Bike. Clean, neat, and of course, using Park Tools.

Kosta of Rabe-Bike and his Park Tool PRS-4W at the service writers station.

The mechanics get do two basic things. Fix the bikes and drive the trucks. Today, it is the latter. The complimentary orange safety vest adds to Chris' truck driving experience, however.


Early June

Preparation for big events such as the World's begins early. Tools are readied, and parts selected. The USA Team Shop carries a lot of gear, but we cannot bring every conceivable spare part. There just is not room to bring it all, and the excess luggage fees would kill the budget. So we review past races and bring what we think we may need. We also ask the athletes to be prepared by getting their rides fully inspected, both for the XC and Gravity.

Stuff, lots of stuff. Chain, saddles, grips, shifters, pads, cables, housings, skewers, bb's, headsets, tubing, spokes, fittings, fasteners, rotors, cassettes, rim strips, end caps, seat posts, and oh, a flag.

Weight matters. I am not talking about at the start line, but at the airline ticket counter. Over 50 pounds, and it will be an additional $85. Using the DS-1, I know that I have 10 pounds to spare. A chain is 1.56 pounds, so I can squeeze in 6.4 chains. Wait, make that 6 chains and 13 gear cables. That will bring up me to 48 pounds. I trust the DS-1, but not necessarily the scale at the airline counter.

The DS-1 saves the day, and the budget.

The race mechanic toolbox is typically jammed with, well, tools. We may be asked to fix most anything, so the toolbox ends up near or even over the 50-pound limit (35 kilograms). It is important to go through the box, weeding out excess items and tools you just might not need. Then, weed it out one more time. However, there are some old items, friends really, I have trouble parting with. Sometimes they are keepsakes, but others have saved the day and have earned their keep.


Nothing trick here, just a spoon and a fork. Think of the old adage: "Take care of your tools, and they will take care of you." In this case, the mechanic is a tool, and you must take care of yourself. Eat. (...not to mention if chocolate cake is offered, then I am ready...)


Small end-nipper wire cutters, used only to trim the ends of zip-ties. Also used as a point of discussion with other race mechanics. We are actually a very simple minded bunch and take great pleasure in small things.


I always carry three files. One flat file, one tapered half rat, and one chainsaw file.


USA Team Mechanic, TJ Grove, will tell you that mechanics are "the grease and the glue" of the team, but sometimes we are just the tape. I carry a variety of tapes, hose clamps, toe straps, and some emery cloth when abrasion is called for.


Another guilty pleasure: two calipers. One vernier caliper, used for quick comparisons, and a digital, when I really want to know how big something is.

Racing is about competition, it is about the athletes, and it is about the stars of our sport. Yet, behind them, behind the podium, behind the racing is a huge support organization. It is a family of sorts, which is the "body of racing." If the mechanics are the hands, or perhaps the soles of this body, there exists also the brain. By a fortuitous event, we are now able to actually peek inside this brain, deep into the offices of the race promoter, where we find Julie (the left hemisphere, as it were) and Filipo (the right hemisphere) hard a work.

Julie and Filipo
Julie and Filipo begin their workday by considering what must "wheelie" be done to organize this huge event.

The USA athletes selected for the 2008 UCI World Mountain Bike Championships are:

XC Elite Women: Kelli Emmett, Georgia Gould, Sue Haywood, Heather Irminger, Willow Koerber, Mary McConneloug
XC Elite Men: Jeremiah Bishop, Michael Broderick, Adam Craig, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, Sam Shultz, Todd Wells
XC U-23 Women: Jamie Dinkins
XC U-23 Men: Tim Allen, Colin Cares, Sam Jurekovic, Mitchell Peterson
XC Junior Women: Jill Behlen, Diedre York
XC Junior Men: John Bennett, Seamus Powell, Robbie Squire, Kerry Weaver
Elite Downhill Women: Melissa Buhl, Kathy Pruitt
Elite Downhill Men: Cole Bangert, Kain Leonard, Duncan Rifle, Lars Steinberg, Kyle Strait, JD Swanguen, Cody Warren
Junior Downhill Junior Men: Kevin Aiello, Dustin Belcher, Taylor Borucki, Graeme Pitts, Joey Schusler, Geoffrey Ulmer, Naish Ulmer
4X Men: Blake Carney, Mike Haderer, Brian Lopes, Ross Milan, Eric Nelson
4X Women: Melissa Buhl, Neven Steinmetz
Trials: Jonathan Tollerud - Elite 20", Vaughn Micciche - Elite 26", Michael Schiavone - Elite 26"


The USA Team Shop mechanics for the 2008 World Championships:

Than White
Than White, one cool mechanic, straight out of North Carolina.


TJ Grove
TJ Grove, from Georgia. He swings a mean, but always well aimed, hammer.


Brad Cole
Brad Cole,weighing in at 48 pounds (for the box, that is). He's no light weight, and is representing Minnesota.

Chris Magerl brings from Salt Lake City a keen eye, easy temperament, and a steady hand.

Calvin Jones
Calvin Jones from the Park Tool Company. I'm just along to mop and sweep up after the fellas.