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Calvin's Corner

2010 MTB World Championships in Quebec, Canada

This article will review the technical support by the USA Team Mechanics for the 2010 MTB World Championship, Quebec, Canada. The racing in Mount Saint Anne is September 1-5, but preparation begins weeks ahead. Before crowning of a World Champion, there will be a World Cup event at Windham, NY, which will be used as final preparation by the US Team. I will be attending both events, and will attempt to give updates as I am able. What goes on in the USA Team Shop at these events is described in the background and history at the end of this page.

See also related articles: 2001 USA / 2003 Italy / 2004 France / 2005 Italy / 2007 Scotland / 2008 Italy / 2009 Australia / 2010 Canada

 

Mount St Anne, September 5, 2010

DH World Championships, what a great way to wrap up the week of racing, and a good thing because we are tired. We cannot keep up this pace, but at the Worlds you kick it up a notch, but by the end you just feel like you were kicked by a mule.


Our work is done, and it is time to leave. When flying, the well dressed mechanic wears compression socks. Haute couture, mais oui, but more important they help reduce the chance of blood clots on long flights. You find them on middle aged men and now also on elite athletes. I always knew they would follow our lead.


A visit from the Chief of Team, Ken Whelpdale, to the garage. Fortunately the boss came at a quiet time when things looked organized and clean, just hope he doesn't review the entire page here.

At these Worlds Championship, I will say I am a bit of a flag waver. The USA flag quickly identifies you to the athletes, as we are not all known by site to all the USA riders. The other riders are not even all known to each other, and the USA flag provides a nice rallying symbol. However, this image below is not about Old Glory, it is about the pins. Need just a few pins because you forgot to see our therapists? Then see the mechanics. A tip to aspiring riders, go for the curved pins, seen on the left. The straight pin is seen on the right. The curved pins are easier to pin to jerseys and are less likely to stick the athletes, and are rumored to be more aerodynamic.


USA Team logo with the slow, straight safety pins on the right, and the fast curved pins all the cool kids use on the left

For the DH Finals, we run two mechanics at the top and two at the bottom. We must leave early for our first riders off, supplying water, energy snacks, a trainers for warm up, and technical support for any problems.


Logan Benggeli and Mulisa Buhl tune her suspension fork the morning of the finals at the USA Team Tent


Possibly less then a score of years hence, we may be hearing about this young man here, today totally owning the petite pump track


A view of the starting gate from the gondola


Our first Stars and Stripes, Kelsey Anderson, at the starting gate waiting to rocket out when the clock is at 10:42:00


A cleat check of shoe cleat fastener security. Shoes should be considered part of the drive train, not clothing. Than White first picks out any dirt from the socket fitting, and then checks the screw tightness.


There is a problem with the wheel and the mechanics race to install a new one. The timers will not allow anyone to start late, and the clock is ticking for the rider. This mechanic works with focus and speed. I give him an oil absorbing towel just in case something falls into the grill of the gondola house.


Another mechanic is at the top inside the gondola house trimming some spikes, shortening them just a bit with end-cutters pliers. He works calmly will speed and skill, but one wonders why this wasn't done before?


Another successful MTB Worlds comes to a close, and Scotsman Doug Pryce and I toast all the athletes with a freshly made chalice (a specialty of his it appears) and a Coke. Due to the wind and rain, all riders, officials and support staff squeeze in the noisy and load gondola house. To the mechanics is all seems familiar with plenty of moving steel and cables. The gearing here is a 1:1 ratio, typical of gondolas.


What, steak again? Actually, our last meal here and one we get to enjoy. However, the cheese, olive oil, baguettes, Cokes, and Fritos served in the garage during the week make up our comfort food. We will miss the Le Refuge du Faubourg at Mount Saint Anne!

 

Mount St Anne, September 4, 2010

XC Elite Men and Women will be suffering today for their glory. We will be present before the start with our specially modified trainers for any 29ers and then head directly to the pits.

We are slapped today by hurricane Earl, producing plenty of mud. The bikes are nasty, but the good news for DH is the tomorrow might be clear. The rain has stopped for the Elite Women's XC race, but the XC course is soaked and slick.


Now it feels like a DH World Championships, and it looks like Trevor Trinkilo had a great time on the hill


A nicely installed mud flap on Kelsey Anderson's bike, put on by her father. Why bother? It helps reduce mud flying into one's face. The flap is behind the lower fork crown to help protect the headset. But zip tie ends should go behind, more aerodynamic.

Mount St Anne, September 3, 2010

A day for the young stallions, both the Junior Men and U23 Men XC Championships go off. For DH, a day to bash up the bike, which they call practice. Trials has more competition. The evening will be a crowd favorite, the 4X World Championships.

 


TJ Grove is up early for the laying on of the hands with the Junior Men and U23 bikes. He is checking over the repair ticket, which allows us to keep track of our work and provides accountability to our bosses, being #1, the athletes, and #2, USAC management.


For the first time, the Canadian Team is also running a repair ticket. I would show you ours, but then we'd have to, well, never mind.

Well, okay, I will show you the USA Team Shop repair ticket, but it don't show it to anyone, okay? It has gone through many versions, getting simpler as the bikes get better. It is an attempt to share one another's brain. The combination of five professionals is a mighty thing, but only if we are connected and work as a team. We begin by chatting with our peeps, I mean athletes, and learn the issues and symptoms. We discuss options and ideas, and then the ticket is written up and is attached to the bike.


Truly the heart of the USA Team Shop, this repair ticket represents our attempt to model the best practices of the professional retail service department. This is Than White's ticket, and he also did the work. My tickets are pink, and TJ's are bright yellow so I can keep an eye on him.

The trials riders are a parallel universe. I know they exist, and I only wish I could spend more time with them. The technology is very interesting, as they match their needs to their rules by modifying the bike. Two wheels, yes, and handlebars, and for now, a chain, but do not look for a saddle or derailleur, not needed and not in the rules. Our trials riders are always pleasant and well prepared.


A large rock anywhere will suffice for practice. Our cute little garage is in the background, where many a pleasant bike was prepared.

Today I am in the hotel shop for the morning, getting the 4X bikes and DH bikes ready. There is time for detailed work before things get crazy.

The tubeless systems are common, as is the sealant fluids. We use Stan's No Flats. To keep the shop area less messy, we use a tub anytime a tire with fluid comes off or goes on the rim. If the tire has a removable valve core, which all Schrader and some Presta valves do, there is a technique I have come to like very much.

  1. Use "bead wax" on the tire bead, or substitute straight dish soap as a lubricant.
  2. Install tire fully and inflate to seat bead. This may take 50 psi or more. This pushes the bead to their position.
  3. Remove the valve core. Removable Presta's will have two wrench flats. The sizes looks familiar, and sure enough, the SW-14 spoke wrench for Shimano wheels is a nice fit. Do not push on bead after deflating, leave it seated to rim.
  4. Use a large syringe and fill with Stan's. Work over your own Stan's Toilet and inject fluid. Repeat to get fluid recommend by manufacturer.
    Thread in valve core and secure
  5. Inflate tire, actually, over inflate actually to seat the bea
  6. Spin the wheel to move the fluid around, and rotate the wheel horizontally on both side.
  7. Let it sit to test the seal, overnight if possible. Deflate to competition pressure.
  8. Go win.


Inject the fluid to make it less messy, but still work over a tub

I truly appreciate being able to work these events. I learn much here, and there are many teachers, sometimes they are simple pieces of metal and rubber. It is best to stay humble and on your toes, avoid arrogance at your own peril.


Must have been a nasty looking snake that did to make holes like these. Actually, it was me. I was careful, but even careful use of a tire lever can pinch an inner tube with very stiff sidewalls tires. Luckily, no one was around to see me do it, so no ones knows, except of course for you.


We changed is rider's tube and noticed the lame excuse for rim tape. Please, this DT rim deserves better then electrical tape. It is removed and Velox is installed.


Interesting tube failure, broken Presta valve stems


I install the new tire, but noticed a rattling inside the rim. It was the tip of the Presta valve just bouncing around in Erik Nelson's rim (that is Erik, with a "k", please).


How many Park Tool PRS-15 repair stands does it take to cut a handlebar? Two are nice, one to hold the bike, and one to stabilize the bars. Had I learned this during the '84 Olympic trials, I would have avoid a gash to my thumb and the scar I still carry.


Meet some of my teachers, Michael Broderick and Mary McConneloug. I learn for them each time they are around.


There are benefits to staying back. A turkey and cheese sandwich, a baguette, a few oils including olive oil, then add more cheeses, today a harvarti dill.


Always the professional, Ray Waxham knows the feel in his hands of threads as they stress and load during tightening, but he also knows when to use a torque wrench

Tonight, after working all day, is the 4X Championships. Each 4X heat lasts only a couple of minutes per run, and your goal is to beat the other riders. Simple, isn't it? No, it's not, the tactics run deep here, from just lining up, the gate drop, the first hole shot, and then every corner down the course. Throw in some luck and it makes for an exciting time. One factor that we work to keep out of this recipe is any mechanical issue.


Riders at the starting gate of the 4X await their start


The GSC-1 is put to good use at the 4X, used here to clean tires. Two reason, first, it allows for a better bite on the start, and second, it saves a bit of weight on the first acceleration. It is surprising how much dirt can pack up during the run.


A rider (not USA) is getting some repair at the top. The chain is being filed, but if it is that bad it needs filing, should it be replaced? Difficult to say, but chain material is very hard, and difficult to mill with a hand file.


Dougie Pryce (Scotland) presents the 2010 Mechanics Trophy to Jason Davies of The Neatherlands. It is a tin foil cup hand crafted by Mr. Pryce from his strawberry jam sandwich. Okay, okay, there is no real Mechanics Trophy, but there should be, as we all bust our tails. This year, the Dougie Cup goes to all of us, congratulations mechanics of the 2010 MTB World Championships. Now, get back to work.

Mount St Anne, September 2, 2010

Today the U23 Women race, and it is a brutal course. Bike and riders are both punished. We again set up in the Tech Pits for service, and we are happy to have none.


We arrive at the race venue to get our house in order. The flag has bunched up and needs to be straightened. No, we do not take it down every night, but it seems to still wave.


Together, the USA Team Mechanics have over 80 years of bicycle mechanic experience, but today they only love us for our bodies, meaning we are pack mules for the U23 Women's World Championships. TJ Grove makes use of the BXB-1 and Than White carries the trusty PFP-4 .

It is also a Timed Run for DH. This is not a seeding run, and the times are not used to place riders for the final. We will be in full race protocol to test the staff, athletes and bikes.


This wheel has spoke tension that is low, and it needs to be pulled up. We We would rather do this at the hotel shop, but this athlete is not staying with us, and we do what me must to serve our riders.

During the finals and timed runs we set up shop on the top of the DH. It is nice today so things are easy. The athletes warm up on trainers we haul up. We install transponders that time the ride, and give the bike a quick look.


At work on top of a mountain on a nice day, making this a great place to be

4X practice is held in the evening, and then there are qualifying runs for the finals. There are lots of flats, nine for the USA Team even with high tire pressure. Most flats are rim pinches, so pressure is run high, nearly 50 psi, but there are also some odd causes. Valve stems have broken off, most likely from large loose rocks rolling into the rim just at the wrong time.


Broken valve stems from rocks rolling into the rim


Jared Graves (Australia), current World 4X Championship, gets a spin on the USA Team trainer, good thing we are nice guys


Readers of science fiction and fantasy will be familiar with this phrase, used here as the name of some motorcycle shop. But there is some connection, as "a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved", but at this World's it is by careful and hard work by professionals.

It is said the mechanics are the grease and the glue of the team. Sometimes we are paving the way, making friends with other mechanics so we may beg some inner tubes, and sometimes we hold it together. The best example of this is the security of our equipment, and that we trust to Kyptonite locks and cables!

 

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Our day is done, another to begin. TJ lock those bikes, for tomorrow we may win. Good night wheels. Good night Yeti. Good night Specialized. Good night spare parts. Good night tools. What, you thought it would end with "moon"?

Mount St Anne, September 1, 2010

The first race day and we are ready. XC Team Relay, where each country pits four riders against the world. One rider must be an elite man, an elite woman, a junior man, and a U23 rider. The order is up to the team manager and this is where tactics come into play. Who can set the pace right from the gun? Who is able to bat clean up? We will find out today what Marc Gullickson, USAC MTB Program Director, has up his lycra sleeve.

NEWS FLASH: The USA gets seventh place, an excellent finish! I can now without risk to myself tell you the order of the race. leading off, Todd Wells (Elite Men), followed by Rob Squire (U23), Seth Kemp (Junior Man), and bringing it home, Katie Compton (Elite Woman).

Right after the Team Relay, the Junior Women will battle to select a World Champion today, and we will be there, but not me. For me, it is a hotel day at the beautiful Le Refuge du Faubourg , getting things straightened here before the wave of DH bike hit after the 12:30 practice ends.

 


We line up the race-day bikes separate from the others. This allows the bikes some quiet time before getting down to business, and we find this has a calming effect on the machines. But one rider has not yet give us his number plate to mount, can you tell which one?


What a great way to cool off, washing one's bike after a pounding and hot practice. Sage Wilderman and Stephan Ettinger clean their race vehicle even before getting clean themselves.


A derailleur hanger is in need a re-alignment, a common job for us and made easy with the DAG-2. This does not make for a weaker drive train, because there is no stress on the hanger from the rider's mighty quads...inspite of what they might say.

A 4X rider wants new pads, a relatively simple request, but it turn ugly. Removing the rear wheel shows big problems with the derailleur hanger. One screw hole is completely stripped and one screw is broke off in the frame. This is not a good situation, so we drill a new hole tap a new hole.


The only screw has a ruined hex fitting, and shows a hand cut screw slot. We suspect this rider did not watch the Gravity Pre-Event Bike Prep video.


The HHP-3 headset press install the new headset into a sleeve in the headset. These sleeves may be switch to change headtube angle, and are held by pinch bolts akin to a seat post bolt.


A 4X rider has a headset that will simply not adjust. It must be removed and RT-1 the does the job.


Matt Eames drills a new hole using good hand drill technique. The key to machining is "feed and speed" and in this case slower is better, and that combined with his focused attention gets us clean hole to tap.

We do not have a tap drill chart, and the Internet router does not reach the garage. No matter, a usable rule of thumb is to deduct the pitch from the thread size. It is an M3 x 0.5 thread we need. 3mm minus 0.5mm is 2.5mm. The drills we have were purchase in the good old US of A, meaning fractional inches. So, take 2.5mm divide by 25.4 to get 0.098425 inch. Wait, there's more, we need factional, so take that times 64 or 128 if your drill set has them. We need a 6.299/64" drill. What? Make it a 6/64" close enough when in a garage in Quebec, plus you will get a little wiggle, even with Matt "Bridgeport Hands" Eames at the control. There is no 6/64" in our box, but there is a 3/32".


Tip to kids in school: Stay awake in math or you will never work for the USA Team Shop. We are confident we will have good a thread using our combined brains, skills, and a M3 x 0.5mm, the TAP-7


An XC rider's tire has been filled with a liquid silicone in an attempt to create a tubeless system. Interesting concept, horrible exicution. The rider now decides to go to inner tubes. Guess who's job it is to peal off the old silicone? Why, ours, of course.


There is cutting edge bike technology here, but it really comes down to basics in the end. In our shop, that mean keeping tidy. Notice there was broken glass on the floor, and what appears to be some aluminum shaving that may or may not be from an athlete's bike. I cannot possibly comment on this, and besides, it is sometimes best they do not know.

Mount St Anne, August 31, 2010

This is a shake out day. Riders will get to know the courses, and we will get our system dialed. It is hot here and dusty, not what we expected. We carry a variety of lubes just for this reason.


Lydia knows to lubricate the chain after a bike wash, and the lube of choice is CL-1

The XC racing allows the use of Tech Pits, where we may repair most anything. Once the rider reaches the pit zone, we can install a wheel, a chain, straighten handle bars, install a new derailleur (yes, that happens) but we cannot replace the main frame. Today we will practice our pit services and see where we can improve our speed. Our athletes deserve nothing less then the best we can offer.

We are fully staffed and open for business. Any USA rider regardless of corporate trade team affiliation may stop by the hotel garage or the USA Team tent for service, or just stop anyone of us for service. Just so you know us, we are from left to right: Than White, Ray Waxham, Calvin Jones, Matt Eames, and TJ Grove, but "hey you" will also work for anyone of us.


2010 MTB World Championship USA Team Shop staff, here to serve. Than White, Ray Waxham, Calvin Jones, Matt Eames, and TJ Grove

As a disclaimer, this next image is not about my mug, but about the sign behind us. I had all of the USA Team Mechanics sign this because I see it as a pledge, an oath of sorts. "We Take Pride In Servicing This Vehicle" is the printing. Okay, actually it was the floor matt from the Penske truck, but it states clearly one of our core values.


You sometimes find inspiration in the oddest places, like under your feet

 

We are now deep into the belly of the beast. Nights are getting filled with work as the bikes are pounded during the day. The entire staff, managers, therapists, team doctors are all hopping to keep the USA Team going.


Than has a nice pile of very small setscrews, leaf springs, pawls, gears, and bearing, which he coaxes back into race form

Mount St Anne, August 30, 2010

Finally, home at Mount Saint Anne, Quebec, Canada. Anywhere we set up shop with our tools and stands it feels like homoe. Time to create a shop and get ready for the fun to come.

There is always new technology that comes along, and it also sometimes goes. This year things are getting more complex in the XC world. There are 26" MTB tires and now of course 29er tires. Add to this 9 speed cassette cogs, and now 10 speed cassette cogs. Further there are riders using a 160mm rotor but some save a bit, just a bit, of weight with the 140mm rotors. How many permutations is that? Too many would be the answer because it is making life in the Tech Pit during the race difficult.

One new headache for us is in regards to the trainers. These are used to warm up for XC, DH and 4X. But most trainers are behind the curve here and fit only the 26". We could try to swap wheels to a small road tire, but that means more equipment. The answer, luckily for us, is to drill and remount the roller adjusting screw lower to allow more room.


The PRS-25 again and again finds new uses, now as the official Drill The Trainer For 29er stand of the USA Team Shop


Out with the bad one, in with the new hole


Ray makes good use of his knife and trims just enough off the mold to clear the 29er tire. Kids, do not try this at home, he is a trained professional, and also makes a great cup of coffee.

August 29, 2010, WINDHAM, NY

It is Downhill Finals at the Windham World Cup. We immediately break camp after the event and it is north, north to Canada. For those who are readers of history, you will be familiar with the route, as we will follow the traditional one for invasions northward. Pass by Fort Ticonderoga, continue on to Plattsburg, and push on to secure Montreal before turning east. Not unlike General Montgomery, we muster our forces and leave in late August. But this is no campaign of aggression, as cycling is truly a global sport. The athletes all have friends from different countries. For myself, I look forward to seeing my international mechanic pals, and then beating them.


Brendon Fairclough (Monster Racing) was in the hot seat after his run at the Windham World Cup, hoping not to be deposed, but alas, he was eventually bumped from this chair of honor


No, not a DH bike. It is bike that doesn't go in circles. You pedal by pushing up and down. Not actually "legal" by the racing rules of the UCI, but still an interesting design.

If you are not supported by the trade teams at these UCI World Cup events, but are still good, you can make the USA Team. Here you get what you need but it is not always the fanciest. For example, the mechanics will be driving 8 hours to Canada in a Penske rent-a-truck.


Not exactly a comfortable STL-1.2, Steven Ettinger finds our shipping boxes enough of a perch to check his texts


Max is a volunteer with Shimano Multi-Services, and is from Minnesota, and makes "M" stir sticks from bike spokes. Marvelous.

August 28th, 2010, WINDHAM, NY

It was a good day for us. The Windham World Cup is preparation for the World Championships next week. The USA Cycling development team fought for two silvers, one in the Junior Men and one in the Junior Women. This is a good beginning.


Junior Woman Alicia Rose Pastore, silver medalist, with her podium flowers and USA Team Therapist Elke Brutsaert


Seth Kemp, silver medalist in the Junior Men, in a fine tradition, recognizes his sponsor with the podium flowers, who of course is his mom. Parents are still the driving force in this sport, road or MTB.


When we head to the Tech Pits we need a lot of equipment. The BXB-1 makes it easy.


TJ Grove is ready for action with spare wheels, a pump, tools, and of course a cell phone

August 27, 2010, WINDHAM, NY

I arrive in Windham and set up shop in a dirt parking lot with TJ Grove. We are here to support the USA Team riders that are competing in the Windham World Cup. There are just the two of us for a few days, and we are completely slammed with work.


TJ Grove replaces a worn chain ring and greases the bolts which came out screaming and crying. He is working over the USA Team Shop rug so any dropped part land in the mid-west, while he has a knee stuck apparently in the Gulf of Mexico.

We see a lot of blue around the race pits, such as the BX-1 tool box, used at the Shimano Tech Pit.


The BX-1 is right at home at these elite level events

We finish a 12 hour day, and pack up to head back to the condo. Turns out what is waiting for us is.....more work. A junior it appears did not see the XC Bike Prep video as both hub bearing were completely shot. The front hub bearing play could not be removed and that allows the rotor to move in the caliper body. Additionally both upper and lower pulley bolts are trashed. So, we open up the truck and get to it, keeping any grumbling to ourselves, well, and to this web page.


TJ swaps tires, rotors and cassette. The USA shop flag for now lives in the Penske rent-a-truck, until we move north to Canada.


Time finally to lock up the truck with the best and baddest lock around, Kyptonite.

 

There are a lot of equipment to deal with, a lot of tools to turn, a lot of technical work to do, plus the occasional heated discussions among the technicians at a World Championship. However, the longer I am in this field, the more I appreciate that what we do is truly about the engines, I mean the athletes. These are the people we will serve, the athletes of the 2010 USA Mountain Bike Team:

Elite Women Cross Country
Georgia Gould
Willow Koerber
Katie Compton
Mary McConneloug
Heather Irmiger
Kelli Emmett
Allison Mann

Elite Men Cross Country
Todd Wells
Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski
Adam Craig
Sam Schultz
Michael Broderick
Carl Decker
Spencer Paxson

U23 Women Cross Country
Sage Wilderman
Lydia Tanner

U23 Men Cross Country
Tad Elliott
Rob Squire
Russell Finsterwald
Stephen Ettinger
Jack Hinkens
Mitch Hoke

Junior Women Cross Country
Alicia Rose Pastore
Sofia Hamilton
Essence Barton

Junior Men Cross Country
Skyler Truijillo
Zach Valdez
Seth Kemp
Tony Smith
Will Curtis

Elite Women Downhill
Jill Kintner
Melissa Buhl
Jacqueline Harmony
Leigh Donovan

Elite Men Downhill
Aaron Gwin
Luke Strobel
Kyle Strait
Logan Binggeli
Tyler Immer
Brad Benedict
Duncan Riffle

Junior Women Downhill
Kelsey

Junior Men Downhill
Sam Powers
Bryson Martin
Neko Mulally
Mitch Ropelato
Nate Furbee
Evan Powell
Trevor Trinkino

Women Four-Cross
Neven Steinmetzn

Men Four-Cross
Ross Milan
Barry Nobles
Mitch Ropelato
Blake Carney

Trials-Men
Neil Willey: Elite Men 20"
Dave Campbell: Elite Men 26"
Mike Steidley: Elite Men 26"
Matt Meyer: Elite Men 26"

 

All right, okay, let us be honest, for us, maybe it really is about the bike. When those engines rev up, when those carburetors get wide open, when all pistons are firing, that bike had better be perfect, and that is always our goal. But the true pleasure of a World Championship, truth be told, comes from the hours of hard work with one's peers. I am honored to be part of this team of mechanics:

TJ Grove
TJ Grove (Georgia) is a guru, friend, and foil, all in one


Than White ( North Carolina), a great technician all year long, but he raises his game this week, taking it to the next level


Ray Waxham (Wisconsin) is new to the team, and likes to relax with a Coke and a smile


Matt Eames (Oregon) making an encore appearance, and brings the skills of a teacher and technician


Calvin Jones (Minnesota), the one on the right, with the moustache, just trying to keep up


 

USA Team Shop Background

This section will review some the history and background of these events and what I try to achieve:

In 1990, the UCI held the first ever MTB World Championships in Durango, Colorado. As one of the volunteer mechanics working at the Shimano Multi-Service tent, I saw firsthand that there was no dedicated support for the US Team. Athletes, including the USA riders, such as Steve Tilford, simply stood in a long line at the Shimano tent for as long as it took to get their bikes serviced. Some riders used a trade team mechanic, but there was no US National Team support. My early race work was through the US Cycling Federation (predecessor to USA Cycling), where the emphasis was teamwork in providing race support. I felt that US riders should be treated as a team, with technical support services provided by a dedicated staff of mechanics. After the event, I began discussions regarding technical support with the Director of NORBA.

My vision for Team USA technical support went into action at the 1994 World Championship in Vail, Colorado. This was the first time there was a staff of mechanics whose primary responsibility was service to the athletes at the USA team hotel. In fact, all USA riders competing at the World's were and are welcome. I called this effort the USA TEAM SHOP, both to emphasize the team aspect, and to model the professionalism of a retail shop. As our reputation grew, we began to see more elite riders and their mechanics, needing service, or needing to borrow tools.

To me, the purpose of race support is to allow the athletes a chance to focus on their competition. To me, the World Championships are a very special event, an event where our athletes, and staff, represent the United States of America. Corporate affiliations dominate the racing life for most of the year, but at a World Championship, these corporate allegiances should come second to loyalty to the other riders on the US Team. It is my goal to have the USA Team Shop model this team attitude and behavior.

I believe strongly in a team attitude and team approach to athlete support. For one thing, it is simply more fun. Working within a group allows each our special skills utilized best. However, even if you consider yourself a "downhill mechanic", when you work in the USA Team Shop you better be ready to serve any athlete, wash the rental cars, or fix the hotel washing machine. Working in a group, in a team approach, raises expectations in us and toward each other. It sharpens your game, as you are taking it to the next level. It allows us to ask for help or a second opinion without fear of getting a damaged ego. Working with one's peers is its own reward.

A typical day at a World Championship begins early, about 0600, by unlocking and stacking the bikes for easy rider access. The trucks will be loaded and packed for the day's training/racing. We keep a mechanic at the Hotel Shop because athletes come and go all day long. At least two mechanics staff the USA Team Tent at the race venue. They will do any quick servicing needed, such as flat tires, but the heavy lifting, such as bottom bracket, fork installation, etc., will be performed back at the Hotel shop. During the day, the athletes smash things up, as is appropriate, and in the afternoon everyone returns to the hotel, where the work pace picks up as we get the machines ready for another day. Riders are welcome to come and work in the Shop on their bikes, but we attempt to close the Shop to riders at 22:00. Left alone, we can finish work and hopefully begin cabling bikes and locking down by 23:00.

There is of course a certain level of chaos and tension at race events. Having documentation and a service check-in procedure helps maintain a sense of order and calm for everyone. By recording and documenting our service, we are able to review the work at the end of the day. We track our repairs with a simple repair ticket printed on card-stock paper. By using a repair ticket, we know who was the service writer, who worked on the bike, and what was done (or not done) to the bike.

Our work at these events depends largely on correctly diagnosing and recording the athlete's service needs. A very critical skill at these events I feel is technical communication with the riders and with the other mechanics. Each mechanic will be acting as Shop Service Writer at different times. This means we listen to our customers (athletes) and their perceived symptoms. We reflect back their concerns by asking probing questions, and then record this information on the ticket for the work mechanic. The mechanic writing the ticket may or may not be the mechanic that ends up working on that particular bike. We write to ticket so it is understandable by any of us..

The classic mistake of any service department is allowing the customer to diagnose the repair without digging deeper. It is important that we review the symptoms with the athlete and then use our own judgment, even if we end up at the same conclusion as the athlete.

It ends up being an exhausting week run at a pace we could not hold year round. But this is the World Championships, and as our athletes are expected to take it up to the next level, so is the staff. For 2010, as we are in Quebec, Canada, the Shop motto was easy. Vive la prèparation de l'equipment!

See also related articles: 2001 USA / 2003 Italy / 2004 France / 2005 Italy / 2007 Scotland / 2008 Italy / 2009 Australia