2012 MTB World Championships, Leogang, Austria
This article reviews the technical support at the 2012 World MTB Championships in Leogang, Austria, as seen by the USA Team Mechanics as it happened. Both the DH and XC work was done at the USA Team headquarters at the Landhotel Rupertus. For a bit of history of what goes on here, see background.
XC Racing- Sept 4 to Sept 9
The XC and DH had different weeks this year, kind of strange. The XC riders were landing at the airport while I was taking off for home. Than White soldiered for the XC week and was joined by Matt Eames and Michel Bajorek.
USA Team Shop-XC: Than White, Matt Eams, and Michel Bajorek. Calvin Jones, who left the day the day Matt and Michel showed up, is represented here by the small blue box.
The XC racing is done in laps, and on each lap the riders will pass a tech pit twice. The pits are shared with the feeder and sometimes coaches, so it can get crowded and crazy. Teams are assigned a cage to work from, and the riders must get their any hands ups, and any flat tires, etc fixed here. If we do our job, you stand there all race, and in fact the USA Team had no services, this time. See the XCO Men's Elite race on Red Bull TV here. See the Women's Elite here.
Times of boredom paired with great fun and action. The Tech Pits are the place you want to be.
XCE, Sunday Sept 9
This new World Championship event was held in downtown Saalfelden, Austria. Check out the XCW coverage on Red Bull TV.. The racing is done with elimination rounds on city streets, alleys, sidewalks, steps, tunnels, stairs, and jumps. Two rides advance from each round. It will be an historic event, with a rainbow jersey given for the first time.
Some DH Concluding Thoughts from the Shop
That was quite a week, but they are always. The USA TEAM SHOP-DH, did a great job. See coverage of the racing of the DH Elite Men and Women here on Red Bull TV.
Tyler West, Than White, and Calvin Jones, proud to serve the USA Team.
I feel we have hit the mark this year in what I want the USA Team Shop to be as described in the background below. Our goals were met:
BE SAFE: we provided work on the machines to keep them running in top shape. Tires were switched as requested, problems solved before they resulted in issues, equipment inspected, checked and double checked. No one was hurt, at least as a result of the bike equipment.
BE FAIR: no one, I feel, had their ride comprised due to lack of mechanical service or stress from the shop. Was every given the same level of care? Yes. Did everyone get the same amount of service? No. Some riders had more issues, and some just require more of us. You know who you are, but also know that we are happy to provide this extra care.
BE KIND: we were positive in our attitude and demeanor. No one, I feel, was intimidated in asking for service. However, we always send a survey after the race to get the truth. To know the truth, sometimes you ask.
A collage of the various drivetrains at Leogang.
Sunday Sept 2
This is it, finals for the DH. Bike cleaned, check, double checked, and then there is practice in the morning. After that one more clean, another check, and they are ready to show us their stuff. I will be at the top running the trainers where they warm up.
If you must know, I do not run a "paperless" office here, but I can tell you the start times of each of our USA riders.
Seen at the top of the DH, Aaron Gwin's Trek with special brakes. See any logo there? These must be a special prototype.
What goes on behind the scene when the racing is over.
Mahdi Mirzahosseini rides for the Islamic Republic of Iran.
SRAM pulled through for the USA Team. Logan Bingelli needed an early morning brake repair right before finals, and SRAM came through, thanks guys!
Sat. Sept. 1
Tonight, 4X finals. First some practice runs then the rounds begin. See the coverage at Red Bull TV.
Two riders getting ready for the finals
Sure enough, there's beer. Mmm, beer. The Hotel Rupertus offers an organic beer, and you can taste the difference, or maybe it is just the ambiance. But bring beer to a race when you are the mechanic? That just rubs this wrench the wrong way. Own your work, be there, all there, be the adult here. Don't drink and work, is that too much to ask?
Maybe the mechanics should save the beer for after their work and the racing?
Today as well was the DH Timed Run, full on "dress rehearsal". Riders will go out of the gate to test themselves, the officials, the marshals, and us. Yesterday was a bit wet, but really not so bad. There were some problems created and then resolved, I am comfortable saying we earned our keep....again.
Rough day for Canada, the rider must have hit something, not doubt, as is said, "just riding along".
Muddy? No bad really, not near enough clay to matter.
Each year we begin our week with a Bolt Check. One rider's bike had a pulley bolt fall out. Why would this happen? The rattling, the pounding, the pull of Jupiter? No, it fell out because it was not properly tightened. This is why I have our QC stickers under the bottom bracket. A look under the bike reveals, "Calvin". I missed it, I must have. It is an M3, which I brought, but it is too long. No problem with the SAW-1. The screw head was hidden behind the pulley, a blind nut, and I just did not see it. It did not slow the rider, but it is a wake up call for me.
Shortening the screw we had in stock.
The replacement screw is a good fit.
The same bike, and a catch by the guy who missed the loose screw. A roller is cracked. This was caught by lubricating each and every rivet one at a time while inspecting. It actually made me feel better, it was good find.
Minnesota, USA, is known as "The State of Hockey", and when you need some sticky strong cloth tape to improve your grip, what's better than hockey stick tape?
An example of a power wash, and this one was just from the early practices
An example of a gentle wash, really better for the bike, but when things get real muddy, gentle ain't gonna work.
Welcome to our little world.
Fri. Aug 31
Leogang has a nice bike park, with amazing epics riders, long single track, ramps, berms, pump tracks, and full DH descents. What a play ground! There is a good shop as well, The upper half is nice: clothing, trekking bikes, that sort of thing. But you want to go downstairs to see the DH shop. Mike and Adrian have been incredibly helpful. These are the kind of people we relate to, bike shop people.
Adrian on the phone running down some parts for the USA Team. I couldn't help noticing there is better turnover on the cigarettes versus the shock forks.
We have a rock star in our garage, Ray Waxhan is in the house! A man of many talents, he brings both tools and the skill to use them. Ray is alumni for the USA TEAM SHOP, as he was with our team of mechanics for 2010 Worlds. This year, he is at World on behalf of Trek and came to say hi. So what did he get for his trouble? Work, of course!
A rear brake caliper body has a pad retaining screw with a broken head. Ray carries left hand bits and a drill. The first repair was a failure, so he moves to an easy out. Another strikeout, but now there is a hole. It is drilled and tapped for the 4M screw used. Now this bike will live another day.
Sometimes the worms get to come above ground and see the mountains. The bike wash station is at the trash pick-up, just above the garage. The two on the right...no repair stand. The guy on the left standing tall...he uses a repair stand.
4X qualifying is tonight, and it is raining hard, Conditions are slow, and without speed it is difficult for riders to make the jumps.
It is the clay in the soil that make it feel like peanut butter.
Thurs. Aug. 30
Good morning Austria. Looking dry today, but tomorrow, probably rain. Downhill practice today, so any weakness in our work will be pounded to the surface. But our bikes are ready. To quote my friend and fellow race mechanic, TJ Grove, "Bring it".
Tyler West likes to kick off the day with a brake bleed. Why the head lamp? Our cave is nice, but a little dim.
Nadja of the Landhotel Rupertus. has been great to us. Should you ever want to show kindness to the USA Team Shop this year, make it a cappuccino for me and Than, and an Americano for Tyler West. I don't know if I can make this more plain: Bier am Arbeitsplatz ist verboten!
At the DH practice, and hey, doesn't this mirror make me look thin? I am positioned right at the chair, in case anyone needs help.
The large headtube allows for special headsets that can change in angle. They must be pressed exactly in line with center line of the bike.
Every year this happens. The airlines cannot find someone's bike, and this time it was Melissa Buhl's turn. We had a borrowed bike ready to go, but it showed up literally two hours before her practice runs in 4X.
Does she look happy? She ought to be! Than White and Tyler West double-teamed the assembly to get her out to her practice.
Wed. Aug. 29
We start early in the morning, and today we noticed that our garage neighbors, the Canadians, had lost their Maple Leaf. We apply the "Be Kind" part of our motto and retape it with good Gorilla tape.
We try to give a hand when we can, and besides, they put the Canadian flag higher then the Stars and Bars.
It feels already like we have been here a long time. My legs are killing me after the DH walk. The good news is that we are up to full staff. My third mechanic Tyler West is here, along with Dr. Glenn Kotz, so between the mechanics and medical we got both the bikes and their respective engines covered.
We are smack in the middle of the Asturian Alps, and it is lovely when I can stick my head out of the garage. But each morning we get a real treat, that European breakfast I just love.
Why can't every breakfast be like this?
I pretend I am a bit of baker myself, but I bow down to the crumb and crust served at the Landhotel Rupertus.
The local honey is served on what I call the Honey Shrine.
These are specialty bikes, designed to fit the purpose: speed. The technology has changed enormously since 1990, the first MTB Worlds. Part of that is the adjustability to each athlete. Headsets are available now to change the effective angle of the "headtube". The tube remains the same, but the steering column inside of it can be shifted with these headsets. The rider below will have the effective headtube angle relaxed by 1.5-degrees, very laid back...unless you're going down a pitch that looks like a cliff.
HEY!! Is that any way to install a headset??? No, it is not, and I am not installing the headset with the mallet side of a hammer. This cup must be positioned exactly to center line, and it would twist just a bit with the press. So, with an expert technique, I give it just a love-tap with the HMR-4, and a block of wood, to hold it in place. You better believe my staff here gave me a hard time on this one.
Once the headset cup is secure from the tap, I finish it off with the HHP-3, used now for bottom brackets as much as headsets.
"I'm sure there's an article on headset installation at the Repair Help part of www.parktool.com...." Luckily we have a wifi connection in our basement.
Tues. Aug. 28 Today the work continues apace. Some bikes arrived less than adequately prepared, others need brake bleeds, which are quite common.
A Coke and a smile? No, what we have here, arriving, you understand, for the World Championships, is a home-made bar extension. The bar was cut too short, so a piece of copper tubing was used to extend it. It was then fitted with a shim cut from a Coke can, and then the grip was installed over this.. The only thing holding on that grip is the single setscrew on the inner ring. No, we were not smiling.
Helmet repair? Yes, this too, and more. Than White uses a TAP-9 to clean some thread before installing a replacement screw in the helmet visor pivot.
Today was a course walk with the USA juniors. DH Manager Christopher Herndon walks the entire course to give advise on lines and to see where there might be problems. After walking this course, your quads are burning and your toes are smashed.
There is also a bike park in Leogang, and from the chair we can see one of the facilities where you go from point A to point B, not necessarily in a straight line, and then land on a big bag.
They will hit this drop going about 30 mph. Now they are discussing tactics on lines, giving them the much-needed feeling they are actually in control. Oh a tangled web we weave.
This tree is in the course, and Austin Warren tries it on for size.
If you thought I was kidding about the racing before the races, check this image. The rented cargo van with the tiny USA flag sticker....that us. The monster truck from Madison, the British Team. Arriving early is important.
All done for today, the shop is closed for the night. Aug. 29 will hold even more issues, so stay tuned.
Good night Giant, good night PRS-15, good night tools, good night Maple Leaf, and good night Stars and Stripes.
Mon., Aug. 27
Hurry up and wait. We arrive at the airport in Munich and wait for the rental-vans.
I am often ask, "when does the race begin." It depends upon the race you are talking about. Training begins Thursday, and qualifying for 4X is Friday, but for us the race begin at the airport. We need to get to the hotel, build a shop, get the bikes together, and then get some rest.
On the way to Leogang, we are in a traffic jam. The cause? The Austrian Masters Road Championships. Roadies...in our way again.
You may be thinking, "...oh, Calvin's just exaggerating again..." We are last of the three teams here to stake a spot at the Landhotel Rupertus, and you can see it below in the photo. The basement is gravel. The Canadians have some wood put down, and the British have a jolly piece of cement, with nice lights.
Wood will be placed to cover the gravel. We will be dry and safe, so we will be fine.
Aug. 26, Sunday
Transport day, get up and get ready to spend a lot of time in a plane seat. Double check the boxes, you do NOT want to be over the weight limit of 50 pounds.
BX-2 is loaded up and coming in at just over 40 pounds. Use the DS-1 to know for sure.
TSA is welcome to inspect my BX-2 toolbox, and I make no secret of the combo.
The World Championships, to my mind, is a special event, where the athletes represent their country rather then corporate trade teams. The same is true of staff, and I have high expectations of the USA Team Mechanics during our time at Worlds. To help bring focus to our work, and to have a little fun, I enjoy creating a USA Team Shop logo and motto for our in-garage use on repair tickets and forms. Here are some examples:
Palez vous Français? Even without a translation, I would hope the intent is clear. Preparation is what we are all about. Solving problems, the tedious checking of every bolt and nut, working in the dark, the rain, the mud, the long hours...VIVE!!!!
This year we want to emphasize that we are open to new challenges and new duties, so for 2012 we have, auf Duetsch- "Expand the Role".
The mechanics of the USA Team Shop work in the background, away from the spotlight, but I want you to see them. With the exception of yours truly, they are a handsome bunch, for mechanics anyway. There are two different sets of staff for Gravity and XC.
GRAVITY- August 27 to Sept. 4:
Than White (Asheville, North Carolina): Like a basketball team, we put our big man in the center, and for us that would be Than White.
Tyler West (Asheville, North Carolina): Works for Shimano Multi-Tech, and often found at Ride 2 Recovery events.
Calvin Jones (Stillwater, Minnesota): Works for Park Tool Company. He likes bikes.
XC: September 5th to 9th
Than White: The USA Team Shop pivots around the big guy this year. Mr. White is working both the DH and XC events.
Michel Bajorek: (Hennuyères, Belgium) Michel works with USAC and the U23 XC program in Europe.
Matt Eames (Ashland, Oregon) brings the skills of a teacher and great technician.
USA Team Rider Roster 2012
As much as we love the bikes, the tools, and the problems, racing is really about the people. The team is the reason why we are there. For 2012 these are the USA athletes selected to race in Austria.
Elite Men Downhill
Aaron Gwin (Temecula, Calif./Trek World Racing).
Luke Strobel (Issaqua, Wash.)
Mitch Ropelato (Ogden, Utah/Monster Energy/Specialized)
Eliot Jackson(Westlake Village, CA/)
Neko Mulally( Reading, Pa./Trek World Racing)
Logan Binggeli(Saint George, Utah/KHS)
Duncan Riffle( Santa Barbara, Calif./Dirt Norco Race Team)
Elite Women Downhill
Jill Kintner (Seattle, Wash./Team Norco International)
Jacqueline Harmony (Sedona , Ariz./IXS-510-Smith Optics)
Lauren Daney (Stafford, Va./DRD Intense)
Jaime Rees (Spokane, WA/The Bike Hub)
Elite Men Four-Cross
Neko Mulally (Reading, Pa./Trek World Racing)
Blake Carney (Camarillo, Calif.)
Elite Women Four-Cross
Melissa Buhl (Chandler, Ariz.)
Junior Men Downhill
Richard Rude Jr. (Redding, Conn./Yeti Fox Shox Factory Race Team)
Kevin Littlefield (Auburn, Wash.)
Austin Hackett Klaube (Dillon, Colo.)
Austin Warren (Alpine, Calif./DRD X-Fusion Intense)
Alexander Willie (Longmont, Colo./ Intense Cycles)
Cole Picchiattino (Murrieta, Calif.)
Elite Men Cross-Country
Todd Wells (Durango, Colo./Specialized Racing)
Sam Schultz (Missoula, Mont./Subaru-Trek) Member)
Colin Cares (Boulder, Colo./Kenda-Felt)
Stephen Ettinger (Cashmere, Wash. /BMC Mountain Bike Racing Team)
Mitchell Hoke (Boulder, Colo./Team Clif Bar)
Michael Broderick (Chilmark, Mass./Kenda-Seven-NoTubes)
Elite Women Cross-Country
Georgia Gould- (Fort Collins, Colo./Luna Pro Team)
Lea Davison (Jericho, Vt. / Specialized Racing)
Monique Pua Mata (Westminister, Calif./Sho-air-Specialized)
Heather Irmiger ( Boulder, Colo./Subaru-Trek)
Mary McConneloug (Chilmark, Mass ./Kenda-Seven-NoTubes)
Erin Huck (Boulder, Colo./Toyko Joe's)
U23 Men Cross-Country
Howard Grotts (Durango, Colo./Specialized Racing)
Russell Finsterwald (Colorado Springs, Colo./Subaru-Trek)
Kerry Werner (Banner Elk, N.C./BMC Mountain Bike Development Team)
Skyler Trujillo (Fort Collins, Colo./Niner Stans Ergon)
U23 Women XCO
Lauren Catlin (Fairfax, Calif./Durango Devo)
Deidre York (Indio, Calif./The Gear Movement-Epic Pro Cycle)
Junior Men XCO
Keegan Swenson (Park City, Utah/Cannondale Factory Racing)
Connor Bell (Harrisonburg, Va./Rocktown Racing)
Lucas Newcomb (Nicasio, Calif./Whole Athlete-Specialized)
Casey Williams (Big Bear City, Calif./Whole Athlete-Specialized)
Junior Women XCO
Kate Courtney (Kentfield, Calif./Whole Athlete-Specialized)
Grace Alexander (Boise, Idaho/BMC Mountainbike Development Team)
Shayna Powless (Roseville, Calif./BMC Mountainbike Development Team)
This section will review the background and history of what I try to do at these events. Technical support for USAC events such as this is a bit different from trade team support. The USA Team is formed only once a year, and riders need to jell as a team. The USA Team Shop tries to help the process by modeling a team attitude. After doing this for sometime now, I feel our mechanical service for the USA Team at these events can be summed as: "Be safe, Be fair, Be kind." The phrase works in preschool, and it works at the MTB Worlds.
SAFE: We need to have our athletes safe from harm, or at least any harm coming from their bikes. Fix the bike so no one gets hurt; that's Job 1.
FAIR: We are fair to our riders; each one will get service that allows them to compete. This does not mean everyone is equal, but everyone should have their competition decided by their abilities, not limited by issues with their equipment.
KIND: We are kind. We treat riders with respect. No condescension permitted in the shop. No grumpy-mechanic attitudes. Biking is fun, racing is fun, fixing bikes is fun.
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 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 was put 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. 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 to be best utilized. However, even if you consider yourself a "downhill mechanic", when you work in the USA Team Shop, you’d better be ready to serve any athlete, wash the rental cars, or fix the hotel washing machine. Working in a group, with a team approach, raises our internal expectations and raises our expectations 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., is done back at the hotel. 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 can help 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, so writing the ticket (seen below) so it is understood by any of us is important.
Sample repair ticket. These will be printed on card stock, each mechanic a different color.
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.
We have detailed expectations of the athletes as well. Bikes should arrive fully race ready. Some athletes know this, while some need a helping hand. Athletes receive a checklist of how their bike should arrive. There is also a video version of this for both XC and DH.