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TOUR OF CALIFORNIA UPDATE- stage 1

SPECIAL REPORT BY ERIC JELLUM, KELLY BENEFITS
TOUR OF CALIFORNIA UPDATE - FROM THE MECHANIC'S PERSPECTIVE
Stage 1 2011 Amgen Tour of California


Today was a day I may never forget.

The Tour of California is scheduled to start today in Lake Tahoe. It is very strange to wake up the day of a bike race and to look out my hotel window to see heavy snow falling from the sky. By the time we checked out of our hotel room and made it to breakfast, the snow was still falling. Not much was sticking to the ground, but all of our team vehicles had several inches of fresh snow accumulating on them.

After I finished my coffee, the race was pushed back from 10:30 to 1:15 p.m. We had a small staff meeting to figure out a new plan for pre race setup. The start time was still questionable, so to make any concrete plans was very difficult. It was time to go into scramble mode.

One thing we knew was, if the race was moved down to warmer climates, we would need to get offthe mountain. The weather reports from the top of Donner Pass were calling for snow chains, so my job was to find snow chains for all 6 of our team support vehicles. With the start time pushed back a few hours, surprisingly, it was no problem to hunt down snow chains in a small town.


I made it back to the hotel just in time to hear they where still planning on racing, but it was going to be a shortened race. It took all hands on deck at warp speed to get everything ready once we heard the race was actully going to happen. The riders hurriedly grabbed their bikes and rode them across the street to wait in the Kelly Benefits RV that was near the start line.

Once we got the bikes to the start line, we could finally take a breath. Not much really goes on with mechanics at the start. We usually have our work finished well before the gun. (With today being the exception.

On most occasions, the biggest issue we may face at the start line is a last minute gear adjustment and we also act as watch dogs over all the race bikes to ensure they don't disapear. With thousands of fans, most of whom are riding bikes, it would be easy for someone to walk off with a valuable race bike and get lost in the crowd without a watchful eye.

Today, it was just a struggle to stay warm. I shouldn't really complain. The riders were the ones facing icy temperatures and brisk winds and all I had to face was the cozy backseat of an Acura TSX.

All the team support cars that were to follow the race, lined up behind the start line waiting for the gun. Just a few minutes before the starting time, the race was called off due to bad weather. So instead of piling into the RV, and seeing that they where already dressed in warm cycling clothing, all of our riders figured they would continue on a small training ride. So one of the team cars and one of the vans followed the riders on a shirt ride.

Once the ride was complete and we made it to the next race housing, it was time to get to work. Most of the bikes had a thick coat of ice from being on top of the team car or van. Chris Davison had the brilliant idea of hooking up the hot water connection from the washing machine that was located in our rental condo unit. With about 75 feet of hose we were able to give the bikes a hot bath to thaw them out. Brilliant!

We fired up the air compressor to blow all the moister out of the components and we wiped the frames down. It was still snowing outside, it was a little surreal working on road bikes outside in the snow. You can never quite prepare for a day like today. The best thing you can do is be flexible and take what ever comes at you with a good attitude.


Tomorrow, I will not be or see a bike race. My job will to drive the teams van and trailer to the next hotel with all riders and staffs luggage. If everything goes to plan, it should be a relaxing day.

Eric J