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Q&A: Tips from two of US Cup-CX’s top mechanics

On Saturday, Stephen Hyde and Kaitie Keough were crowned champions of the first US Cup-CX series. Cyclocross is a demanding sport for the riders and the equipment. So, series sponsor Sho-Air and organizer Ryan Trebon decided to do something special for the people behind the scenes, the ones who weren’t riding on the hilly Derby City race course.

Cannondale-CyclocrossWorld.com mechanics Gary Wolff and Rawny Semba were awarded special tool kits made by Abbey Bike Tools for their work to keep Hyde and Keough running throughout the seven-race series.

Amateur riders don’t have the advantage of guys like Wolff and Semba attending to their race rigs. We talked to these two experts to glean a little knowledge for all you home ’cross mechanics.

Stephen Hyde alongside his mechanic, Rawny Semba (left). Gary Wolff is Kaitie Keough’s mechanic (right). Photo: @pinnedgrit

VeloNews: What is the key to being a successful mechanic at the pro level?

Gary Wolff: Being calm, I’d say. Staying calm, patient, and not getting stressed.

Rawny Semba: Planning ahead a little bit. Trying to figure out what the riders are going to need before they ask because they usually ask very late.

VN: What is your one suggestion for readers to become better mechanics for cyclocross?

RS: Just be really good at cleaning and lubing your bicycle. Get efficient at that. Figure out where you’re going to wash it. And just make sure you have all that stuff prepped beforehand.

GW: Be prepared when you show up. Your base work should be done in the middle of the week, getting your bikes ready, so when you show up then you’re only washing at the race. You’re not trying to fix it unless you crash. The idea is to show up with perfectly running bikes. You should get through the weekend no problems as long as you’re washing it good. The drivetrain is essentially the biggest thing you need to keep clean.

RS: Spare derailleur hanger … Spare derailleur hanger.

VN: Good segue. What are a few essentials for the tool kit when you show up to a ’cross race?

RS: Good multitool with all the bits you’ll need is pretty essential. It’s super simple. Keep it efficient. Derailleur hangers, spare derailleur hangers, that’s a common thing that gets broken. If you can have an extra chain that’s always key as well.

GW: A pump. There’s so many people that show up to bike races that don’t have a pump. They’re scrounging. It’s quite frustrating when they come up to me when someone comes up, ‘You got a pump?’

VN: Got it, so don’t ask Gary to borrow a pump.

GW: The key to cycling is having a fricking pump! [laughs]

VN: What is the craziest repair you’ve made in the pits during a race?

RS: Changing a shifter in 25-degree cold, breezy weather. That sucks.

GW: I’ve never had to do anything like that. Just washing bikes at last year’s worlds in the U23 race was pretty epic. Lance [Haidet] was flatting every other lap so we ran out of wheels in the end because of the amount of flat tires. Our box was as far away from the power washers as it could possibly be. We were at the furthest fricking box from the washers.

VN: What’s the best tip you’ve been given for your work?

RS: Cash. Cash money!

GW: Cash is king! [laughs]. I’d say yesterday’s award was good.

RS: The Abbey Bike Tool award, that’s definitely the best thing I’ve ever gotten.

GW: I’ve been doing this 20 years and that’s the first time I’ve gotten something like that.

VN: And you didn’t even have to fix Ryan Trebon’s bike for that!

RS: No, we don’t touch Ryan’s bike.

Abbey Bike Tools provided special toolkits to honor the mechanics behind the US Cup-CX winners. Photo: @pinnedgrit

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