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A mechanic’s view of Wachovia Week
By Vincent Gee, U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling
Editor’s note: Vincent Gee is mechanic for the U.S. Postal ServiceCycling Team, largely responsible for the domestic circuit. Gee will bereporting back to VeloNews.com throughout the season.June 5 – Tuesday’s race in Lancaster was raining all day long but today (Thursday), it was dry. Nonetheless, it was bike wash, followed by bike wash, followed by yet another bike wash yesterday and this morning. The Lancaster race ended really late Tuesday so we put the dirty bikes away for the night and set off to a late dinner.
Wednesday morning Julien (head mechanic) Allen Buttler and I pulled them out and gave them all a quick wash to get most of the road grime off the frames but had to scrub hard to get the grease we applied to the chains for the rain in Lancaster. After their mid afternoon training ride, we proceeded to washed them good. Then we did the major prep work on the race bikes. We checked over the wheels we raced in Lancaster, changed what ever was needed and gave the bikes a thorough once over. Lancaster
This morning the riders did yet another training ride before this afternoon’s race. After the ride we did another wash and loaded the bikes and we were soon off to Trenton.
The Trenton race was nothing to write home about. Typically a field sprint, I was lucky to have only one flat. I did not get to change it though, as Mavic got to Stephen Kjaargaard before I did.
As we caught up to him he asked me to check his brakes. He felt they were not centered. But it was the wheel in slightly crooked and rubbing the frame. He stopped to re-center it and was off again. Man did he chase back hard. Few riders who flatted today ended up regaining the field.
Again the race ended late so we just packed the bikes away and headed to another late dinner. Julien calls us the men of the dirty hands club. Normally I’d have to agree. But after three sets of bike washing in about 24 hours, I feel like I have dishwater hands from all the soapy water I had immersed my hands into.
The Belgian Switch
June 3 – Saturday night almost all of our staff arrived on theevening flight from Europe. Dave flew in from Texas just before the Eurosand Paula arrived Sunday. A few riders arrived Saturday but the bulk ofthe riders arrived Sunday. Benoit Joachim was doing the Tour of Luxembourgand it finished on Sunday so he flew in Monday night.
Just before the Belgium contingent arrived they had experienced greatweather at home. It was almost in the 90s in Belgium in the days leadingup to their departure for the U.S.
Yesterday we had good weather (at least there was no rain) buttoday looked like it was gonna be wet.
It started to rain just as we were leaving the hotel to drive to Lancaster.Racing in the rain is hard for the racers. It takes its toll physicallyas well as mentally. Of course, the the same goes for the staff. Soigneurshave to be prepared for it with things like more towels and dry clothingand it takes more work to scrub the warm up oils off of the riders’ legsthat they applied before the race, especially after they’ve gotten layeredwith road grime.
For the mechanics, rain means washing bikes that are thick with dirtand grime after the race. After this mornings bike wash/prep we oil thechains as normal. But just before the race we applied a layer of greaseto the chains as even the best lubricants have a tough time lasting inthe rain. So that addition alone requires us to scrub so much harder toget the gritty, dirty grease/oil off the chain during bike cleaning. Therain also lets road grime to “Stick” to the rims and thus brake pads areworn at a phenomenal rate. So, it’s time to change a lot of pads now!!!!The pads are not completely gone, but even if a pad is 60 to 70 percentgood, we need to be sure and replace them so they are as close to 100 percentas possible. Man, working in the rain is also physically demanding. Tryingto keep warm and work at the same time. I’m super tired now.
Darn it. When did we do the Belgium switch (especially with the weather)?
On a side note: The Wachovia series (formerly First Union Seriesand before that the Core States Series) consists of the Lancaster race,the Trenton race and the Pro Championships in Philly in a week’s time span.I’ve been here every year since 1995. In 1999 I worked with the Cox/AtlantaVelo women so I only did the Liberty Classic that year. The Liberty Classicis run concurrently with the Pro Championship men’s race. Both races areon the course together. The men start and then the women follow. The women’srace is shorter so there is no overlap of the races. Counting the threeraces per year and the one women’s race in 99, I’ve done a total of 25race days in the Philly week(s). On only one other occasion it rained.Lancaster 1996.
I was with the Saturn team in ‘96 and the roster included one of myfavorite riders: Steve Bauer from Canada. Bauer is a great athlete anda great person too. In the pouring rain that year, Steve flatted. Overthe race radio, I heard “Saturn — Rear wheel for Bauer.”
At this point in the race it was already going pretty fast. As I waschanging his wheel, Bauer just looked back and said, in a remarkably calmtone, that “this is going to be a hard chase back, Vince.”
I thought to myself that he was right and so I wanted to give him agood wheel change and a great push off. The wheel change went really fast,but most off all smooth as I checked to make sure it was in correctly.
As I was pushing him I tried to get him up to speed as fast as possible.I planted my foot for one last hard push off and as I did so my foot slippedin the rain soaked road and I fell flat on my ass. I got a good cheer fromthe crowd watching me that time.