By Fred Dreier
I know that for more than a few mountain-bike enthusiasts word of Shimano’stitle sponsorship of the UCI World Cup and the company’s offerof neutral mechanical assistance conjoured up horrible images of somethingakin to road racing. You know where a bunch of dudes dressed from headto toe in Shimano garb ride on motorcycles laden with spare wheels behindthe racers, fixing flats, changing wheels and replacing chains.
Well, that bad dream will, for the time being, remain just that. TheUCI and Shimano have decided not to allow neutral mechanical assistanceto venture outside of the tech zone. At least, not yet. For 2006, all WorldCup cross-country races (Not Marathon events, mind you) will feature thesame team tech zones that that made their first appearance last year. However,in addition to the team-run zones, Shimano will have one neutral tech zonestationed in a strategic area — possibly in an area that riders pass bytwice in one lap — that will be jam-packed with wheelsets, derailleur parts,chains, cassettes and other easily replaceable gear. The zone will be mannedby four Shimano mechanics who will work on the bike of any rider who isin need of a repair.
Now, while the rules from ’05 enabled only the riders themselves towork on their rigs, the new rules for this year will allow Shimano andteam mechanics to help. So, you can bet the bigger teams will send a mechanicor two into the team-operated tech pits. After all, who would you ratherhave bending back your clunky derailleur hanger — a skeletal cross-countryrider suffering the third bonk of the day, or a surly, tattooed wrenchwith forearms as big as your neck?
Now, as we all saw at last year’s world championships in Livigno, Italy,technical assistance can save a race for a rider. Had Julien Absalon notstopped in a zone and changed out his flat tire, he’d probably still besitting on course, thumbs stuck together with cement, covered from headto toe in rubber patches. So, for the supporters of mechanical assistance,this recent news should be taken as a victory. The neutral assistance pitswill alleviate the stress on less-fortunate riders who do not have theresources to fill the team pits with gear and mechanics. The playing fieldis a bit more level.
To opponents of technical assistance — the old schoolers — well, thismove is definitely one in the wrong direction. After the philosophy ofself-sufficiency is at the core of mountain-bike racing culture. It’s oneof the original tenets, remember? At least last year the guys (and gals)had to change their wheels out themselves. And nowhere in the word “self-sufficient”is there mention of grease monkeys slaving away on broken chains.
What do you think? You can e-mailme and share your thoughts.
I spent a good deal of Monday trying to contact Tinker Juarez to pickhis brain about his recent win at the 24 Hours in the OldPueblo Race. Much to my dismay, Tinker had flown the coop (andthe country) and was en route to Costa Rica to participate in an epic five-daymountain-bike tour put on by the local LavaTours bike tour company. Well, after much phone time spent fumblingwith my introductory-level Spanish, I tracked Tinker down on the summitof a huge volcano. Apparently, the cell-phone coverage in Costa Rica iswonderful.
VeloNews: So Tinker, how are things going down in Costa Rica?
Tinker Juarez: Oh, it’s great. I’m gonna be down here until March6 and I’m doing a 12 hour race the following week. It’s gonna be fun.
VN: Are you using this as serious training time for the RaceAcross America?
TJ: Nah. We’re riding pretty easy. Everyone here is around thesame age group and we’re just going at our own pace. I think everyone justwanted to get out of the cold up in the U.S. you know? I just needed agood easy week of long easy riding. We’ll be riding probably 30 miles aday. We’ll descend this Volcano today. It’s the top of the La Ruta [deLost Conquistadores] rout. The view up here is really beautiful. We’llbe staying in different towns every night.
VN: I heard that they dedicated this year’s 24 Hours in the OldPueblo race to you, and threw a banquet for you. How did that make youfeel?
TJ: Wow, that was really cool. I was really shocked and excited.I think it gave me more motivation to race, definitely. There were a bunchof people at the dinner and my mom and [race director] Todd [Sadow] and[friend] Trevor all spoke. So did my fiancé [Terry]. It was a bigsurprise. I thought that the whole dedication thing was nice enough butthen people started talking about me and that was really cool. And theturnout at the race was great. Seeing how the whole 24 hour thing boomedpretty big and then had trouble sticking at the Adrenaline races, it wasgood to see so many people at this race. Todd just keeps the race prettymuch the same every year and everybody has a good time. Once I came inand saw the cars parked everywhere and the tent city all set up, I knewit was going to be a fun race.
VN: Sounds like the words of praise gave you extra motivationto do well.
TJ: That’s for sure. I was really psyched and motivated.I took it out pretty fast which is what I like to do. I had a good guywho was riding really good with me until about 10 p.m. and he had to dropout, so it was pretty much maintaining the lead for the rest of the race.I haven’t done a 24 hour race in a while and it felt good to go out thereand feel good on the pedals.
VN: Was the race part of your training for RAAM?
TJ: Yeah, I was ready to go out there and see where my fitnessis because I don’t have another 24-hour race between now and RAAM. I’llprobably do some 12-hour and six-hour races but nothing this long. I feltlike I had a good frame of mind for the race. I was almost worried at firstbecause I was stomping the gears so smooth. Everything was really on keyso I was pretty happy about that. But the whole thing with RAAM is thatI’m putting a lot less pressure on myself to win these races and I don’tneed to be in my best shape right now. It felt good to go out there andnot have too much pressure. I liked that.
For the last decade, Trek-Volkswagen has helped support a string ofstrong regional mountain-bike programs. These regional teams — west coast,east coast, mountain states, etc. — have acted as a feeder system to Trek’sfactory team, and has been instrumental in identifying talent in the UnitedStates mountain-bike community.
Well, for 2006, the regional program will have itself a brand spakin’new sponsor. Trek-Volkswagen is teaming up with TecnuExtreme. That’s right, folks, if you’ve ever gotten poison oak(or ivy) in an especially sensitive area, then you are well-versed on thepowers of Tecnu. I, myself, owe the company a big thank-you for helpingmake it through my college commencement ceremony. Yup, the day before Istacked it up on the mountain bike and had my fall broken by a large patchof the three-leafed itchy stuff.
Now, according to team manager Jon Posner, the sponsorship isn’t justlimited to free samples of Tecnu. No word yet on if the 2006 jerseys willhave a big picture of this stuff (right) on them.
Now, if you make it out to one of the seven NORBA National MountainBike Series events this year, you might want to stop by the Trek-Volkswagentent. Trek will have the new newest Project One race bikes (Madone and Fuel EX)on display. And if you’re really really nice, maybe they’ll even let youride one.
Well, by now most of us have our Tour of California viewing dialed in. Yup, for the TOC cycling fix, it’s either hitting “refresh” on the browser to bring up the latest web update, or staying up ‘till midnight to catch the fuzzy ESPN 2 TV coverage.
Well, for all of those looking to catch a quick rider’s perspectiveon the race, you might consider checking out the podcasts of NavigatorsInsurance’s PhilZajicek. You can check it out at philzajicek.blogspot.com.Phil is one of the USA’s best domestic riders, and he has a good graspon what’s going on. That, and he’s strongas an ox.
Finally, for all of those starving endurance athletes out there who are dreading the upcoming tax season, don’t fret. Reigning Marathon cross-country national champion GretchenReeves, who is also a licensed CPA, will be conducting a free taxseminar for pro athletes, personal trainers and all sorts of other peopleinvolved in endurance sports who run up their credit cards on race-relatedexpenses. The seminar is this Sunday, February 26 at 4pm at One BoulderFitness. For more info, e-mailReeves.