Pro Mechanics Charity Invitational

To help celebrate the 30th anniversary of neutral support, Mavic invited many of the top professional mechanics to a wheel changing contest the day before the US Professional Road Race Championships in Philadelphia. Though the rules were a bit odd for some of the team mechanics, and Mother Nature made sure the road stayed wet, everyone seemed to get the hang of it and a great time was had by all.

Since the idea was to celebrate the anniversary of neutral support, the contest was based heavily on experiences of the Mavic Neutral Support Program. This meant that mechanics had to carry more than one wheel and keep their equipment with them. Here are the rules:
1) Each mechanic must leave the vehicle with 3 wheels: a front, a 9 speed rear and a 10 speed rear. A penalty of 10 seconds was added to their time per wheel that was left in the car.
2) After leaving the car, the mechanic must close the door or a 5 second penalty was added to their time.
3) The mechanic had to cross the finish line with all 3 wheels or a 5 second penalty would be added to their time per wheel left on the ground.

To keep things even and allow the mechanics to use their own vehicles, the following conditions were laid out:
a) the same size bikes were used for each mechanic
b) the center of the crank on the bike was placed 18 feet from the front of the rear door of the vehicle being used
c) the finish line was taped off at 15 feet from the bike’s crank
d) the rider on the bike had the left foot on the ground and the right foot in the toe clip
e) the bikes were place in the 53 chainring and the 4th gear up on the cassette
f) the rear skewer was placed between the stays and the front behind the fork
g) all the wheels being used for changing were gapped the same amount

So, with all the rules laid out and conditions set, the contest was described to the mechanics in attendance. Twenty four of the mechanics in attendance signed up (listed below) and took turns in a time trial format with times taken from the moment they opened the vehicle’s door to the time they crossed the finish line. Each mechanic would change a rear ten speed wheel and then push the rider, on the bike across the line. The top eight mechanics would then progress in a head to head elimination style format. The big change here was that they would not know which wheel to change until they asked the rider. Okay, both riders would say the same thing to keep it even, however some times it was a front, and sometimes it was the rear.

Oh, this was also being covered by the local television, CyclingNews and other media and there were rewards to follow for the winner. The awards had yet to be mentioned, however the trophy was displayed for all to see.

The top eight mechanics ignored some heckling from a certain obnoxious mechanic and got drenched in the process. These mechanics were lined up for the head to head battle with the fastest time against the eight fastest time. Here is how they were bracketed with their time trial times for comparison.
a) Alex Ritze – 17.46 against Mike Berlinger – 22.13
b) Andy Stone – 19.11 against Chad Contreras – 21.60
c) Mike Spilker – 19.30 against Mike Berry – 20.71
d) Chuck Hodge – 19.46 against Tom Maines – 19.77

Though Alex Ritze was the shining mechanic of the time trial pulling off a time that no one could match, he fumbled a bit in the second leg allowing Mike Berlinger to get to the line first. Actually, all the faster mechanics were beat out by the slightly slower time trialists. Did the faster guys use too much energy in the time trial? We may never know.

With only four left, Mother Nature decided it was time to unzip the sky and the rain began to fall harder. The riders again lined up for the competition and the mechanics loaded their cars. The first grouping set Mike Berlinger against Chad Contreras and Chad pulled out the faster wheel change. The second set put Mike Berry against Tom Maines and Tom hit the finish line first.

For the finals, Mavic threw in a new condition. The mechanics would have to change both the front and rear wheels. After a few ewes and awes and a couple more drinks the riders and mechanics lined up again. This was the first time during the contest that two team mechanics were pitted against each other. The tension built, the whistle blew, the mechanics jumped and the wheels went flying. Both mechanics seemed to be in slow motion as the wheels were being changed. Hands were moving, skewers were opening and closing, riders got back on bikes and Chad pushed his rider over the line first.

As everyone shifted their attention to the tent, Mavic debuted the new Ksyrium SL TDF wheel set and presented the first pair in the States to Chad, the winner of the First Annual Promechanics Charity Invitational. Along with his new wheel set, Chad was presented with a custom trophy topped by a Mavic anniversary car and a large bottle of milk. Yep, even mechanics get milk, not just the Indy winners… Chad was also given a check for the charity of his choice and he chose the Nicole Reinhart Memorial Fund.

So, did you catch the hint in the last paragraph? Yep, seems this will happen again next year. Start practicing now…

2003 ProMechanics Charity Invitational Competitors:
Randy Villanueva – Mavic
Hank Williams – Mavic
Mike Berry – Mavic
Matt Bracken – Mavic
Chris Clinton – Mavic
John Berlinger – Mavic
Aaron Walker – Mavic
Merlyn Townley – Team Japan
Kihara Tumoru – Team Japan
Bob Nixon – Diet Rite
Chad Grochowina – 7up
Alex Ritze – Nurnberger
Wind Beaver – Sierra Nevada
Mike Berlinger – Mavic
Duke Pakdee – T-Mobile
Mike Spilker – Navigators
Andy Stone – Shimano
Ben Anderson – Jelly Belly
Tom Maines – Jelly Belly
Alex Vaivars – West Virginia
Jose Alcala – Saeco
Chad Contreras – Victory Brewing
Chris Zigmont – Mavic
Chuck Hodge – Mavic


Owner of and long time professional race mechanic.