La Perfection A Tout Prix, Part 2

(Perfection at Any Price)
Velo Magazine November 1998
as translated by Ric Hjertberg

24 Hours With a Mechanic, part 2

Finish of the race. The team support truch is already at the hotel, supplied with wayer and electricity. The bath begins. The dust and dirt of the day disappear in a mountain of lather as the bikes are quickly washed. After the wash comes the rinse, and the bikes are passed unader a flowing hose. During this time the washing machines are already at work in the front of the truck with the jerseys, shorts, socks, etc.
After the big wash the bikes are checked. Lubrication is used on everything which moves or can rust, the preference is for sprays. Only the chains get a stronger treatment. Then everythign is changed out which isn’t performing like new, especially shift wires. At Gios, they say that some eyars ago the ream changed from white bar tape to blue to reduce their excessive consumption.
Overtime arrives when there are crashed during the race or when there’s a time trial the next day. Time trial bikes are the biggest worry for the mechanics. The cables must be adjusted, the gears changed for the course, and minor adjustements like brakes can take an eternity. There’s no other sport for which the equipment musy be in such a perfect stte as for time trialing, which often involves work into the night after a twelve hour day. But the mechanics relax as they eat their meal in spite of it all, or becuase of it all. Excitement has not plac here.
Calm is what is needed when it’s a question of hearing the preferences of the riders during dinner. Angel Moreno of Festina says, with a big smile, ” I like it best when the riders are sleeping.”
Certain athletes are not content with the equipment and want something particular. Tony Rominger was well known for his desires. Marco Pantanu rides on a custom, super light frame designed just for his body, selected by him from six built expressly for him. Bjarne Riis likes its to expirament and follow every technical newness. Telekom takes particular liberties wiht its selection of high tech materials. Riis and Ullrich use time trial bikes of carbon and lightweight carbon wheels for the mountains. It may violate sponsor agreements but the riders of a certain stature ar oftne permitted.
The limit is set by director sportif Walter Godefroot with the team’s frames. Knowing that light weight gives his riders wings, he constantly works as has as possible with his sponsor-partner, Pinarello. For Godefroot, it’s more important to have materials which will last all season than to gain time in just one stage. “We need more than 120 bicycles each year, that’s why we need a partner who is flexible and worthy of our confidence,” he underscores.
And for developments in the future, this ex-pro predicts, “if I feel we are limited in our technical program, I’ll seek other sources and eventually purchase materials which will offer us an advantage.” But for this moment, he is content.

The parking area for the team support truck is plunged into the obscurity of the night , or nearly. Through a partly closed window on Telekom’s workshop truck, a weak light shows Dirk Tyteca who makes the last touches on a bike for tomorrow’s stage. How did the race go? “I don’t know.” It’s a sober reply for a day of work like all the others.


Owner of and long time professional race mechanic.