It is a few days before I shove off to our official team training camp in Southern California. But for a weekend, I’m in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center for the annual USCF mechanics clinic. I took this class in 1993 and became a professional mechanic in 1995. My first job that year as many of you all know was with the Saturn Team. I went through the official process to get my mechanics license that winter of 93. I had a fair amount of experience as a shop wrench and Andy Stone let me work a few races each year before that. I went in to learn more though and I got just that. After going through that process and soon after working with Saturn, I wanted to return to help the students as I had wanted help/guidance my year. In 1997 I was asked to teach the clinics class of potential mechanics. I did just that and enjoyed it quite a bit.
This year I got the chance again. I’ve wanted to teach the clinic ever since I did in 97 but conflicts of schedule prohibited me from teaching till now. I was excited. The clinic basically consists of different classes covering different areas of professional mechanics jobs/tasks. Classes such as bike wash, basic repairs, neutral support, MTB team support, tubular tire gluing to name a few.
One class in particular I wanted to sit in on. I could easily do so due to the rotation of the class schedule. Ric Hertjberg (hope I spelled that right) was to teach the wheel building class. Like many classes, he taught his theories and his philosophies. I’m a fan of many of his ideas and philosophies. But it is his delivery that I love the most. He talk’s about wheels as if they were a living being. Once he describes the effects of a damaged wheel. But he did not say the wheel would not have a negative reaction (become truable/straightenable). He said "The wheel would not complain" Really interesting the way he feels about wheels.
I felt lucky to have Ric as my roommate for the clinic. My other roommate was Bob Gregorio. He started as one of the first groups of team mechanics on the then 7/11 team. I read cycling magazines often. As much as I wanted racing news, I wanted news of how pro mechanics worked. They were as fascinating to me as the racing itself. Bob later worked with John Tomac on the dirt circuit for a solid decade. Two roommates with a vast experience that makes mine pale in comparison. I wish I could have had more time to hang out with the teachers. Especially Ric and Bob.
The class I was to teach was Road team support. I think I was the luckiest because the other teachers had certain things to teach and had specific technical aspects to pass on for their class. In the wheel building class there were things such as spoke tension and spoke choice to be taught. In the bike was class it was a specific list of things to do and things to look for during the bike wash. The tire gluing class gave specifics to how to glue tires properly.
Dave Arnauskus and I were to teach our class together. Our class teaching format was loose. Loose because our class was taught based upon mostly stories. Stories of our experiences as a team mechanic. I think Dave and I could have told stories for hours but alas we had a 90 minute limit. That was 3 days of fun and hopefully I along with the other teachers, inspired some to move forward to try to become a professional mechanic like myself.
On a slightly sad note, I wish the clinic was a bit longer. In years past it was 4 days and classes ended at 6 or 7 or so. Afterwards the students and teachers usually hung out in the dorm hallways and sometimes you got the best stories or information there in the hall besides the great info you got in the classes. This year we had to condense it into 3 days so the class schedule started an hour earlier and went a couple hours after we had dinner. I personally was a bit tired and did not hang out as much as I would have liked to. I think I did not give the students the service I had hoped to.
On a personal note, I feel I am a lucky mechanic. I resigned my contract one week after the SFGP last September. For the 2003 season, I did not sign my contract till one week before training camp (mid Jan. 2003). For 2004 I was super nervous for some reason so I tried to sign early. Staff is almost always on a year to year contract so I need to keep on top of it. The thing I feel luckiest about is something a friend at the clinic told me. I am the ONLY team mechanic (in the US) that will work for the same team in 04 as in 03. Unfortunately all the Saturn Mechanics are out of jobs (Ian S. and Dave A.). Teams folded and mechanics looked for other jobs such as Ken (former Prime Alliance and now T-mobile), Neil (Former Schroeder Iron and now Navigators). Gone are Mike S. Eva B. (both Navigators) and probably a few others I’m forgetting. Team mechanics are a small fraternity in the US (sorry Eva). I am lucky to have endured.
I’ve told this sometimes often. Before My first day at Saturn/Team sports I was driving to Wisconsin. I told myself I would be a pro mechanic for 10 years. After one season, I was wasted. I reassessed my goals to 8 years. After 2 seasons I said shit. OK, I’ll go 6 years. After 3 seasons I quit to be convinced of a 4 season. Half way through the 4th season I truly quit. Off the entire winter of 98 and part of 99 I got the bug. I did a few events with Postal and Cox/Atlanta Velo. I was hungry again and soon was the official domestic mechanic for Postal in 2000. I’ve been here since. This season (2004) will mark my 10th season as a pro mechanic. In December I will have achieved part of my goals. The tour, the Olympics will be the only things missing so far. It is hard to imagine me 10 years ago as a totally GREEN team mechanic.
But for this weekend, I’m the Story Teller.