Bernard Kocis

Season opener, a Belgian Classic

Bernard KOCIS- Journal
29 Feb 08

Preparing for our European adventure began with me spending 12 hours in a car driving to Canada with two of our riders who continued training in the South after our official training camp ended. They collected me from my house in Virginia and we hit the road.

Once again in Canada, I was supposed to build TT bikes and the remainder of our team bikes and spares but our parts were still on the water between Japan and North America…looks like we travel lighter than we wanted.
I gathered all the parts and spares we had and packed 7 bikes plus my mechanic kit and we headed off to the Toronto airport where all but one rider met us and gave the ticket agents quite a start with 9 people hauling over 30 pieces of baggage! Steve had an Ace up his sleeve…he arranged with the airline management to take all our luggage (both ways) without excess baggage fees!!!
Off we go to the gate and after a quick stop in Montreal to collect our last rider (and a couple hundred others destined for Paris) we would be in Europe the following morning. Or not.
Our plane developed a mechanical that couldn’t be fixed in time for us to leave the same day, so we had 24+ hours layover in a Toronto hotel (could have been worse, could have been stuck in the airport). We finally departed Toronto made the Montreal connection and arrived at Paris DeGaulle airport.
Steve had a friend drive a Sprinter van towing a small trailer to collect us and with the rental car, we all settled in for a 3 hour drive to Oudenaarde, Belgium…our home for a month.

The Bed and Breakfast, Hof Ter Kammen, has the capacity to house 30 people (if you’re a bunch of Juniors who can sleep and function packed into high-capacity dorm rooms) but the 10 of us are quite comfortable. The proprietors have two boys and are involved in the local Flanders cycling community. Steve was invited by them to the annual club awards and celebrity turn-out one evening.
Earlier in the day, our host, Christian, popped into the bike room to chat and I asked him about his bike. He told me it needed work as the gears wouldn’t work all the time…a few derailleur adjustments, cables tensioned, wheel trued and bars re-wrapped made it normal again. He was thrilled. So much so that he invited me (!) to the club event too! Wow!

When we (Steve, Josée and I) arrived the place was filled and there were lots of speakers and awards, all of which were presented in Flemish…I only understood Thank you and Congratulations…and towards the end of the presentations, Steve was called onto the podium with Nicco Mattan for an impromptu chat. Steve loved it! With his time spent in Belgium he understands more than he can speak but they were kind and spoke English.

A great reception followed with an open bar (yes…free beer in Belgium!!) and 3 types of local cheese, great bread and wonderful patè.

We had a blast chatting with our hosts and with their help and translations managed to meet a number of local, national and international cycling stars. This was truly one of the best experiences I’ve had in this business.
The Flanders cycling museum is housed in their club house (or vice versa) which is so packed with real cycling history it is unbelievable. We only saw what was displayed in the entry foyer!
We plan to return with the boys soon and go through properly!

Right…time for me to sleep now, our first race of the season is tomorrow, the Beverbeek Classic. I think it’s a UCI 1.2 race. Wake up is 6AM!


3 thoughts on “Season opener, a Belgian Classic

  • Bernard, the phone number I have for you doesn’t work anymore, the email address doesn’t work either. Contact me when you get a chance. Richard in Socal.

  • velomech

    Hi Carlos,
    Thanks for visiting
    Your question is, what tools should you bring to work for a team?
    Definitely your tool case. (You can choose some good ones on this site!)
    Usually teams will have sponsors providing some or all of the things mechanics use everyday. Checking with the Director (DS) or Head mechanic first is the best course. Also ask about clothing, you don’t want to show up wearing Colnago when they are riding Trek…or Hutchinson when they use Continental…you get the picture.
    Usually, cutting/frame tools are not as essential as they were a decade ago…that’s not to say they are outdated, just that for teams, frame sponsors usually provide faced and chased frames for fast and easy assembly. For me a truing stand is essential when I’m gluing tires. I will keep one in the truck/trailer but usually spot truing is done on the bike while in the workstand. But to ensure true wheels, running each wheel in a properly dished truing stand is the only way to keep the team safe and true. And again, check with the DS or Head wrench for what they have.

    Having said all that, teams are vastly different in what they offer mechanics on the road. Local grassroots teams will usually have one rider with some tools, maybe a truing stand and workstand. Regional teams rely heavily on the mechanic to have whatever is needed with perhaps a local bike shop providing tools to use/borrow. Continental, Pro Continental and Pro Tour teams will have increasing levels of support for the mechanic. And of course, any National (USAC) team will be well supported for any event in the world.

    Good luck and good wrenching!
    Bernard KOCIS

  • Hi, I’m a USA Cycling mechanic. Last season I helped out at Denver area races (ACA/ ROL Wheel Neutral Support, not USAC-so I couldn’t use those races for upgrading, but they compensated with pay, equal to officials pay).Now I’m in Texas, and want to help out as a team mechanic. I was wondering do most US (NRC) teams (men & women) already have, team owned tools like facers, chasers, fork cutting tools, truing stands. I was planning on showing up with just a tool case (adjustments basically) and a work stand.
    What would you recomend. -Thanks C.K.

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