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The Chris Davidson diary
Chris Davidson is a mechanic for Bontrager Racing Service, which provides
neutral tech support provider for US domestic races.
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Tour of the Gila, USA, May 1-5, 2002
Stage 2: Frantic flat-fixing frenzy
Good evening from Gila. We had a crazy day on the first road stage. We had
a digital camera problem, and I don't have photos today, but here is how it
The sun rose and the wind started blowing 25mph+. 140 riders signed on as we
staged the town square in Silver City. We solved our mechanic problem this morning
in the 30 minutes before the start as we recruited the team mechanic from TECOS,
a team from Mexico. Great guy, but absolutely no English. We put him in van
number two and the driver, my wonderful girlfriend, got to practice her Spanish
as she learned words for bike part. He ended up doing a killer job, as did our
second mechanic in van number one, Brad, again on loan for the day. We started
the day with 18 rear Shimano nine speed wheels and two Campy ten speeds, plus
20 fronts. Additionally we had six bikes running Shimano nine speed. These numbers
would prove interesting later in the day. At the start, the Jelly Belly team
gave us an additional Campy ten speed rear -- they are the only team here on
Campy. We rolled out and briefly talked on the radios about this stage last
year. I believe we did six wheel changes in the entire 92 miles last year. What
a different a year makes.
The stage: 92 miles all in the crosswind, heading north out of Silver City
to Mogollon. They throw in two small loops on side roads about a third of the
way to the finish to add some length. The race really starts with about six
miles to go, when we make a right turn and head up to the mountain top finish.
The action: Because there are no team cars, we are covering the entire field.
The flats started about three miles into the race, nothing new there. But they
did not stop. Mercury in particular had a number in the first 15 miles, including
Moniger, and sent six guys back to bring him back on.
We are about to hit the short loops and we have done like 10 changes from the
motos. We shuffle some wheels back from the lead van to help replenish the supply.
Rear wheels are being used about twice as fast as fronts. We make the first
short loop and then the S*%T hits the fan. One guy destroys his chain and requires
a bike change. In the next 45 seconds we have two separate rear flats about
400 meters from each other. Riders are waiting up the road with hands in the
air. Ahead the race is starting to string out. When finished with the bike change,
we get both motos back up to the tail of the field and guys are coming off in
small groups. More hands in the air. The van now just races from moto to moto
restocking us with new wheels. The second small loop ends and the field slows
for a few minutes. Then another bike change is required due to a broken handlebar.
When we get the van and motos back up to the field, we count wheels and we had
already done over 20 changes, and there is still 40 miles left in the race.
We radio the vans to start taking wheels off the other spare bikes on the roof
racks to fill in. We are getting close. In the remaining miles to the final
climb we do more changes and get down to three rear wheels left. We make the
turn on to the climb and from there on no one else flats. The final total was
over 30 wheel changes in 92 miles. Definitely a record for a single stage at
The race: A single Ofoto.com guy spent the first half of the day off the front.
From there it was a race to the base of the climb. After the right turn Mercury
went to the front and gunned it, pulling it down to about eight guys before
the climb really got steep. From there Moniger took off and flew to the top.
Mercury went first and second. Prime Alliance [Pate and Horner] and Wohlberg
hung tuff. Some tiny guy in SOBE clothing rocketed up the climb as well, riding
thru a lot of the pros. Very tuff day.
Awards: Brian Forbes [Jelly Belly] had all his flats at times when we were
already off the motos. I think that I alone put four wheels in his bike today,
and he kept making it back: tough guy award for the day.
Tomorrow we tackle the Fort Bayard loop, with beautiful climbs thru pine forests.