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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. Index to all entries

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 went:

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 this race.

The race: A single 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.