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Wrenchin' in the USA: The Chris Davidson diary 2005

Chris Davidson is a mechanic for Shimano Multi-Service doing neutral tech support at road and mountain bike races..

Chris' diary entries show us what life is like inside the pits and give an insight into the mind of a mechanic.

Index to all entries

NORBA NCS Series #1 ,Tapatio Springs, TX, USA, March 3-6, 2004

Day zero - Wednesday, March 2: The 2005 racing season is here

Greetings readers,
Chris Davidson back for 2005. The off-season has once again been brief and I am already on the road en route to my first race assignment of 2005: NORBA Stop #1 at Tapatio Springs, Texas. Just yesterday I was clicking into my nordic skis in Park City, Utah for 90 minutes of skating in minus six degree Celsius temperatures; 24 hours later I am in the airport in Phoenix awaiting a connecting flight to San Antonio, Texas.

First rule of race support: There are never direct flights to race venues. This is almost always true for me when I head to NORBA venues, where I might get lucky with a non-stop flight to Reno for a race at Mammoth Mountain, these flights are usually followed by longer drives[in the case of Mammoth, 3+ hours from Reno]. This weekend's race involves Salt Lake City to San Antonio via Phoenix flights, followed by an hour drive to reach the race venue. For me this usually takes place on a Wednesday night.

50lbs of fear
Photo: © Chris Davidson
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Second rule of race support: Flying with race tool case will cost you a minimum of 30 minutes in the baggage screening. This trip was no exception. I am growing less and less fond of flying with my tools as airlines are now very strict with the 50lbs bag limit for my toolcase. But worse is the security screening. There is no way my case ever makes it through the x-ray without qualifying for a detailed hand inspection. Today, after looking at the contents of my case on the computer screen, the Transportation Safety Administration officer called over his supervisor before donning latex gloves and opening my case. I usually standby and wait for this entire process to complete itself before I head down to the gate. Today these two TSA employees looked carefully through about 80 of my small hand tools as if they were objects from King Tut's tomb.

I can understand their extended examination of things like my chaintool, which looks odd to all those outside the cycling world. However the amount of time which it took them to examine items such as screwdrivers concerned me. Half an hour later my case was closed up and deemed fit to get abused next by the baggage handlers. As much as I fly to races, I am all for VERY intensive security measures. My concern lies in the number of times my case gets opened and closed out of my control. A very experienced mechanic friend of mine, John Lands, once told me a horror story of waiting in the baggage claim in the Tokyo airport while working road world's in 1990. Ten minutes after all the luggage from his flight had come down, John's fear was realized as single tools of his started coming down the baggage beltway. It seems that his case had mysteriously come open at some point, and now the essential elements of his job had been set free to roam the bowels of the Tokyo airport. I live with this fear ever time I fly with my case.

News and Notes: Due to the heavy toll that race support extracts on humans, there typically is a large turnover year-to-year. Close to home, my two superiors at Shimano last year, Matt Eames and Foye Troute, are searching greener pastures this year. On the domestic road and MTB front, it seems like half of the team mechanics are new this year. My good friend Ken Whelpdale[former TMobile women's(2004), Prime Alliance(2002-2003) and Saturn] has leaded a spot with Gerolsteiner in Germany. Ken's ability with other European languages is limited; however he speaks German beer fluently. Since January our interactions have consisted of short updates from his blackberry at weird hours. On the plus side he says that the Mercedes team trucks have great GPS/navigation systems that never make errors. Ken is one of those hardy individuals that can function in any environment, any continent, and any time zone and still ensure that the bikes are right. He is one of the few that can endure this job.

2005 holds some new adventures/venues. I look forward to the MTB World Cup on US soil. I also hope to get out and do some more work with some of the women's road teams here in the US. Expanded this year, I am going to have the pleasure of doing some more Women's Development Camps for USACycling with the legendary rider/director Mike Engleman. Convenient to me, US Road Nationals/NORBA #6 takes place in my backyard, Park City, Utah. The cancellation of the NORBA stop at Big Bear led to the move to Brian Head, Utah; again close to home for me. Plenty to do and see in 2005. I hope to bring you more of the information and photos that really depict what is going on inside the races. If you make it out to the NORBA race this weekend, stop by and introduce yourself.

Until tomorrow, thanks for reading,
Chris Davidson