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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.
Storms in Aspen
Day One in Aspen - 9000ft+ up in Colorado, back in the dirt
I really love the high altitude venues on the NORBA circuit, putting the 'mountain' back in mountain bike racing. Up this far in the mountains you can always count on one thing; rain in the afternoon, every afternoon. We definitely got the rain this afternoon, and there is no doubt about the altitude here, just try and pedal and it hits you.
Thursdays are always really low-key at the venues. This year there is a tonne of construction going up on the mountain at Snowmass, and this has led to some changes to the race courses from last year's event. The 'tech area' is a series of tiered parking lots on one side of Snowmass Village. These lots are long and thin and this arrangement breaks off the community that is the usual pit area at a NORBA. The barriers for the start/finish area run right in front of our trailer. We will get to see all the racing up close, but it will be hard to racers who need our services to get to our trailer. The volume of service should go up substantially tomorrow.
I looked over a few bikes today for pros and amateurs alike. And I took my fork down to the guys at Manitou to have their techs look at it. I have a shot of one of the hottest female racers' rigs: Heather Irmiger [Tokyo Joe's/Go Lite]. She is riding a Gary Fisher hardtail with carbon fiber stays in the rear both top and bottom. I like the paint, simple and effective. Some schemes will never go out of style.
After work I went for a lap of the XC course with a pro racer, Cindi Hansen of mtbchick.com. On the ride I discovered a few problems with her bike, ones that might have been missed on the work stand. Some things only show themselves under stress of riding; it is good as a mechanic to be able to ride next to some of the bikes you work on. It adds another level of observation and knowledge about how a particular bike works. Cindi was going slow and letting me hang with her on the climbs. Good riding up here, you will use the smallest gear on your bike guaranteed.
Day Two - Afternoon rain during the racing
Friday brought more people to the trailer for service and a few team mechanics looking for a little help. There are a number of team guys that came by today that I have come to know well over the last couple of years. Good guys, guys that wrench, ride and also write about their experience on the web. Kinda similar to myself. Cool names that you may have heard of before.
First of the list is Zack Vestal of Trek/VW. Great guy, unique approach to hair care, but still a great guy. Zack is in his second year running the Trek/VW trailer [it was a truck last year] and he has a very keen eye for detail. He provides us at Shimano with some of the best feedback on parts and specific situations that he observes with his pro riders. He also can ride. Big hammer, check the semi-pro results from the NORBA in Idaho last weekend and see. He also writes about life on the road as a wrench on the Trekbikes.com website; check out the 'Insider Perspectives'. Triple threat: wrench, ride, and write.
Another triple threat wrench is Billy Holmes of Haro. Billy is in his first year keeping the gold bikes in the Haro camp looking 'top shelf'. The Haro riders are great with the feedback - Chris Sheppard and Seamus McGrath are right on dialing stuff in; add Billy to the mix and we never mind seeing them come by. Billy rides, he was on the pro podium last year in the Super D at Mt. Snow NORBA stop. Not bad for a 130 pound guy, he has skills. He writes about his toil on his own website: wanderingwrench.com. Check it out.
Check these guys out, cool guys that do a number of things well. Most of the time without much outside attention.
Pro racing starts tomorrow. Huge rainstorm going on outside right now, thunder and lightening. Rain can only help suppress the dust here at Snowmass; rain right now is a good thing. The Semi-pros that raced today got rained on during their race, it makes for really dirty riders. I wonder what time it will rain tomorrow?
Day Three - Washing away the course/racing
Day three dawned like each of the days before here in Aspen, clear and blue. The storms last night seemed to knock the dust off of everything and make it new. It is really peaceful to ride the bike up to the trailer every morning while it is still cool. Our condo is about 300 vertical feet below the tech area. Makes for a slow ride and a chance to look around.
Weather again was the story of the day. The amateur XC racing started later than usual, and put the pro start at 3:00pm. So today's big question was not if the rain was coming, but when. The men and women started under sunny skies, but with about 40 minute laps, the rain was coming faster than the end of the races. The men did three laps, the women did two. In the end the top 10 men and the top 20 women finished before the rain came, but when it arrived, it was fast and hard. I hope that the second half of the men's field got to shelter safely, it was a monsoon.
Big props to Sam Shultz [US Under 23] for his finish today; he was right behind the World Cup guns. He is only 20 years old this year and so talented.
We retreated to the condo to watch the reply of the Tour TT on OLN while the rain continued. They had to cancel the 4X race tonight due to the weather. This makes tomorrow interesting as DH, 4X and STXC all need to take place. We will see how all this manages to unfold.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Chris Davidson