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Wrenchin' in the USA: The Chris Davidson diary 2008

Chris joins us again in 2008 to report on life on the road turning the wrench both in the road and MTB scene. Chris signs on with the new Team Type 1 squad for 2008; Chris has also worked for such teams as Navigators Insurance, TEAm Lipton, T-Mobile, Equipe Nurnberger and Mercury in the past, as well as neutral support programs with Shimano, Pedros and Trek.

As 2008 holds some new challenges for Chris, but some things will stay the same. One of those will be his informative diary contributions on Cyclingnews, where you'll often receive the inside scoop on all things tech and a look at life as a professional mechanic.

February 7, 2008

And so it begins....

An essential tool for 2008:
Photo ©: Chris Davidson
(Click for larger image)

As Trent Wilson says, the 'offy is over'. For riders, the off-season ending means it is once again time to turn the cranks in anger. The training alone transitions into training camps, then race rosters get penciled in and soon the travel becomes a way of life again. For mechanics the off-season ending can actually be a relief. For us, the off-season is really the on-season, as a wide variety of tasks consume more time than the driving, washing, tuning of the race season.

First part of the off-season involves tasks related to closing the current campaign down and getting rid of old stuff. I travelled to VeloSwap in Denver to help liquidate some equipment from 2007 employers Navigators and TEAm Lipton. It is sad to see the end of a sponsorship run for great teams and organizations, but doing it right for years means that new opportunities will arise. VeloSwap was a cool opportunity to meet some really die-hard fans of pro cycling and get them hooked up on the real-deal pro equipment. The best experience for me was setting a 70+ year woman up on one of Kristen Armstrong's spare bikes and watching her delight in the enjoyment of a new bike like she was seven years old.

Not everything from 2007 was liquidated, as part of the inventory management involved making sure that riders that were still unsigned or potentially staying on in 2008 [more on this below] had parts and supplies to carry them through the winter. Sure enough, the day I got to Denver, Matt Cooke [ex-Navigators] called from Boulder saying that his condo just burned down and he lost all his bike equipment and clothing. You cannot plan enough contingency for stuff like this.

Another part of the Veloswap weekend was seeing some team riders as they returned some of there team equipment. Meredith Miller [TEAm Lipton] lives in Fort Collins, so she came down to Denver to return her TT bike. Depending on the terms of a rider's contract they are potentially obligated to return bikes at the end of the season, and this was one of those cases. Not really a sad moment, but one to reflect on the time and suffering that went into TT bike over the course of a season. Some riders have a deeper bond to equipment that brought them to new athletic highs. However at the end of the day, following the details of the contact agreement means handing over the goods in some cases, so pros let it go.

The middle part of the off-season for mechanics is sort of fun: new toys. Time to sift through catalogs and websites, and contemplate specifications for new equipment. It all seems ideal, as we imagine having access to tons of shiny new stuff. Reality lands when the orders go in to the sponsors/suppliers and availability of the new toys comes back. When the road season goes from January until October, it is hard for the bike companies to completely reload for the first of the year. Not surprisingly at the Tour Down Under, more ProTour teams are still on last years' bikes.

When teams need 80+ frames, 120+ sets of wheels and 100+ gruppos not too long after the industry tradeshow [Interbike] and also in the middle of the big early season deliveries to dealers, the pinch is on. So the big push behind the scenes for us to get the orders in is usually followed by 'the trickle'. This is the continuous arrival of frames and parts as the manufacturers can get them out and still have stuff to sell to their dealers. This also gives the mechanics time to plan for a season's worth of supplies, forecast for the extra needs of big races and key team events. A good deal of time goes into logistics and preparation of the infrastructure. Sometimes vehicles need to be bought or sold, re-decaled, or re-racked for the up coming race season. Oh, and the service course gets about as tidy as you will see it all year.

Last part of the off-season for the mechanics I like to call the 'scramble'. Here is where the first race rosters have been penciled in, overnight shipping become part of the equation and figuring the latest possible time that you can leave for a venue gets calculated. As of today, I am already in scramble mode.

So, what am I up to for 2008? I am very pleased to announce that I will be joining TeamSportsInc. as part of Team Type 1 for 2008. TeamSports, under the leadership of Tom Schuler, has been around for almost 20 years now, managing teams such as Saturn, Quark and Colavita/Sutter Home. 2008 brings Ed Beamon and Vassili Davidenko over as directors from the former Navigators Insurance team. I really enjoyed working with Navigators in 2007 and combining the experienced leadership from the Navigators organization with TeamSports creates a North American powerhouse for 2008. A real bonus for me is the fact that I get to work with a couple of mechanic peers that I have always enjoyed hanging out with at the races, Doug Berner [DJ] and Eric Jellum [Jelly]. As a bonus, Tom has purchased the former Discovery Channel North American team truck for TeamType1 in 2008, so we mechanics will be rolling large.

I am really excited to be part of Team Type 1 [] for a number of reasons [staff, equipment, race schedule], but the team has a unique purpose that goes beyond sponsors and bike racing. We have a chance to reach out to people affected by diabetes and provide a look at what is possible with an active lifestyle and careful management of the disease. Team Type 1 is the defending champion in the RAAM [team race] and in 2008 we will have four type 1 diabetics on the pro squad. This part is really inspiring to me.

I will still be active in the dirt, for as much as big-time mountain biking seems to be getting smaller in 2008, I really love the dirt scene. Last year I worked with the pro team sponsored by Kenda and Titus, and this year the team grows a little with support of Kenda, Titus and Hayes. More disc brakes and dust for me in 2008.

So the short term is rather busy, as I 'scramble'. First up is a session in the A2 wind tunnel [] in North Carolina with two Team Type 1 athletes to get them dialed on 2008 bikes. Then a short foray into the dirt in Arizona at the 24 hours of Old Pueblo before training camp for TT1 in Solvang, California at the end of Feburary. TT1 will be making their world wide debut at the Tour of Langkawi in February, so look for some of our southern hemisphere guys to be 'on form' and 'killing it'.

I hope the off-season treated you well, 2008 is here and I am 'scrambling' to get ready for the wind tunnel session. I look forward to bringing you more from the road in 2008.

Here is to a great '08!

Chris Davidson