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Wrenchin' in the USA: The Chris Davidson diary 2007

Chris joins us again in 2007 to report on life on the road turning the wrench for a variety of teams both in dirt and on the road. Formerly with Ford Cycling in 2006, Chris has also worked for such teams as T-Mobile, Equipe Nurnberger, Quark and Mercury in the past, as well as neutral support programs with Shimano, Pedros and Trek.

As 2007 holds some new challenges for Chris, 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 behind the wrench.

September 17, 2007

Day Two - Tour de Huff...er, Missouri

Today was an interesting one. The first long road stage 200+ kilometres and basically a flat-to-gently rolling course with a couple of finishing circuits. There was a break yesterday that stayed away until the finishing circuits, which contained our rider Valerie Kobzarenko, but ultimately the day finished with a pack sprint that Ivan Dominguez won. We did place our sprinter Kyle Wamsley on the podium in third, so the team was pleased with the outcome for Stage 1.

So we rolled out of Clinton , Missouri at 11am and headed south with some tailwind towards Springfield. There was an early crash in the back of the field, maybe less than 10 kilometres into the race that ultimately took out BMC rider and Missouri native Dan Schmatz. When out team car got up to the spot of the accident, I was able to see the cause: a now dead armadillo had started the mess. This animal was now almost cut in half by what looked like a bike tire width. I have seen a lot of weird stuff in bicycle races before, but never the 'Armadillo'.

Fast forward to the next part of the stage, given the long distance and the late season timing of this race, a break was sure to go up the road and it did. Way up the road, over 16 minutes at one point. Disco had George Hincapie in there, so it was gold. For us we had a somewhat weary Kobzarenko in there, as he had been in the break the previous day. Well the break stuck for a 14 minute lead, and the race general classification is all but done on Stage 2. Plus our guy in the break is on some really hollow legs after two days of full gas.

Today during the stage I was thinking of the other jobs I actually do when we are competing in a stage race and two stick out very prominently, although they may not actually be in the job description for a bicycle race mechanic. The first is bartender. Why would I say that I perform a lot of bartender work during a stage race? Well owning some props to our excellent Continental tires, I have had to only change one flat during this race. However I have served up about 200 bottles from our coolers to riders on the road. I even do special requests from the car as well - yesterday one rider wanted a Coke, but he wanted it defizzed in a water bottle, so I quickly prepared one in the back seat. So bartender is a reasonable description for a good deal of the work I do in the race.

The second job would be security guard. When we start and finish races in large, fan-filled cities, it is my job to watch over the race bikes from the time that I get them down from the top of the van, until they are packed back up to leave a stage. This may sound silly, but in Kansas City on the first stage we were next to the Discovery Channel bus and there were probably 1000 people in a 50 metre radius of our equipment. Stuff tends to disappear rather rapidly in this fan-crazy environment. I watched Hincapie finish Stage 1, reach the bus, lean his bike up on the side and quickly head inside. In the next 20 seconds, I watched as both of his water bottles were 'lifted' off his bike and a bar end plug was stolen [what the?].

So as I mentioned earlier in the report from US Pro Road Championships, while I like the lack of barriers between fans and teams in cycling clearly this case crossed the line and the security guard part of the job was required. So I keep a close watch on our stuff at race starts and finishes. That's not to say that this is not the best time to come up and meet me. It is a really good time to introduce yourself, just don't try to lift a cyclocomputer off one of my rider's bikes or I may have to come down on you hard.

More idle thoughts on stage racing tomorrow. Brad Huff's stage victory count is still at zero, so this thing is not over yet. See you there.

Chris Davidson