April 12, 2013

At the Spring Classics the day after a race is calm for riders. They sleep in, have breakfast and then head out for a recovery ride. Eat lunch, have a massage and their day is done. For the Garmin-Sharp team staff however, the day is anything but leisurely. That’s when all the team’s support materials — cars, bikes, trucks, clothes, food — is made ship-shape after chaotic race days. The day after Belgium’s De Brabantse Pijl we spent the morning with the team staff and watched it all take place.

Juan Lujan - Classics post-race

In the mechanics’ truck, Juan Lujan and Joerge Wohlleben methodically dismantled freewheels.
After pulling the cassette cluster from a Mavic wheel with a chain whip, Lujan inspected the sprockets for damaged teeth. Using a rag, he polished the sprockets to gleaming silver.

He then dismantled the wheel’s freewheel spindle mechanism, cleaned and greased it, then put the entire mechanism back together. In a tightly orchestrated show of wrenching, Lujan and Wohlleben repeated the process for 24 wheels.

Wohlleben said the carbon-fiber Mavics they were overhauling came from the Tour of the Basque Country. “It was raining every day,” the German mechanic observed.

Because water wreaks havoc with bike components, Wohlleben said the mechanics repeat this wheel cleaning and greasing process after every rainy event or training ride.

In addition to the freewheel overhaul, Lujan said after every race “We check the freewheels, the bottom bracket bearings, the headset, the chain, the brake cables and especially the tires.”

After placing the reconditioned wheels on wall-mounted fork racks inside the mechanics truck, Lujan slowly spun each wheel and inspected for cuts and abrasions on the Mavic tubular tires. He pulled wheels with damaged tires from the rack; later he would begin the process of gluing on new tires.

Lujan moved wheels with good-condition tires to one end of the long line of racks. For the next race, the Amstel Gold Race in Holland, the mechanics will mount the wheels with new tires on the rider’s race bikes and reserve the previously-ridden tires for their backup bikes.

However, used is in the eye of the beholder; none of the tires that made the inspection cut showed even minimal wear.

Next to the mechanic’s truck British soigneur Garry Becket was attacking the inside of a team caravan car with a vacuum.

This car was used at Paris-Roubaix and had just been returned from a Belgian mechanic. Beckett explained that for Roubaix, the caravan cars are fitted with different steel rims and higher profile tires to help them straddle the race’s heavily-crowned cobblestone roads.

Along with replacing the high-profile wheels with standard car tires, the mechanic had also removed a special undercarriage plate temporarily installed to protect the drive train from scraping when the car slammed into dips on the Roubaix cobbles. Without the plate and the special wheels, the cars would quickly leave a trail of oil and differential parts across the pavé.

This was the vehicle’s first deep cleaning since Roubaix. With a rag, Beckett cleaned fine, tan-colored Roubaix dust that had caked on the rear hatch hinges. Under the hood, the engine was encased in an even thicker shell of the same grime.

“It’s incredible where it penetrates,” Beckett said as he set about cleaning the engine surfaces.

The team normally washes the cars every day. “It’s our livery,” Becket said with his rumbly British accent. “We don’t want to be seen in dirty old motors.”

While vacuuming the car insides, Beckett also took time to stuff the driver’s side door pocket with Clif bars, Clif Shots, and Clif Bloks. During Sunday’s race in Holland, the director driving the car will be ready to hand these items to riders.

30 feet away, French bus driver Matthiew Rompion scrubbed the side of the team bus with a long-handled brush. This home away from home for the riders also gets an inside and out scouring before and after every race.

Rompion said races in Belgium this time of year demand a lot of aggressive vacuuming. Riders finish caked with mud and grime and it ends up inside the bus when they flop down on couches or peel off soaked clothing.

Garry Becket - Classics post-race

After washing the bus, Rompion pulled a hose to its side and begin filling the water tanks. “It takes a long time,” he said. Along with supplying water to a small kitchen, these tanks run two on-board showers. As part of his bus-cleaning regime, Rompion also restocks the refrigerator with drinks for the riders on their way to and from races. The morning of races he adds bottles of recovery drink as well.

The bus has trays of Clif products on a counter, and when those run low, Rompion restocks them from boxes of Clif products stored under the bus’s bench seats.

Rompion said one of his most critical tasks is replacing a box of coffee capsules next to the bus espresso machine. How often does he have to replenish it? “Every day!” Rompion said with a laugh. A hot-water kettle shares the counter with the coffee machine. “For English people,” Rompion pointed out. British physiotherapist Matt Rabin and Irish rider Dan Martin are two Rompion says prefer tea over coffee.

The truck that houses the bikes and mechanics’ shop also has a small kitchen and laundry room. Inside, American soigneur Alyssa Morahan opened a Sharp refrigerator she had stocked with food from a grocery run earlier in the day. Packed with yoghurt, fruit and sandwich makings, the refrigerator is used at races — along with another refrigerator in the bus — to prepare food for both staff and riders.

This truck had also come from the Tour of the Basque Country. Morahan had given the kitchen a thorough scrubbing earlier in the day. She good-naturedly added that while the staff cleans the kitchen when at the races, it was hard to keep up at the soaking race in Northern Spain: “Everything was wet every day—you can only clean the floor so many time while you are tracking in dirt!”

Garry Becket - Classics post-race

More photos:

[fsg_gallery id="4"]