Abroad with CAMS-Tifosi
In early March, we were fortunate enough to support the CAMS-Tifosi women's professional cycling team during the Healthy Ageing Tour 2021, hosted in the Netherlands. The opportunity to be involved at the top level again after a year of COVID disappointments was exciting. The tour consisted of 3 stages. The first stage consisted of 126km around the Assen Circuit. The second stage was an individual 14-km time trial stage. And the final stage was 115km, including 17 ascents up the Col-du-Vam (a brutal cycle track up an old landfill site).
The majority of a mechanics time is spent outside with a pressure washer in one hand and an Allen key in the other.
After each stage, the bikes are washed. Rain or shine.
Generally, this starts with each bike being sprayed down using the jet washer. Degreaser applied to the chain, cassette and chainring. And leaving that to soak for a couple of minutes.
In the meantime, the wheels are cleaned with a general-purpose cleaner. The tyres are checked for any obvious cuts or issues that could cause a potential puncture in the next race.
The drive chain is then rinsed, removing the degreaser along with the oil and grit stuck to the drive-train.
The frame is then cleaned, again just using a general-purpose cleaner.
The bike is then dried and polished. At this stage, I also check for any wear or damage to components - once all the muck is off the bike and brought to gleam, it makes it much clearer if components are worn or damaged and need replacing or tweaking.
I also go around with the torque wrench to double-check the key bolts - the stem bolts and seat pin bolt. This is especially important in this race as the final stage consisted of 17 laps that included a cobbled section.
Fresh lubricant is applied to the chain, gear indexing checked and tuned, and brake alignment and operation checked.
The bike is then fitted with race numbers and transponders and packed up, ready for racing the next day.
Before each stage, the bikes are unloaded from the van.
First, I start with checking the wheels and brake alignment. There is nothing worst than sprinting out the saddle and hearing a small brake-rub. Even if it is only slight, it's another thing that can play on a rider's mind.
Chain lubricant is then reapplied if necessary, checking for a smooth drive train.
Then, gear indexing is given one final check.
Spare bikes are then checked and loaded onto the car. A suitable gear is selected so that a rider can jump on their bike and go (when they require a bike change) rather than starting in a too big or too small of a gear.
Spare wheels are pumped up to the correct pressure and taken in the car. Allowing me to quickly grab the wheels and jump out quickly at the sign of any incident.
Again, a lot of the time is spent checking. This is necessary; often, wheels are being changed between bikes - riders want deep wheels one day and shallow wheels the next, right up to the last minute before the race. It's impossible to keep track of changes. Therefore, if you're unsure, it's just best to check.
Now I get to enjoy the race from a prime position.
A mechanics job is so much more than just cleaning and fiddling with your favourite bikes. It's all about the riders, reducing the pressures and anxieties away from the riders. So they can concentrate on what they do best. Of course, I can only contribute to the function of their bike, making the bikes exactly how they want it. But every little helps. The fact that I, someone who would never be capable of racing at this level, can contribute to a result gives that sense of competitive rush that's just so addictive.
Thank you to the CAMS-Tifosi team for the opportunity (https://www.facebook.com/CAMSTifosi). It was a pleasure and well done in some of the most incredible racing conditions I have ever seen. Also, thank you to Bob MacGregor for the photos.