It's official: off season is over

Greetings Cyclingnews.com readers, I hope that the off-season has been kind to you and that you are...

March 11, 2006

Greetings Cyclingnews.com readers, I hope that the off-season has been kind to you and that you are tanned, toned and ready to go for 2006. For some, the 'off-season' is a time to step back and relax from the sport a bit; for others, it is a time to go to a warmer climate and put in tons of base miles. For a mechanic, it can be the busiest time of the year. Here is a little synopsis of what has transpired since I last wrote about my adventures at road world's in Madrid.

Madrid World's postscript

As a mechanic the world's trip taught me a number of things, some small, some large. For the small stuff I would include the following:

  • The best highway/autoroute food in Europe can be found in the service stations in France, hands down. If you have to drive across Europe for any extended period, save your appetite for a stop in France. Not only good food, but great coffee to keep you alert on the road. Good for those extended drives in the big team truck.
  • There is absolutely no speed limit on any European road if you are in a ProTour team vehicle. When we drove from Madrid to Belgium in one long stretch after World's, I could not count the number of team cars driven by soigneurs and other staff doing 200+kph in the left hand lane that passed us and the police. No stops.
  • Regardless what they say in Italy, the best olive oil is found in Spain. I realize that I may take some heat on this one, but I have to be true to my observations.

On the more important items

  • English is spoken in more places that you think, and more importantly 'bicycle English' [words necessary for race communication] is pervasive. This proved to be a big help, although I would always advise first attempting to try the native language, the attempt alone will get you far. I was surprised how many people in Italy, France, Spain and Belgium want to try out their English with me.
  • Experience counts. I was lucky to be working my first World's with two very experienced mechanics around me: Kenny Whelpdale [US pro men] and Georges Noyes [US U-23 men]. Both of these guys have been there, and done it all a thousand times. Both made my life easier and provided the occasional words of encouragement to keep me on track. I am indebted.

Back in the USA

After a short trip to Belgium and the US U-23 house for the night, I was on my way back home. As soon as I landed back in the US it was time to go back to work with my first new assignment for 2006: Interbike. I have been contracted to work for Ford Cycling in 2006; as reported, this is a great group of women and I am excited about this new prospect. So less than a week back in the US and I am on my way to Interbike to work on some team sponsors for Ford Cycling. I spent less that 48 hours in Las Vegas, but was really excited about the new sponsors/suppliers I will get to work with in 2006. Ritchey, Scott, DTSwiss, and Kenda got me really excited about the new equipment for this year. The one big change for me is going to be my conversion from a Shimano MTB guy for the last five years to team mechanic on a squad that is SRAM/RockShox/Avid/TruVativ. I talked to John Dawson [head guy for SRAM MTB race support] at the trade show and warned him about where I was coming from, but he was great about welcoming me to the 'other side'.

A few words about my time at Shimano. I worked then for many years in the MTB tech service under great people like Tony Parham and Matt Eames. I also did some work on the road side with Andy Stone, my first event with Shimano dates back to 1997. In summary, a great place to work and some even greater people to work with. I will miss the fun and long but rewarding hours there. But 2006 was time to move on, I am excited to be learning new stuff from the guys at SRAM, it has been a great group to work with in the little time I have had. They recently had me out to Colorado Springs for a little orientation and tech seminar, more details soon on this soon. Watch for their new road group, it really is some great working components.

So home from Interbike and time to relax, right? Not so. The 'off-season' has been a web of phone calls, emails, faxes and voicemail to coordinate the avalanche of parts and equipment to keep a pro team running. Sizing changes, ill-fitting parts, mis-shipped items, lost shipments, the whole nine yards that can happen, already has. And for me I haven't touched my bike the whole time. I live in Salt Lake City and we have had a pretty good winter as far as snow. My workbench has become a place to wax cross-country skis rather than a place to tune bikes. But that all needs to come to an end as we just had our first 70 degree F day and UPS has filled my house up with a ton of boxes that are in the process of being inventoried, sorted and installed on new bikes. In truth, the end of the 'off-season' is welcomed, as the 'on-season' can actually be less busy work and more bike work.

What else happened this off-season? Well for one my friend and fellow wrench Ken Whelpdale came home from Europe to take the head job at USAC. Ken has worked with Saturn, Prime Alliance, T-Mobile and Gerolsteiner, including the Tour in 2005. After the last two years roaming Europe on the ProTour race circuit, he comes home to Colorado to work for the US Federation. Congrats Kenny and welcome back!

So up next is Redlands followed by Sea Otter. Then the NORBA races start. The NORBA schedule looks much more reasonable this year, I like having Nationals in the summer, rather than after World's. This should be better for everyone.

In my next installment I will let you in on a little trip I took to the SRAM R&D facility in Colorado Springs last month. Part of my new team deal with SRAM. Lots of cool stuff on hand, but that will have to wait, because the off-season is now officially over and I need some rest. Happy 2006!

More soon, take care,
Chris Davidson

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