By Sue George
When the US National Team travels to a major cycling competition like the World Championships or the Olympics, it means a lot of behind-the-scenes logistics and support to be planned and executed. Calvin Jones, a mechanic with the US Team at events like the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, explained to Cyclingnews how he and his crew keep the athlete's bikes running smoothly before and on race day.
Calvin Jones saw a need for better mechanical support for the athletes representing the US and went about filling it.
"In the first [mountain bike] worlds in 1990 [in Durango, Colorado], I was volunteering for Shimano, and I saw a long line of people like Steve Tilford waiting in line for [mechanical] work. Being an old roadie, I thought, that's not how it should be. So I talked to [USA Cycling's] Brian Stickel, and I proposed that we get some support for them at the hotel."
What Jones proposed decades ago has evolved into a finely tuned support operation for athletes of all ages.
Beginning in 1994 at the World Championships in Vail, Colorado, Jones and his team worked out the approach. "We service any US rider in and out of the hotel. We are neutral support for everyone," said Jones, underlining the philosophy of his talented team of mechanics.
While at non-World Championship events, most riders receive mechanical assistance from their professional teams, or they do it themselves on the road. Some lucky top-level pros can also bring their mechanics with them to the worlds, but lesser known pros and juniors would otherwise have to fend for themselves.
"The US team only exists during Worlds and some people have corporate mechanics, too. But if those riders can't find their person or they need back up or their mechanic needs help, they come to us. We don't charge anything to the US riders."
Jones asks the racers to bring some equipment with them, but the mechanics also come prepared.
"We had a list of spares for all the athletes to bring - like mud tires. We like them to bring some of the spares so we don't have to bring everything, but the reality is that we still bring a lot."
"We brought two boxes of parts weighing 48 pounds each, and we shipped another 28 pounds. Then we had all our tools," said Jones of the trip to the World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy in June. "We can be expert mechanics here, but we need the spares."
Jones, who works for Park Tool, was able to leverage his connections and save the shipping of some items. "We had a Park Tool distributor in Italy who got us all the stands and helped us with tools."
In Italy, Jones headed up a team of four other mechanics, including Brad Cole, a service trainer at Eric's Bike Shop in Minnesota; Than White of Shimano; Chris Magerl, a Utah ski instructor and mechanic for multiple teams; and the recently retired TJ Grove.
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