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Mechanics and riders fine-tune Tour de France gear
Belgian champion's mechanic Wouters in the spotlight
The buzz of the day after the Azencross in Loenhout, Belgium was the last lap crash of Belgian champion Sven Nys. While heading for a two-man sprint with Niels Albert in the fifth round of the GVA Trophy Nys entered the pit to take a new bike. A few seconds later Nys was on the ground and missed out on a chance of victory in Loenhout. Murphy's Law has been striking the Nys camp for over a month now.
Sven Nys explained why he felt the need to take a new bike during the last half lap of the race. "It was communicated that I would take a new bike with more air in the tubulars if Niels and I were still together in the last lap. When entering the pit area I was surprised to see that they were standing halfway because we agreed on changing bikes at the end of the pit. You didn't lose much time there because you were already in the corner," Nys said.
What happened then was analysed by triple cyclo-cross world champion Erwin Vervecken. "Nys was still clicked into his pedal with one foot while holding his hands on to the handlebars. At that moment his mechanic takes the bike and pulls it away while he's still on it. It never happened to me but that's what happens when you're racing under high pressure," Vervecken said.
Nys was not amused by the incident but was also worried about his mechanic Fons Wouters. "The run of bad luck doesn't seem to come to an end. It's becoming a bit too much and Fons was probably hyper-nervous. He has done everything for me during the last 15 years, offering up all his holidays. He will not be able to sleep after this but I don't blame him.
"Too much has happened and we're currently working under high pressure. You can imagine how the morale is with the mechanics. I'm worried that they will tell me that they're pulling out for a couple of weeks. This is an annoying moment. I went down pretty hard and now I'm left with good legs and two weeks without a victory. I was feeling confident that I would win the sprint," Nys said.
Fons "Fonske" Wouters may be the most famous mechanic in the world right now. Wouters has been in the spotlight since the pedal-incident in Gieten on November 28. According to an investigation Wouters had not tightened them well enough. "The misery always comes from high up to down below on to the small ones," Wouters said. He clearly didn't agree with the theory from Shimano.
Nys was then confronted with a chain problem that still isn't solved. "Luckily we're not alone with this problem. Lars Boom had the same problem and Bart Aernouts too, would that be coincidence?" Wouters said. All riders are using an electronic Shimano Dura-Ace group on their bikes.
A similar incident at the Belgian cyclo-cross championships next week or even worse at the world championships in Sankt-Wendel, Germany in a month from now would be a huge blow for the Nys camp. On the other hand, if Nys would win one of those nobody would talk about the previous problems.
"That's true," said the experienced Belgian mechanic, "but right now we're confronted with it and that's terrible. After a while you start thinking that you can't do anything good. Today it was just going too fast and that's why it happened," Wouters said.
When asked about the fear from Nys that his mechanics would walk away from him Wouters didn't say much. "I'm going to talk with Sven about that," Wouters said.