The life of a pro mechanic is not a restful one.
Every team rider needs to be able to roll off the start line on a bike that's set up perfectly to his requirements, and which has the showroom gleam that sponsors and HDTV coverage demand — no matter what rainstorm, crash or other calamity might have befallen the bike the day before.
On the eve of this year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, BikeRadar caught up with Lotto-Belisol team mechanics Chris Van Roosbroeck and Jean-Pierre Christiaens as they readied the team's Ridley bikes for the following day's racing. In the photos below, we take you through their process.
Every bike needs a thorough hosing down, and chain cleaning is an intense sponge-based affair that leaves every link spotless, ready for a loving application of Morgan Blue Race lube.
For consistency of setup, the mechanics refer to a chart that details all of the measurements and component choices of each member of the team. This chart spells out everything from crank length to the precise position of their bars. Seatposts are also fitted with an extra clamp that stays on at all times, marking the saddle height and preventing slippage.
The basics of bike setup are dialed in with this jig, custom made by an Italian engineering company back in 2008.
Like so many pro teams, Lotto-Belisol now equips all of its riders with electronic groupsets, Campagnolo Super Record EPS in this case. Flemish invective flowed freely as Van Roosbroeck fished around in the seat tube of one Helium SL, extracting and replacing the internal battery that attaches to the bottle cage bolts, and wrestling with a mass of electronic cabling which he likened to Italian pasta. Tangled, that is to say. Ultimately, some delicate work by both mechanics (and a brief intervention from the team bus driver) had everything in place.
Van Roosbroeck said that while mechanical failures can usually be fixed, when an electronic component misbehaves, it generally needs replacing, as software and electronics are too complex for diagnosis and repairs in the field. An uncooperative EPS battery tossed casually on the ground stood testament to this.
One-day races have one advantage over stage races; it’s rarely necessary to pull an all-nighter, but the mechanics still have to be up early to make sure everything is good to go, and to get the spare bikes and wheels mounted on the team cars. The race itself offers no respite as the mechanics man the team cars, ready at a split-second’s notice to offer mechanical assistance to their riders.
After the race, while the press hounds riders and the fans cause traffic jams leaving the finish area, the mechanics are back at work, dismantling some bikes for transport and readying others for training in the coming week. We spotted low-profile section Campagnolo Hyperon wheels with 28mm tubulars leaning against the team bus, ready for a reconnaissance ride of Stage 5 of this year’s Tour de France, which features 28 sectors of cobbles.
With the long hours and nomadic lifestyle, Van Roosbroeck said pro mechanics have to be in it for the love: “You cannot see it as a job.”