Twelve for ’12

2012 was a very dynamic year for me.  Every month, it seemed like there was something new and different headed my way.  There was a lot of change and a lot of travel.  2012 was my busiest year as a mechanic since my season as Head Mechanic for the Aaron’s Pro Women’s Cycling Team in 2007, including travel to three major stage races.  Without further delay… here are my Top 12 big events from the past year:

  1. Park Tool Tech Summit – The Park Tool Tech Summit was held in Atlanta, for the first time in 2012.  I really enjoyed the two days of clinics and classes from major brands like Park Tool, Fox Racing Shox, Campagnolo, Shimano, Cane Creek, Rock Shox, and Mavic.  As a professional bicycle mechanic, it would behoove you to go to one of Park Tool’s events, in order to stay on top of the latest technology and to become a more valuable asset to your shop.
  2. Athens Twilight and Roswell Criterium – The Athens Twilight Criterium is one of my favorite races to work.  In 2012, I had the opportunity to work Twilight, and the following day at Roswell, with Team Exergy (now defunct).   They were a great group of guys, and great racers!  It was a pleasure to make their bikes run well, and to get some top ten finishes.
  3. Tour of California – Somehow, through a strange turn of events, I got the opportunity to work as Head Mechanic at the ToC Bucket List event with Carmichael Training Systems.  It was my first event with CTS, and it was a LOT of hard work, but things went well.  As a team, we got 20+ athletes and coaches from Santa Rosa to Los Angeles, covering over 700 miles, without too many major incidents or issues.  We had a good staff, and worked with a lot of great athletes from all around the globe.  It was great to get to know Coach Carmichael and his CTS staff, too.
  4. USPRO Road Race Championships – After my work with Team Exergy at Twilight/Roswell, I was asked to give them a hand at the USPRO Road Race in Greenville, SC.  It’s home turf for me, and I’ve worked almost every edition of that race since it moved from Philadelphia in 2006.  We had a full squad of nine riders, including Freddie Rodriguez, a three time USPRO champion and friend of mine.  The race went okay.  We had guys in the breaks most of the day, but missed the final split.  After almost knocking Fred into a pond during a wheel change (long story…), he got back to the group and won the “second field sprint,” for 20th place.
  5. Quit My Job – After almost six years at Out Spokin’ Bicycles in Woodstock, GA, I decided to leave my job there.  Sometimes you get to a point where you feel there’s not much more you can do to improve, like there’s a ceiling that you can’t break out of.  I was to that point, and decided to make a move.  I already had some time off scheduled for July, so I called it quits and went on vacation.
  6. Vacation Month – During the month of July, I did some pretty serious vacationing.  The family and I went to Myrtle Beach, SC, for a few days of relaxation in the sand and surf with my wife’s parents.  It was a good time, especially with the kids… they LOVE playing on the beach!  We also took a few days off, left the kids with my Mom and Dad, and took a mini-vacation to Asheville, NC.  We went to Asheville Zipline Canopy Adventures for a bit of high-flying fun, and visited my good friend Andy’s shop, Chainheart Cycling Studio, which I had been threatening to visit since he opened a few years prior.  Tip:  When in Asheville, visit The Thirsty Monk.  It’s a great little bar located in downtown Asheville, but they’ve got a Belgian-style basement pub with some great beer on tap.  If you’re a connoisseur, stop by when you’re in town.
  7. Tour of Utah – Since I had some time off, due to my lack of a job, I offered my services to CTS at the Tour of Utah Bucket List event.  This time, we only had 7 athletes/coaches, so I was the ONLY mechanic for the camp.  Once again, a really good time with a really good group of athletes/staff.  The scenery in Utah was breathtaking, and it was extremely nice to be based out of only TWO hotels the entire time we were there.  That should be different in 2013, as the Tour of Utah has plans to go into the southern part of the state for some stages of the race.
  8. USA Pro Cycling Challenge (CO) – After Utah, I had four days at home, then jetted back out to Durango, CO, for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.  Once again, I was working as Head Mechanic for the event.  Let me say this… Colorado is amazing.  I drove across the state and was able to see some of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.  I’m totally in love with the mountains of Colorado, and I can’t wait to get back.
  9. Started Working at Free-Flite Bicycles – In September, I regained employment in the bicycle industry, at Free-Flite Bicycles.  Free-Flite Bicycles is a big shop in the Metro Atlanta market that has been around for over 30 years.  FFB has always been a competitor of mine, so it was a change of pace when I went to work for them.  It’s been great, so far.  I’m working less than six miles from home, so I’m able to commute by bike more often, and where I had been pulled out to the front of the store for sales at my previous job, at Free-Flite, I’ve been able to get back into the service area, spending time doing what I love… working on bikes.  A good buddy of mine, Roofus (Kevin Adams), who I worked with for the better part of five years at Out Spokin’, is managing the store now, too.  We’ve always gotten along well, and we understand each other’s systems.  It’s a good working environment, and I’m pretty happy with the way things are going.
  10. Hincapie Gran Fondo – In October, I went to South Carolina for the Hincapie Gran Fondo.  George Hincapie, one of my favorite cyclists, had just retired, and was hosting his 1st annual Gran Fondo.  It was a good chance to catch up with some friends from Upstate SC, some CTS athletes and staff, and Coach Carmichael, too.  It was a really tough, 80 mile ride, but it was a really good time.  I even found some photos online of me leading out Hincapie’s group before the last major climb!  One of the best organized rides I’ve ever been a part of, for certain.
  11. Working on Bikes Again – I know I’ve already mentioned this, but I am so excited to actually be able to work on bikes more consistently again.  I’m not just a “parts-hanger,”  I’m a mechanic.  I take pride in being able to repair things that are broken.  This year, I got the opportunity to work on more bikes and take care of my clients/customers/friends, better than I have over the past few years.  I dig that.
  12. Friendships –  Hands down, the best thing about 2012 have been the friendships I’ve made.  Life is all about making connections and friendships, and people that don’t understand that are missing out.  Over the course of the year, I met and worked with people from all around the globe, and made connections and friendships that will last for a long time.  If we met in 2012, I want to thank you for that experience.  Know that my door is always open for you, and I treasure you as a friend.

Thanks for a great year.  I can’t wait to see what 2013 holds…

My Two Cents on Lance…

When you work in a bike shop, you can’t avoid getting questioned about Lance Armstrong, especially with the doping allegations, investigations, and confessions by teammates of late.  It’s actually getting quite boring to have to keep repeating my thoughts on the whole deal, so I guess I’ll just write them all down for anyone and everyone to read, and refer people to my blog when asked about it.  Here goes…

  1. I had fun rooting for Lance Armstrong throughout his career.  It was fun being patriotic, watching the Texan smash the competition all over France, year after year.  It was exciting.  It got millions of people fired up about a sport that I was already passionate about, even before his first Tour win.  Unfortunately, it’s become painfully evident that those results and experiences were obtained by using performance-enhancing drugs, as documented by multiple teammates and eyewitnesses in the latest USADA Investigation.
  2. Yes, I read the entire 202-page “Reasoned Decision” that was released, unlike a lot of people chiming in on the subject, along with several more affidavits from riders, staff, and witnesses.  As an industry professional, enthusiast, and race fan, I have a vested interest in what the report said.  If you haven’t read the decision and the facts, do yourself a favor and shut your trap.  If you’re out in internet-land, saying “they have no hard physical evidence to convict Lance of anything…”  last time I checked, in a court of law in the US, all you have to prove is “reasonable doubt,” of which there is a TON of it in the USADA investigations and findings.
  3. Based on the USADA “Reasoned Decision” on the US Postal Team and Lance Armstrong, it’s hard to deny that he doped.  I wanted Lance to be clean just like most cycling fans, but the sum of all parts of the investigations and affidavits by fellow teammates, tells otherwise.  As of today, most of Lance’s major sponsors throughout his career have ended their future relationships with him, in order to save face and avoid the impending storm of bad PR headed their way if they hang around.
  4. Fallen Heroes.  I’m personally crushed with the news of the systematic doping within the US Postal Service Team organization.  One of my all-time favorite cyclists, George Hincapie, came forward with his accounts of doping, personally and as a team.  Although not on an extremely personal level, I’ve known George and his family for quite some time, dating back to the time I got him to attend a local cycling club meeting in South Carolina back in 2002.  He’s always been a class-act, and I respect him and the other “Posties”  for their decision to come forward, whether it was just to save their own skin or not.  We’re all human, and all make mistakes.  Some are more high-profile than others, and in their case, the fall is more visible.  It’s hard seeing your heroes fall from grace.  I’m still planning on attending the Hincapie GranFondo next weekend in Greenville, SC, regardless of this mess, to support George, Rich, Ricardo, and the family, and thank them for what they’ve all done over the years.  Good things don’t always make it right, but hopefully, redemption for these riders can be found in this situation through efforts to clean up the sport for future riders.
  5. Because of dopers, a lot of potential heroes missed their chance to shine.  When the sanctions got passed down by USADA as part of the agreement to turn evidence and affidavits against Lance Armstrong, many years of results were negated.  As a result of their doping, clean riders were awarded titles that that should have been theirs to begin with.  They missed the podium, didn’t get the kisses, didn’t get to spray the champagne, didn’t get the photo-ops, the extended contracts, the bonuses for winning a national championship event, a better opportunity for the following season, because a doper took it from them.  That aspect of doping, I cannot forgive.
  6. The system is corrupt.  It’s public knowledge that Lance “donated” money to the UCI for “anti-doping” purposes.  If anyone can’t see that something like that is a HUGE conflict of interests, then I’ve got some oceanfront property in Arizona that you need to snatch up…  There’s some major corruption with the UCI, and there needs to be a serious re-shuffle, from the top, down.  The international governing body of cycling is more worried about 3-1 ratios on aero equipment than they are of blatant, systematic doping that has been going on for decades.
  7. LIVESTRONG.  When I found out my mom had breast cancer, around 3 years ago, I instantly got a little, yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet, dropped it in the mail with a card, and next-day mailed it to her.  I gave it to her to let her know that she could be strong in her fight against this deadly disease, and by wearing that little band, it helped give me hope and support for her, as well.  There’s no doubt that the LIVESTRONG organization has done a lot of great things for people with cancer, their families, and for cancer research.  There’s a lot of confusion among followers of the LIVESTRONG movement and how the organization works, financially and charitably.  There’s definitely some scrutiny that the organization(s) will fall under because of the doping scandal fallout… I just hope that it doesn’t hinder cancer research and support for those who find their hope in the power of a little yellow band.
  8. The best thing that can happen now, is for Lance to come clean and lay it all out there, in order to help change the system for the future.  It’s over.  It happened.  We’re all tired of hearing about it.  We all just want it to go away and get started cleaning up cycling.  Lance is going to have to pay a lot of folks a lot of money.  He will be sued by many parties for defamation, fraud, and the like.  It’s a sad ending for our former hero.  Although this is a huge scar on the sport of cycling, and very sad times for all involved, Lance coming clean and implicating the bosses at the UCI that have been turning a blind eye to this doping culture for so long.  That is THE ONLY way that Lance can save face now.
  9. The sport IS cleaning up, and the new regime of younger riders are our new hope.  Young US cyclists like Taylor Phinney, Timmy Duggan, and Ben King are the new hope for cycling.  These guys are starting their careers on the tail end of this drug-riddled era, but starting it clean.  The training technology available to our athletes today, along with improved drug testing (hopefully) throughout the domestic and international pelotons, should bolster a clean system for these riders to prosper in.  Support these guys, along with all the other champions of clean cycling like Adam Myerson, Steve Tilford, Tim Johnson, Scott Zwizanski (now the new 2009 USPRO Time Trial Champion, as a result of this…), and others by letting them know your feelings about doping.  It’s been a hard fight for these guys, to constantly get destroyed by cyclists that they know are doping, but they have been resilient, trained their butts off, and hung in there, regardless… Shoot them an e-mail, Tweet, or Facebook message and let them know what you think of them.
  10. Get on your bikes and ride.  I had a customer ask me about my thoughts on cycling yesterday.  It was obvious he was prying about the “Lance situation.”  I told him that cycling has its demons, but it’s still the most pure sport I’ve found.  He scoffed at the “purity” comment, but I explained it to him.  When you’re out on your bike on a vicious climb, when it’s just you pushing yourself to your limits, and you conquer the climb, look out at the mountain overlook and see the amazing scenic view that you’ve earned the right to see… there’s nothing more pure than that.  When a group ride has a good flow and consistency to it, the pacelining works like it’s supposed to, and you and the guys roll back down and have a post-ride beer… that’s good cycling.  When you take off on a cool fall morning and realize that you nailed your clothing selection… that’s good stuff.  Most of us will never be professional cyclists, but we are all cyclists.  Enjoy yourselves, ride your bike, and have fun.  Keep it real, guys and gals.

I could probably go on for a while about this, but that’s all that I feel I have the need to address.  Feel free to comment, either here on the blog, or on my PROBIKEWRENCH.COM Facebook Page.  Good talk… see you out there.

The Next Chapter

Over the last month, I’ve been trying to get caught up with things, take some time to slow down and get back in the groove… and then try to catch everyone up on what’s happening in this crazy life of mine. The last post I published was about the CTS Tour of Utah Bucket List Experience.  I haven’t had time to post anything at all about the USA Pro Cycling Challenge Bucket List trip, or anything else for that matter.  Been really busy getting settled back in from a few months of irregularity and traveling.

I’ll do a full re-cap of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge later, but I will say it was an amazing trip that I’ll never forget.  Got to work with some great athletes and staff, and had a really great time traveling across the state.  I got to drive from Durango to Denver, and everywhere in between, and enjoyed every minute of it… even the 4:30am wake-ups.

After I returned home, I was looking for some sort of consistency again.  I had left my last bike shop job around the first of July, and hadn’t had a steady job since then.  I did have a few leads, and had an interview over the course of those two months, but hadn’t firmed anything up.  I had been doing a little bike work on the side for close friends/former clients, but that wasn’t going to cut it for me.  As one of my former employers told me in the past, I’m a “lifer.”  I love the bike industry, and can’t stay away from it.

So to the big news… as of September 18th, I’m officially employed at Free-Flite Bicycles, a shop that is consistently recognized as a Top 100 bicycle retailer, and one of the biggest cycling operations in the Metro Atlanta area.  They have three stores, and I’m a sales/service associate at their Riverstone Pkwy. location in Canton, GA.  I’m excited to work for Free-Flite and for Dan Thornton, the owner/president.  We’ve had a good relationship over the past seven years, even though I’ve always worked for competing shops.  Dan’s always been a class-act, and I’m excited to be working for him and with the entire Free-Flite family.

Another cool thing about the shop is that I’m back together with my boy, Roofus (Kevin Adams).  We worked together at Out Spokin’ Bicycles for over 5 years, and we have always worked well together.  We know each other’s systems and are really good friends… which is extremely beneficial for a good working environment.  He’s managing the store now, and I’m happy to be there to help him make the Riverstone location grow by leaps and bounds.

It’s going to be a really good fit.  We’ve got a lot of ideas that will make the store unique, and a lot of systems that we’re planning to fine-tune to make the shop run like a well-oiled machine (not that it doesn’t work already… we’re just making it better!)  I’m thrilled about the opportunity, glad to be back in a normal routine, and glad to be back in the industry again.  Not that I really left…

My USA Pro Cycling Challenge re-cap is coming soon, as well as some cool new product info and tests that I’m in the process of doing right now.  I also built a backyard cyclocross course recently, which has gotten some use over the last few days.  Photos, videos, and more posts to follow.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your continued support.

Tour of Utah Recap – Stages 4-6

Back to the story…  

Stage 4 – Lehi to Salt Lake City (134.3 miles)

We started about 25 miles into Stage 4.  Because it was a 134 mile stage, and it had a “lollipop” in it, we had to push forward to get as far into the stage as we could before getting held up by the pros coming through.  Our start point was in the middle of the Utah desert.  Seriously… it was the desert.  The stage profile was very flat, so the riders made pretty good time.  Unfortunately, because it was the desert, there was very little scenery.  I did snap a few shots of the flat landscape and some Pony Express landmarks, though.

We did get caught by the pros on the lollipop, but we made it almost to the “end of the stick” before heading north, towards Salt Lake City.  It was a very long day, and I blame it mostly on the lack of scenery for the first several hours of the ride.  The week, so far, had been uneventful, as far as mechanical or rider support issues, which was good.

Stage 5 – Newpark Town Center to Snowbird (101.1 miles)

This stage was the queen stage of the Tour of Utah, with around 10,000 feet of climbing.  There were some serious climbs ahead of the guys, but we were more concerned about the start of the ride.  We were scheduled to have a ceremonial start at Newpark Town Center in the midst of a gran fondo that rode the entire race course.  Instead of the “ceremonial start” we were supposed to get, we ended up getting thrown in amongst the fondo riders.  In case you weren’t aware of it, support for an event like ours gets a lot harder when you add an extra 700 RIDERS to the road…

The extra riders added to the confusion, for sure.  At our first rest stop, I tried to speed up to get going and beat a group of fondo riders back onto the road, and forgot to shut the tailgate of the truck.  Looking in the rear-view mirror, I saw my big cooler come out of the truck and go spinning into the highway, rocketing bottles all over the place…  I cleaned up the mess, drove to a grocery store to replenish my ice and water, and continued on.  Everything was good in the end, but for about 45 minutes, I was pretty panic-stricken.

As we continued on, I had to fight my way through the fondo traffic up and down the intermediate KOM climbs to keep up with my group.  The climbs were tight and twisty, and it was very difficult with two-way bike traffic and auto traffic.  We managed to make it through the KOM’s, through the small towns where sprints were located, then approached the climb to Snowbird.  I had visited Snowbird before for a Specialized dealer event, about 3 years ago, so I knew the climb up to the resort.  It was a long, somewhat steep climb, and coming at the end of a 100-mile day, it was going to be no easy feat for our guys.

I made the decision to give the guys bottle hand-ups from the roadside on the way up the hill.  They would ditch their empty bottles, I’d give them a fresh bottle, then I’d give them a spray of water on their back or head and give them a push up the road.  This made a huge difference to them.  They were able to shed a bottle, get a little reprieve from the heat, and get a friendly boost up the road.  Helped for a second, at least…

All the guys made it up the climb, except one coach, Colin Izzard.  He had the legs to go up the climb, but one of the riders suffered a broken spoke, so he sacrificed his rear wheel and helped me sag the guys up the hill.  I definitely needed the help that day.  It was hot, and we did a lot of work on that last climb, making sure all the guys were okay.

Stage 6 – Park City to Park City (77 miles)

This was the final day of the Tour of Utah, and had some of the steepest climbing I had ever seen.  The ride was pretty chill for a long while, except for scrambling around for some odd course markings on some smaller, sketchier roads.  A lot of times, we headed out earlier than the course marking crews, so sometimes we miss turns if the numbers in the race bible get jumbled.  We had two or three odd turns that weren’t marked well, so we had to figure that out before moving forward.  Once we got back on the main road, we found our way.

There were a few major climbs in this stage.  The first was through a gated neighborhood, Wolf Creek Ranch, usually closed to the public.  Once we turned on the climb, we one of the steepest pitches I had ever seen.  After 5 days of riding, I know the guys were begging for it to stop, but the climbing continued…  The boys started “paperboy-ing” (weaving side to side to take the edge off the climb), so I got out of the truck to give them little pushes through some of the turns.  Unfortunately, this was only the first major climb of the day…

The guys continued on, rolling comfortably until we approached Empire Pass.  Empire Pass was hand-selected by Levi Leipheimer for this race, due to it’s length and difficulty, and probably because Levi knew the climb inside and out (Levi won Stage 6 on this day, after our athletes finished).  Needless to say, this climb was a huge obstacle for the athletes, regardless of their fitness.  Less than 500 meters into the climb, the “paperboy-ing” started again…  I knew we were in for it.

Strangely, one of our athletes, Shannon Lawrence from Bermuda, started stretching his legs a bit.  He was very nervous going into the day, and said for the first 40 miles of the ride that his legs were feeling very heavy.  On Empire Pass, he had evidently worked all the kinks out, because he steadily motored away from the rest of the group.  I don’t know what got into him, but he changed from flatlander to climbing machine that day.  It made things a bit difficult for me, though… he was so far up the road, I would have to zoom ahead in the truck to take care of him, then wait or drive back down the mountain to feed and push the other riders.  It was definitely a test of my abilities, not as a mechanic, but as a sag driver (NOTE:  My legs were sore the next day from running and pushing riders up 20% grade hills for two days… just sayin’…).

Shannon made it to the top first, and the rest of the group followed shortly thereafter.  There was a nice, long, windy descent with one minor little kick in it before the finish in Park City.  All the group descended into town together and finished the CTS Tour of Utah Race Experience together.  All the guys made it, and like most of the CTS events I’ve been to, they seem to have forged a bond and developed a sense of team accomplishment that I have only seen in my days in the Marines.  All the guys are friends, and seem to have gained a brotherly bond over the course of the week.

After we returned back down to Salt Lake City, I began packing bikes for the riders’ journeys home.  Once completed, we organized the trucks to travel to their respective destinations, then got ready for our team dinner and departure.  Another race week in the books.  Next up, four days off, then back out west for the Tour of Colorado… STAY TUNED!

Tour of Utah Recap – Stages 1-3

My week at the Tour of Utah with Carmichael Training Systems was amazing, as expected.  We had four athletes and three coaches, so the workload was okay for just one mechanic (me) and one soigneur (Colleen).   Here’s a quick little day by day rundown of what happened:

Pre-Race Organization Day

The day before the start of the race, all the athletes and staff arrived, and we hit the ground running.  As the athletes each arrived from the airport, they brought their bikes to me in the hotel parking lot, where all the teams were set up.  I found a great spot next to some mechanic friends that work for Optum/KBS and got comfortable.  My workspace consisted of a folding table, my toolbox, a box of ProGold lubricants and supplies that we were given (Thanks, Bruce!), my Feedback Sports Pro-Elite repair stand, two a-frame bike racks, and a CTS E-Z Up tent.  That was really all I needed to get bikes built.  Later in the week, I would need water hookups to wash down the bikes and such, but for initial building and preparation, it wasn’t necessary.

After all the prep work was done for the first stage, we had a rider/staff meeting to introduce each other, discuss the details of the camp, and plan out the next day’s schedule.  It’s important to keep meetings like that kind of chill and to try and get to know the athletes a little better.  Developing trust with them is key.  They need to trust me to work on their bikes and support them throughout the week.  I try to learn the athletes’ little habits and nuances early in the game, so I can address them before a situation arises on the road.  By doing that, we can eliminate a lot of panic-stricken situations in the future.

Stage 1 – Ogden to Ogden (131.7 miles)

The logistics of this first day were kind of weird.  In order for us not to get caught by the pros, we had to cut off a little “lollipop” section of course near Henefer, UT.  We started out strong for about 200m… then the day’s first flat tire.  Because we hastily prepared and had supplies and staff coming from several different locations, we forgot to pack any spare wheels.  After installing a new tire and tube, the new tube was pinched by the tight bead of the tire.  Flat tire number two.  After changing that, we were on our way.

Less than 30 minutes later, as the riders were ascending through a tight canyon, just north of Ogden, we had a third flat on the road.  One rider picked up a piece of debris in a tire, causing him to develop a somewhat slow leak.  The object was removed from the tire, a new tube installed, and we were back on the road… again.  Luckily, this would be the last flat for quite some time.  We continued out of the canyon, and kept pedaling down the road.

After several rest stops and our turn around point on Hwy 65, we returned towards Ogden.  We had to stop near Interstate 84 and wait a few minutes because the pro race was coming through.  It gave us a good time to refuel, and the first chance for the CTS athletes to see the actual race in progress.  Afterwards, we continued back up towards Ogden, making a rest stop in Eden.  At the Eden rest stop, CTS coach Kirk Nordgren’s cousin was waiting with her kids and had homemade signs to cheer him on!  That was a really cool experience, primarily because it was in the middle of nowhere, and they were just hanging out waiting for us.

After the last KOM of the day, North Ogden Divide, CTS coach Colin Izzard’s carbon clincher wheels came apart on the descent.  He had been feeling pulsating during braking all day, but we couldn’t feel anything structurally upon inspection.  Less than 500m into the descent, he comes on the radio and said his wheels were toast.  Both his tires had punctured, and both his rims were victims of overheating and delamination.  Not cool.  He was very lucky to be able to control the bike without crashing, or worse.  Definitely a situation where spare wheels would have been nice to have.  We loaded he and his bike in the CTS truck and continued down the hill to finish with the group.

I had a bit of parts-switching to do after Stage 1.  Kirk (camp manager), offered his wheels to Colin (lead coach), so he could continue to ride with the CTS athletes.  Going from carbon rims to aluminum rims, this meant switching brake pads, wheels, and ensuring the gearing was proper for the rest of the week’s climbs.  After switching around the parts, the bikes were washed and tuned, before stowing them in my hotel room (because of lack of a team trailer at this event – the CTS trailer was at Leadville, CO, supporting the riders at the Leadville Trail 100).

Stage 2 – Miller Motorsports Park – Team Time Trial (13.5 miles, 3 laps)

We transferred from our hotel in Ogden, south of Salt Lake City to Miller Motorsports Park, near Tooele, UT.  The CTS athletes were getting the opportunity to get on course before the pros for the Team Time Trial stage of the Tour of Utah, which meant they were going to be riding their bikes on the world-class track, normally used for motorcycle and auto racing.  We were able to set up our pit area inside one of the garages at the facility, just like the pro teams did.  The guys took three laps on the track; one to warm up and get used to the track, a second “hot” lap, where they utilized time trial tactics, and after a quick clinic on the team time trial, a third cool-down lap.  The guys were stoked to be able to get on the course, and I was stoked to be able to follow them in the support vehicle.  I’m not going to lie… it was pretty rad to drive the truck on the track, even if I wasn’t pushing it as hard as I would have liked…

I left the track a little earlier than the athletes, so I could get back to the hotel and get the bikes ready for the next day’s stage.  The guys only did 13.5 miles on the day, so they didn’t need as much attention as they did after a 100-mile day.  I wiped them down with some ProGold ProTowels, checked them over, and put the bikes away for the evening.

Stage 3 – Ogden to Salt Lake City – 85.5 miles

Stage 3 was very interesting.  The Tour of Utah’s route utilized a lot of the same roads on this stage as it used on Stage 1, just backwards.  The first climb of the day was heading the opposite direction over North Ogden Divide, then ran the route backwards, to Snowbasin for the third time this tour.  Following that, we descended down to Morgan, UT, and around a reservoir to Hwy 65, and up over a mean little climb called Big Mountain.  It was a pretty big challenge for the guys, and there was some separation in the group, but the view at the top and the descent into Salt Lake City was amazing.  The CTS athletes continued to surprise me, and did a great job staying together.  It made it pretty easy to support them from the vehicle, and take care of them when they needed assistance because of their cohesion as a group.

Except for Stage 1, there were no real mechanicals, flats, or any real issues up to this point, which made me feel pretty confident in the work I was putting into the bikes.  Usually, the third day is when everything starts to get ironed out, as far as systems go.  I was starting to nail down my organization of the support vehicle, seeing how things were working for me on a couple of road race stages, and figuring out the group’s dynamic.  After a few days on the road, you get used to their patterns of natural breaks and rest stops, and beat them to the punch. The key is to be one step ahead of the game, unless you can’t be… then you just remain flexible.

I’ll write more about stages 4-6 tomorrow.

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