Monday, 15 July 2013

Crazy Busy Season

I know I know, it has being a while since my last post, and I have probably lost some readers but I will attempt to make up some lost ground. This season has just being so busy I have not really had the time to sit down and put together a decent post. I have some ideas for some posts but the time I do have to sit at the PC is usually doing work emails or my paperwork for the tax accountant. Also sometimes, when I only have a few days at home, I like to enjoy cycling just for myself. It's a chance for me to switch off or step away from the world of professional cycling, a world that can really consume you. So no, I'm not glued to the tv everyday watching every second of the Tour, I see racing everyday so I like to forget about watching a race if I can, maybe I might catch the last 20k if I'm not doing something else. Just last week I was busy building myself a new set of wheels and forgot the Tour was even on, and although I was doing mechanic work it was a nice change to be doing something for my own benefit. It may sound arrogant but that's how it is, that's how working in professional cycling can be. So now I am half way through my July vacation (hence why I have time to do a post), and up until now it is the longest period I have been home for this season. Before this break the longest was 10 days. Earlier in the season I was home some days but still plenty of work to do, a broken truck and stolen bikes created much extra work. So I will give you a brief update month by month of the season so far and what the rest of the season should be like.

This is the month when I spend time on many emails back and forth organizing equipment delivery, because the delivery on the equipment dictates when and where we can start the building of the bikes. On the 11th I made the first of many trips to Ridley to pick up the first 4ZA equipment order, training wheels. To let you know, Ridley is about a 140km trip for me, so the decent part of half day to go there and back. That same afternoon I had to prepare those wheels to be taken down to Majorca for the team’s first 2 week camp. This camp I would skip to wait for delivery of more equipment, mainly the frames. By the 17th most of the smaller materials were ready at Racing Depot in Norway, only problem was no Campagnolo delivery yet. But on I flight to Norway I went hoping it arrived in one of the two days I was there. Arriving there, I collect the truck from the garage after a very last minute service, but I'm thinking too last minute. So I get the truck, prepare all the materials I need, pack it all in and off I go home, with no Campagnolo. I get 5km off the boat into Denmark and the truck breaks down, I knew that service was too last minute. So there I am on the side of the road for 3 hours in winter weather of -10, freezing my ass off waiting for a tow truck. Still some kilometers to the next town the tow truck driver dropped the truck at a garage and drove me to a hotel. I checked in and visited the garage the next day. So the problem turned out to be a disconnected wire from the alternator to the start motor, so basically the batteries went dead, 20mins and it was fixed. Next problem was if the batteries were charged enough after just 3hrs of driving, because I needed fuel. Lucky it started and I had no more problems with it. Once home I had to organize the truck a little, then make another trip to Ridley for the Campagnolo that arrived at Racing Depot the day after I left which they quickly resent down to Belgium. Then all that stock had to be counted, tubulars to be glued with base coats and some things on the truck to be fixed.

On the first day of the month it was back to Ridley for more materials. All this equipment then needs counting and recorded which I do on excel files, so we know what we have recieved and use throughout the season. Now I had the carbon wheels so all 10 sets had to be prepared with glue, one layer at a time. So all those wheels takes up a week of work, then it was back to Ridley yet again. This time for the frames, which was about 3 weeks later than what I scheduled, but the Lotto colors sold out really quickly. They also arrived just in time for me to go to the team’s second camp, because the next day I was off to Majorca. So over the next two weeks it would be everyday flat out at the workstand building bikes, checking positions, overhauling the riders old bikes and preparing more wheels. But although Philippe (aka Pippo) is a soigneur he was keen to learn bike building, so I quickly put him to work, otherwise a 10 hour day would have been easily a 15 hour day and 10h days for two weeks was enough. Once home it was to unpack everything and reorganize.
doing all the small preparation work
this season I even get my name on the door.
This is when the racing starts. After arriving home from Majorca I would be home for just 6 days before leaving again. Like last month, on the 1st I was back to Ridley for more equipment. Then I had to build two more bikes and then arrange all the bikes I needed to take with me for the first races. On the 4th I started the travelling to the first race of the season in Croatia. Arriving just the day before the first race there was not much time to prepare things, but then we had 3 days off before the next race and then another 3 days off before a 4 day tour. By days off I don't mean sit on your bed and watch TV all day, there is still work to be done. It just means the days are a little easier so I might work a normal 8 hour day compared to a usual 14 hour day. After Croatia it was direct to Italy for the 5 day tour Coppi e Bartali 2.1. It was at this race on the last day the bikes were stolen. I was sitting there having breakfast when a guy from the other team told me, I could not believe it, I was shocked. The bikes were stolen from a secure room that was provided by the hotel to the teams for storing bikes. On Conti level most teams have just small vans, so teams sometimes have riders take bikes to their room to save space in the van, but the hotel didn't allow bikes in the room. Instead they provided this large engine plant room that was separate to the hotel. My truck was almost full with TT bikes, so to save some space I stored 7 race bikes and 6 spare bikes in this plant room. It was here the thieves broke in through a window (which was at ground level on the outside but high up on the inside, if that makes sense) and used a ladder from inside the building to remove the bikes out through the window, 6 from us, 3 from another team and 2 from the other. Of course they took the 6 race bikes, 3 with SRM, but they left one Helium SL I was using as a spare bike and also a Noah RS, so they were selective in what they took. The police soon came, but it's Italy, nothing ever moves too quickly. You hear about it all the time in Italy and it is often an inside job, either by the hotel, security companies hired by the hotel or even other teams. Most of the time you never see the bikes again, this type of operation is very well organized and carried out by professionals. One time bikes were recovered at the Swiss border from a van on the way to Poland, that team was lucky, not us though and still now we have not seen or heard any more about our stolen bikes, broken down and sold off most likely. The riders also did a great job to finish the tour riding the spare bikes. The bad luck didn't stop there either, on my way home the truck broke down again, but I managed to limp it 750km home at 80km/h. This time it was the diesel filter. Finally home I first unpacked the truck and took it to a garage to be fixed. Then I washed all the bikes, sent out some emails to arrange replacement of the stolen equipment and then packed again to go to a 2 day tour in France, so I was only home 3 days.
A fully packed truck to go to Croatia.
washing bikes on a free day while in Croatia.

No going to Ridley on the 1st this month because as I was home it was guaranteed to be a day off as it was my birthday. March was a hard month so I also took one more day off and then had to get some things done. The wash machine broke in Italy, so that was my first job on the list. After pulling it apart the cause was a pair of socks, one stopping the drum from spinning and the other blocking the drain. Next was to deliver the truck again to the garage to have a good service done as the yearly control was soon due. In Europe vehicles have to be checked for a roadworthy condition every year if over 3 years old.  Everything then had to be washed and cleaned from the last race, though I didn’t have too many bikes because half of them were stolen. The new wheels were replaced quite quickly and 4ZA had these ready to collect, so back to Ridley again. Then all these wheels had to be prepped with glue and tires fitted. The truck was ready at the garage so I could collect it and start packing to leave for the next race the following day. This time it was a 5 day tour in France. During the week of this tour new frames had being arranged from Racing Depot. After arriving home from France at 1am, there was only time for some quick shut eye as I had to jump in the car with Morten and drive to Norway in morning. It was a long trip including the ferry crossing  arriving in Stavanger at 3am. So I was there to build up the new bikes but there was only one problem, there was not too much of a follow up with the Campagnolo we needed for these bikes and it ended up been delayed. As there was not enough stock available at Racing (they also were waiting on stock) I was on a plane home. This for me was great, I had no truck at home because it was with Pippo after the France race. So no truck, no bikes and no work which meant 5 days off.  But that yearly control on the truck was due so I had to go to Pippo’s and get it sorted.
For the last week of the month I was off to Denmark for 3 separate races. Morten came from Norway with all the new frames and the much waited Campagnolo. For the first race I had Pippo do the car as mechanic while I stayed at the hotel to build 5 new bikes. After these 3 races I then had to drive to Frankfurt for our next race, there were some long days and long kilometers driven in that last week.
One of the many dinners I eat while on the road, normally it is crap food and you have to pick and choose where to eat, but in Germany you can atleast get something half decent like this, unlike in France.

The team was in Frankfurt for a race we won last year, and although the race almost ended the same way this year with a small group going to the finish, we were unable to pull off a great result. Straight after this race I started the drive to Norway where we had two 1.2 races. Even despite making the half way stop at the German-Danish border, it was still a 16 hour day. The two races in Norway went much better with the team taking the win on the first race. The second didn’t go as well but the guys rode well. After that race I was to leave the truck at the house of Thomas, the sales rep for racing Depot. He lives just near Oslo airport so it was convenient because the truck was close to the airport and he was happy to drive me to my hotel. I had a flight home the next day at 9:30am and then I was home for 6 days with the only work to do was service a bike for one of my private clients. Then I was back to Oslo to collect the truck from Thomas. This time it was for the team’s main race, the 5 day Tour of Norway.  So another tour done and dusted. The next day after the tour I was left alone to clean everything up, standing in a quiet empty carpark washing bikes. I was just looking forward to my two weeks off, so again I left the truck with Thomas and I was on a plane home. One day into my two weeks off, I get a call from Gil, my old manager. He needed a mechanic for the weekend, he did a lot for me so it was hard to say no. So I was off again for three races with his Cyclelive Plus – Zannata ladies team, yes a pro women’s team. Lindsay was not too happy, but more so because it was over the weekend, it would be only the 7th weekend I was home and only the 3rd weekend with no work to do since starting the season. Gil says I’m the best mechanic he ever had but always the last one to call because of my busy program I have with Oster Hus Ridley team, so if he’s calling me he really has nobody else.
I was happy to help him out and it would be a different scene for me to do a ladies team, good thing is the races are much shorter. After this I only had one more private client for a bike service, for the remainder of my two weeks I enjoyed my time of rest. DAYS WORKED – 20 HOURS WORKED – 237
Bikes all ready for the Frankfurt race, number 1 for last years winner.

Working with the girls, they also have a fellow Aussie on the team, Carla Ryan

This month is always the championships month, normally a good 3 weeks away for me. The month started on the 3rd with another trip to Ridley for some extra equipment. Luckily it was just small parts because I had to take them on the flight to Norway that same week. I collected the truck from Thomas and made the 600km trip to Stavanger. First up was a 90km sportif mountain bike race which is held in the team’s hometown, Sandnes. So this is a good opportunity for the team to promote itself. We do this by setting up a tent with the truck and the cars. We have some of the bikes on display and we offer drinks and snacks to all the people that participate in the mountain bike event that are associated with the team through sponsors.  Some of the riders also do the race and we have won the race the last 4 or 5 years, maybe more. This year we finished 123 on the podium, which is a great result as it is an important event for our sponsors.  Then it was off to a national cup race in Bergen, 180km north of Stavanger. So after the mountain bike race and a 180km drive it was a long day. Straight after the Bergen race it was 180km back to Stavanger where I would spend the week preparing and overhauling bikes for the championships. Then it was a drive back to the other side of Norway to Grimstad, the home of Thor. The championships are a week of races starting with the U/23, then Club team TT, Individual TT, Criterium and finally the Elite race.  After the championships were done It was an early 4am start to catch a ferry and begin the drive home. The last week of the month was to empty out the truck, get all 15 bikes  washed and 30 wheelsets washed, then all packed away so I could start my July vacation.
Working at Racing Depot to prepare for the championships.


Now in the last week of my vacation I have being enjoying relaxing and riding my bike. Last week Linds and I were in Venice for a few days to get away. The only work I’ve had to do this month is prepare 3 bikes for riders going to the European Championships. But on the 25th I go back on the road again, to a 3 day tour in France. I will be only home for a few days before going back to Norway for two 2.1 tours, Arctic Tour and Tour de Fjords.  Then I might be back in France with the Norwegian national team for Tour de L’Avenir and then return to the team for some races in Belgium before going to maybe the Worlds which will end out the season, but we see what happens there. From end of July it is normally race after race, so if I manage to put out a post it will be a very short one if any at all.
At St Mark Square in Venice
Happy riding


FOZ said...

G'day Funk, Some good reading for those of us stuck in the depth's Melb's winter. Hopefully racing this sat in the O'MARA handicap. Catch up if yr home for the Suntour. Oh yeah the old klein isstill going. Had Wiggo give it a full respray in the old Gerlosteiner race colours. Come up a treat. Dave FOSTER

Mark said...

Still on that Klein Fozzie, hope you treated it with a new groupset to match the new paint.
Good to hear from ya and thanks for reading.

Nigel said...


I keep checking in to see if you've found the few moments to post and it's always great when I find you have.
Thanks for taking the time and for the insights. Enjoy your time off, hopefully not too hot to enjoy a few kilometres.

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Graham said...

Hi Mark - sorry - it has taken me a while to comment on your latest blog. As always - a great read and a reality check on the perceived "glamorous" side of cycling. All I can say is that Lindsay must be a very tolerant woman!
The Club is going well, - we have just had the end-of-season road champs and are preparing for 50 race days over summer.