The bicycle mechanics – the unsung hero-technicians behind the riders in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge – will face their regular bike racing challenges along with a couple situations unique to the Colorado stage race.
“For the start stage here in Durango, it will be a pretty straightforward deal for the mechanics,” said Tom Neb of San Juan Cycles in Durango.
Neb recently worked for USA Cycling at the London Olympic Games, where he served as a bike mechanic.
“It’s a road stage, a basic road stage. It’s not a time trial, which uses special (bikes),” Neb said. “So they are going to be on their standard road bikes.”
He said that the nature of the stage from Durango to Telluride indicates the cyclists will use standard gearing packages.
“There aren’t going to be anything radical in terms of gearing,” Neb said.
“There is some climbing, but there are a lot of flat roads in between,” Neb said, adding that the climbs in North America are not nearly as steep as some climbs in Europe.
“Their regular gear package will be more than sufficient here,” Neb said.
The world-class riders won’t need super climbing gears for the 2012 stages.
“These guys are professional riders. And they are so fit,” Neb said.
Basically, the riders in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge could ride a Huffy 3-speed to Telluride and manage just fine.
“Really, they are so good,” Neb said.
He said North American road builders have been limited with a maximum grade of 7 or 8 percent. In Europe, grades can be much steeper.
“That’s another reason you won’t see anything crazy in the gearing for this race,” Neb said.
The only significant equipment change the teams will face before the concluding time trial in Denver on Sunday, Aug. 26, will come on the Silver Queen Stage between Gunnison and Denver on Wednesday, Aug. 22.
That stage will include almost 14 miles of dirt and gravel on Cottonwood Pass.
“That will be a unique stage,” Neb said. “That’s where you’ll see ... heavier tires.”
He said the current trend is for riders to go with a wider tire on dirt surfaces.
Teams also may experiment with different tire combinations on that stage as well as others in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Neb said.
Different wheels also will be used, particularly on the dirt section of Cottonwood Pass.
Teams also are experimenting with electronic shifting this year, powered by a small battery attached to the underside of the bicycle frame, Neb said.
Hydraulic disc brakes also are being tested by road racing teams, the Durango-based bike mechanic said.
The other biggest challenge for the bike mechamics, Neb said, will be logistics.
“You are working crazy long days,” he said, adding that the bike mechanics on the 2012 USA Pro tour will be in Durango, Telluride and Montrose on the first day of racing alone. They’ll be in Montrose and Crested Butte the second day of the race.
“It’s hectic. That’s the challenge of being a road mechanic,” he said.