Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday morning, day off, what I do here

In the pro/Cat one race here, all the riders are on teams, I believe, and each team has a team car in the caravan that follows the pack. The team drivers draw numbers for their car's position in the line.

If you draw #17, and the commissaire announces over race radio that one of your riders needs a service (could be anything from a chat or the retrieval of his rain vest to a broken bike or flat tire) you're a long way back. Could take you a minute or so to work your way up.

As SRAM neutral support here, we have a motor (we hardly ever say motorcycle, just motor or moto) behind the pack with a driver and passenger. The passenger carries a front and rear wheel, plus a few tools in a fanny pack. We also have three cars behind the commissaire car that follows the pack, each with wheels and complete spare racing bikes.

And we have another motorcycle and another car in front of everything, waiting for a breakaway. When a break forms, the motor will drop back behind it. When a big enough gap exists between pack and break, the car will drop back and the motor will wait to see if the break splits. The motor will follow the rider or riders who break away from the breakaway.

Our second motor driver (that's how we describe the guy steering the motor) is a cyclist and motorcyclist...and I believe a licensed official, but he has never worked tech support. So he is working the breakaways, where he can learn the job in relative peace, dealing with a few team cars and an official car and motor or two. Nice and restful up there.

On my motor, Steve Donovan and I are positioned in front of the commissaire's car and the medical car and the nearly 20 team cars, and behind the 160 bike riders. Because the bike riders are always needing something, water for instance, from their cars, the cars come up to the pack and take care of their riders - again and again and again.

The cars want to be where we are, and they can't understand why we're there, in their way. Often they express their bafflement by placing portions of their cars quite close to our legs or the taillight of the motorcycle. Inches away, I'd say, on narrow, winding country roads, roads you'd love to ride on your motorcycle or bicycle, but roads that seem awfully confining with a car brushing your shoulder.

If the team is lucky enough to have a rider in the break, the car will go up to the break to take care of that rider. THEN, we take care of mechanical problems and flats for that team's riders who are still in the pack. You'd think the team drivers would understand that and cut us a bit of slack, but they do not. Their priority is retrieving that rain jacket or the handing off of water bottles.

More later today about what we do and why we matter....and should not be run over.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ciao Maynard! Great to read your stuff about working the bike race--just like the old daze but folks can hear about it quickly rather than waiting to read about it in the pages of WINNING. We leave for Italy on Monday, keep in touch and visit our website and link to our blog. Won't be as cool as yours but we'll try to let folks see what we're up to in ITALIA during the summer. Your friend, Larry Theobald