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The Warm-Up: A Critical Start (with Maghalie Rochette)

Cyclocross is an intense sport, requiring 100% effort from the starting gun through the finish tape. For nearly an hour we ask our body to respond to the constant balance of effort and recovery and this requires preparation. So when it comes to warm ups you may be left wondering: How long? How intense? What should I be trying to accomplish? When to start and finish your warm up? What does a ‘cross warm-up look like?

Explore the answers to these questions with Specialized/Feedback Sports Cyclocross Superstar (and recently crowned Canadian and Pan-Am Games Champion) Maghalie Rochette. 

Why Do We Need to Warm Up? 

MR: The main goal of the warm-up is to prepare your mind and body for the demands of a race. Your routine should be long and intense enough to warm you up, but not wear you down. Cyclocross races start really fast, so you need to work hard enough in the warm-up so that when the starting gun goes off your body isn’t left in complete shock. 

I like the warm up to feel like it “opens up” my legs, lungs and heart so my body is ready and accustomed to the effort when the race starts. There’s a textbook of physiology going on in the warm-up, and although I’ll spare those details the objective is to feel like you’re ready to hit the front and stay there!

How Do You Prepare Your Mind?

I find that the warm-up is also a time to get into a good mental space – a time to get into your own bubble and get acquainted with (and enjoy) the effort that’s coming. I listen to music when I warm up. I have a few different playlists with different kinds of music, depending on the mood I need to be in. Sometimes races call for being aggressive and sometimes you simply need to smile and have fun. Either way, I listen to music that makes me happy and find this will get my mindset where I want it to be.  

This is also a good time for visualization. I do pre-rides of the course earlier in the day. David and I find the most challenging points in the course during this recon and my warm-up is a good time to recall these strategic points and what’s needed to perform at my best.

The mix of physical and mental preparation is what truly makes up a warm-up routine!

David is the coach, the mechanic, and the guy who makes it all happen – setting up the trainer is part of the deal!

 

Does the Weather Affect Your Warm-Up? 

MR: The basic structure of my warm-up does not change, though I do adapt it depending on the temperature, or other factors that may affect how I feel. For example, I don’t deal well with extremely warm weather. I tend to over-heat very quickly, so I have to be meticulous when racing in the heat. If it’s hot outside, I’ll change my warm up drastically. 

One of the things I’ll do differently on a hot day is that I’ll skip the trainer and will instead find a road to warm up on – the wind in my face is refreshing. I’ll also shorten my warm up and often I will even skip the “build up to threshold”. I may just go out to spin and do a few short sprints with full recovery between each to make sure my legs are opened up, but that my heart rate doesn’t get too high. It’s difficult to bring your heart rate down in the heat, so there is no reason to bring it up super high before the race starts.

Alternatively, the trainer is amazing when the temperature is really cold! That refreshing breeze from riding the road isn’t so refreshing anymore!  

Fatigue – does your training plan affect your warm-up?

While I won’t divulge the details of my training, there is an ebb and flow to a season’s preparation. Fatigue happens. Fresh legs happen. Some days you feel great, and others you don’t. I remember at the 2018 Bern World Cup, I started my warm up and my legs felt sluggish.  That particular day in Switzerland I felt like the best strategy was to diminish the intensity of the warm up. I did the same routine, but I turned it down 10%. Turns out it was the right call, because I felt amazing during the race. 

There are days where the best way to deal with heavy legs is to do a few solid efforts, and then you start feeling better. Other times, I know my legs are tired, so I just decide to spin easier for a longer period of time before I start the efforts. Pay attention to where you are in your training to decide which is better. 

Unfortunately there is no magic, pro cyclocross racer, top-secret solution to this problem. Making the right call takes time and experimentation and every rider at the start line of a World Cup has gone through the process of refining their most effective routine.

The best advice I could give is to record everything in your training log afterwards. You can write how you felt during the warm up, how you decided to adapt your typical warm-up, and how you felt in the race afterwards. Trial and error is your best friend…

The Details – Give Us the Specifics!

I like to keep my warm-up pretty short. 

During a race day I’ll probably ride on the course 2-3 times, which amounts to about 30-45min of riding time before I actually start the warm-up. I think it’s important to keep that in mind when creating your routine…you don’t want to end up riding two hours before your race has even started (especially if you only train an hour at a time).

Traveling to Europe for a World Cup campaign means we do without a lot of our conveniences, like a warm-up tent!

 

Here’s what my typical cyclocross pre-race warm-up looks like: 

**I do this warm up on the Feedback Sports Omnium trainer. I prefer the Over-Drive version, because it offers progressive resistance the harder you go. This allows you to pedal hard without spinning out. We have some competitors who use the Zero-Drive, and some who use both, depending on where they are in their training!

10 minutes easy

5 minute build up (from tempo to a little over race pace)

2 minutes easy

3 x 30 second build up (from race pace to fast)

2 min easy

Immediately after I finish the trainer session I eat a gel with caffeine. At the start grid and I do one quick start of about 5 seconds. That short sprint is also an opportunity to finalize your starting gear.

I feel like this warm up (less than 25 minutes total) is enough to open me up, but it doesn’t leave me fatigued.

Practice Makes Perfect

As I mentioned, we are all different, so my warm-up routine may not work for you. However, I encourage you to find one that you like and practice it in training to see how it makes you feel. I’ve done the same warm up for the last 7 years, so I know this one works for me. It can get boring to do always the same thing, but at the same time, it brings tranquility and confidence. My body knows this effort and my mind is confident this is getting me ready to perform. 

 

Thanks Maghalie! If you’re unsure of whether to use a trainer or rollers check out Maghalie’s article on that very subject. If you’d like to get to know David Gagnon, Maghalie’s coach, partner, and mechanic a bit better read this quick Q&A here.

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Balance

Professional bike racers spend a lot of time on their bikes. But creating a balance between hard workouts and fun is paramount. Sometimes it’s good, even for the pro’s, to toss the schedule in the trash and go on an adventure. The need to hit the proverbial “reset button” can refresh the mind and body.

Specialized/Feedback Sports cyclocross superstar Maghalie Rochette used the rails-to-trails P’tit train du nord in Canada for one such adventure. Make sure to check out the sweet video at the end.

GETTING STARTED – BIKE PACKING PREP

It can be intimidating to prepare for a bike packing adventure. What should I bring? How should I pack? How much food should I prepare? Will my bike hold up for the ride? 

Being a professional bike racer, it’s easy for me to prepare for a race…I always bring the same things, and I always pack more than necessary. But a bike packing adventure is not something I do everyday. So I didn’t really know how to prepare for it, and I knew I didn’t really want to carry more stuff than what I would actually use. 

My goal was to make this adventure fun and simple. While I didn’t want to stress over the preparation – I wanted the whole experience to be relaxing and enjoyable…which is kind of a double edge sword! For the adventure to be enjoyable, I would have to prepare a little bit! 

For sure I can make sure your bike is in good shape so you can ride without a worry. A bolt check is a must – such an easy way to prevent avoidable catastrophes! We love the Feedback Sports Range for this! And there’s no point in heading out on a long adventure with worn tires, brake pads, or drivetrain parts – treat your bike nicely, and it’ll be kind back!

And for sure bring a few tools – tire levers, a pump, spare tubes, a mini-tool and maybe even some lube will keep you up and running should anything happen. And, if you’re a bit more seasoned, you probably already know zip ties and duct tape are a must!

When it comes to food, as conditioned athletes we certainly have efficiency on our side, but we still had to eat. After all, our first day was 200+km, so fuel is necessary. But in our favor, our adventure was on a bike path that used to be a railway. That meant that we were riding through small towns every 25 to 50 km, so it was (mostly) easy to find food during our trip. For that reason, we mostly carried CLIF Bars, and relied on the small towns to find food for our meals. 

This takes “convenience store” dinner to a whole new level! Chips, candy, soda….and a few things we’re scared to even mention.

For the first dinner our original plan was to stop at a local cheese monger & and sausage shop in the last town before our camping spot, but we got there too late and both were closed. So we stopped at a store and grabbed some corn and sausages. We thought those would be easy enough to cook over the fire…washing it all down with beers makes just about anything taste OK.  

The only meal I had brought with me was breakfast – something about being the most important meal of the day.

I saw in a cook book that you could prepare pancake mix and put it in a water bottle for easy transportation. That sounded like a pretty great idea – execution of the idea on the other hand… A few splatters of pancake mix in my face later (and on my jacket when I opened the bottle) it kind of sort of worked out. My pancakes were far from looking as good as the cookbook I had seen, but they still tasted good – my friends could taste the love. Probably just being nice 😉 

But I also had a breakfast plan B – I had mixed quick oats with a bunch of nuts, cinnamon, dried fruits, and coconut flakes. I put the oat mixture into little bags, and we carried them in our luggage. We only had to pour boiling water on the oats, and had a delicious oatmeal for breakfast! 

For other meals, we just stopped when we saw something appealing on the side of the road. Sometimes this works out amazing – granted, we were starving so just about anything sounded good, but it turns out the place we found was amazing! Probably the best Roma pizza of my life, in a family-run bakery, in a tiny village. To this day, I’m so glad we found this place…I still dream of the pizza. But, isn’t that the point of throwing the leg over a bike seeking adventure? The unknown!

And for our eating, we really only had a pocket knife, wooden utensil (spoon/fork/knife), a burner, 1 collapsible cooking pan. 

And while I’m no bike packing expert, I’d say the most important thing is to wear a cycling kit that is very comfortable. You’ll spend many hours riding in it, so it may not be the time to break out a new kit, or some new shoes. To save on space, only brought a spare sports bra and pair of socks…I “washed” my shorts with a biodegradable soap and let it dry over night, but I wanted to save on space.

Aside from clothing we had sleeping bags, a puffy jacket, a pair of pants, a t-shirt, a toothbrush, a headlamp, a pair or flip flops, a swim suit, and a towel that we all four shared. It was pretty minimal, but we didn’t need to live in luxury! 

As I said above, I’m no professional bike packer. This is something I don’t do often enough to have valuable experience to share… So my tips are not based on world-class experience. However, that little preparation worked out for us! 

Maybe just preparing for an adventure is part of the fun; you get excited looking at the map, preparing food, and packing your bags for your trip. Plus, having a good working bike simply makes the trip more enjoyable, because you know you can trust your equipment. 

And if something happens despite your preparation?! Well, that’s also part of the adventure. It may not be ideal in the moment, but reminding ourselves that we do this for fun will make the obstacles much more bearable, and even quite funny! 

At the end of the day, getting into misadventure, and being a little bit uncomfortable is part of why we go on those adventures…and those misadventure always make for good camp fire stories! 

While Maghs and David may not be professional bike packers, they do understand what it takes to perform at the highest level of sport. And if you ever get the chance to meet them, you’ll understand why they hit the “reset button” – they’re two people that exude such an energy that you simply want to be around them.

If you enjoy the story – check out the whole video here.

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Mechanic’s Corner: Q & A with David Gagnon of Specialized/Feedback Sports Cyclocross Team

In our Mechanic’s Corner series we’ve been shining the spotlight on the ones behind the scenes that make racing and riding happen for us, the mechanics. Earlier this week we announced that we would be the co-title sponsor of Maghalie Rochette and the CX Fever team. So let’s get to know her Mechanic, Coach, partner, and skilled baker, David Gagnon.

When did you start working as a bike mechanic and how did you get into it?

I raced triathlons when I was younger and quickly realized that having a bike that works properly is important. I liked working with my hands so I started doing small things on my bikes really young. When I was in university, we started a small bike shop where 3 of us really had to do every single task from building bikes to ordering and accounting, so I quickly learned the proper basics at that moment. That shop didn’t last long. It was a lot of work and we ended up closing after 3 years. From there I worked on my personal bikes but I never worked in a shop.

How did you transition into becoming a race mechanic? How long have you been working as a race mechanic at this point?

That really came out of necessity more than a transition. When Maghalie started racing cyclocross 7 years ago, there had to be someone for her in the pits and so I found myself working on her bikes and helping he out at the races more and more until it became clear that she was really good at this and that she would need full time support.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a race mechanic? What is the most stressful part, before, during, or after the race?

Honestly, it’s a great job. You have to be very adaptable and flexible with work conditions. You won’t always have the perfect light, the perfect environment and/or the perfect conditions to get the bikes ready, but if you are a bit creative and have the right tools, it becomes fun. For me, I see these different work conditions more as an opportunity to be creative and find solutions more than challenges. The biggest challenge for me is all the driving. Being from Canada, we often drive down to the US for a few weeks at a time and go from one race to another and a lot of times it means a ton of driving. Driving 40-60 hours per week can get hard on the body and mind sometimes.

The most stressful part for me is the first 30-60 seconds of the race. There’s a lot of traffic and if a crash is going to really mess up the race, it’s most likely going to happen in the first few turns. Once they go by the pits once, I’m pretty stress free. Since most of time it’s just Maghalie and I at the races, getting the race bikes ready, building the setup at the races, and packing everything up isn’t really stressful. It’s actually relaxing 🙂

What are some of the most challenging last minute or on the fly repairs you’ve had to do?

Honestly, nothing very exciting here. We come to the races prepared with all our equipment working 100% and spares of everything and Maghalie runs 3 or 4 bikes per weekend so if for whatever reason one bike isn’t perfect, we can usually do without it and I can fix things stress free following the race.

Only one time I remember being a little worried. At Supercross Cup in NY a few years back, it was very, very windy and one of Maghalie’s bikes fell on the ground really hard 15mins before the start – the frame was broken. That got me a little stressed but we ended up using a friend’s bike that we fitted as best as we could in 15mins as a pit bike for Maghalie. That friend was over 6ft tall, and had a 58cm bike, wider bars, longer cranks & a different company shifting/braking system. So needless to say, it was quite the change for Maghalie when she had to come in the pits. It was super muddy so she had to come in every half lap. We made it work and Maghalie went on to win, and sweep her first ever UCI race weekend!

Do you have any pre-race rituals? What are they?

Nope, no rituals. Except cleaning the bikes, do a proper bolt check and double check tire pressure.

How do you balance being a coach as well as a mechanic?

It’s actually great cause I can see the race from the inside and adjust training a lot with equipment testing and such. I only work as a mechanic for Maghalie and a few close friends that sometimes need help at home or at the races so my job is mostly coaching. Working as a mechanic feels more like a hobby and a nice change sometimes 🙂

You work with Maghalie exclusively all season, what sort of unique challenges does that present throughout the season and how do you move past those?

Working only with Maghalie is great, it gives us a lot of breathing room and a realistic amount of work and logistics that leave us enough time that we don’t feel overwhelmed. We do end up spending a ton of time together driving, training, travelling, eating, etc. and that could be a challenge for a lot of people, but we get along pretty well and we actually feel very fortunate that we can both do what we love, together, for a living. There is no one else in the world I would do this with.

You and Maghalie would be what most consider to be a privateer program, what are some of the largest challenges you face as a mechanic/only staff? What are some of the benefits?

You know, it looks like that from the outside, but Maghalie’s family help us out a lot. Maghalie’s mom and dad come to a lot of races and they are always happy to help, whether it’s in the pits or with the logistics of travel. Magh’s dad is a big cycling fan and for him, to have the pit passes and be around that environment makes him really happy and excited.

In North America, cyclocross is a very tight knit world and when the races require a bit more manpower, we’re always very fortunate to have friends at the races helping us. I’m also good friends with a lot of mechanics from North American teams/riders and so we help each other out in the pits. I’ll catch for them when their rider comes in and they’ll do the same for me when Maghalie comes in. CX in North America is a small world and everybody is super helpful. I could go on for days talking about situation where Cannondale Cyclocrossworld carried Magh’s bikes from one race to another or when we drove other team’s mechanics at the airport or used their bike wash area, etc. It’s a big family.

In terms of the benefits of being just the two of us, well, there are a lot. We only book 1 hotel room. We travel in the same car. It’s very easy for us to make or change plans since we don’t have to fit in other people schedules.

Having experienced a lot of different countries and meeting a lot of other mechanics, what are some differences you notice between the way North American mechanics approach a repair and the way European mechanic’s do? Are there differences in the relationships they have with their riders compared to that of North American teams?

The first thing that comes to mind is swapping parts vs. fixing stuff. I feel like Euro Mechanics will spend a lot of time trying to fix things and be very creative making custom tools for custom parts that they custom fixed as where here we’re most likely going to just put a new derailleur on the bike instead of fixing it. I guess that also reflects on  the overall lifestyle and choices of Europe vs. North America.

In terms of the relationship between mechanics and riders, in Europe a lot of riders have their dad, brother, husband, father in law, etc. be their mechanic. It’s not uncommon here in North America to see the same thing, but in terms of team structure, the American teams will most likely provide a mechanic for the riders, where in Europe, the rider has to have his own mechanic, the team will most likely not supply one.

What is the number one thing home mechanics can do to keep their bike in excellent working condition?

Clean it. Lube it & Protect it with some sort of shine/polish often. And pay attention to the bike when you do so. That way you’ll go over the bike and parts very carefully every time you wash/lube/protect it and you’ll see quickly what there is to fix, change, etc.

The one thing I tell people is make sure your cleaning setup is easily accessible. Leave the pressure washer plugged in water, or keep a hose and a work stand out. That way, it takes a lot less time and you’re not discouraged by the fact that you have to setup before cleaning. You can just come back from a ride, throw your bike on the repair stand, start the hose or pressure washer, clean, lube protect and you’ll be able to keep a close eye on things that need replacement, fixing, etc.

Your Instagram is chock full of phenomenal food photos, specifically loaves of bread and pizza, could you give us one simple recipe for bread or pizza?

Hahaha. I love baking. Pizza & bread are probably my favorite food. Pizza is a very simple recipe that you can make on the BBQ or in the oven at home if you have a baking stone. It’s delicious and it can be healthy if you put good stuff on it. We have a sourdough culture that we use at home, so we need to do something everyday with it or throw away a bit of it, so we try to bake at least every other day.

Quick Pizza, could be done with sourdough too if you have a starter

Dough-

1-Anytime before 2PM, Sprinkle a bit of yeast (like a teaspoon or so) on 400G of +- room temperature water.
2- Add 500G of pizza four (00 type) if you have some or just any flour to the water, a pinch of salt and knead for +-5mins
3- Let it rise for 30-60mins, Go back and knead again a few turns.
4- Let it sit for another little bit, until it +-doubles in size.
5- Take it out of the bowl, fold in a ball one last time on the counter, line a bowl with Olive oil, throw the dough ball in that olive oil lined bowl. Put in the fridge until 1h to dinner.
6- Take it out, split the dough in as many pizzas as you want to make. let it rest on the counter +-30 minutes before stretching it to a pizza!

Sauce –

1- Can of San Marzano Tomatoes. Drain the juice from the can.
2- Put the tomatoes in a bowl, break them with your hands, add a bit of salt & basil to taste and there’s your sauce.

Put in whatever you want on top of that and you have a yourself a nice pizza. I really like just the classic Margherita with a top quality fresh mozzarella on top of that sauce. Never gets old and lets you appreciate the quality of the dough and sauce 🙂

Bon appétit.

 

If you’d like to learn how to glue tubular tires from David, check out this post. 

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Feedback Sports Goes World Cup

Feedback Sports has signed on as Co-Title Sponsor to form the 2019-20 Specialized/Feedback Sports Cyclocross Team. The team consists of seasoned professional cyclocross racer Maghalie Rochette, and her mechanic and coach David Gagnon.

“Feedback Sports products are designed to simplify cycling and are a reflection of our internal passions as racers and mechanics. Maghalie and David are true professionals and offer the level of scrutiny of our products we ask from our sponsored partners”, said Doug Hudson, Owner of Feedback Sports. “They mirror our passion for racing, balanced with a deep love of cycling and an infectious positive attitude. We are delighted to have Maghalie and David representing Feedback Sports in our first title sponsorship of a World Cup cyclocross program. It’s long been a dream of mine to have our logo on a World Cup Cyclocross jersey, and after 15 years, this is the right time and Maghalie and David are the right people. ”

Maghalie got her start professionally in 2014 with the LUNA Pro Team (now Clif Pro Team), primarily racing XCO mountain bike with an abbreviated cyclocross program. 2018 marked the beginning of CX Fever, her privateer campaign to target her truest passion of World Cup Cyclocross. During the 2018/2019 season Maghalie accomplished impressive North American results – making several podiums at key UCI events and taking home the Canadian National Title. While those results alone are a success for some, Rochette also captured her first Pan-American Championship.

Aside from her athletic achievements she’s a wonderful advocate for the sport, passionate wood worker, and cheese lover.

Maghalie commented “When we decided to build this team, David and I wrote down a list of the companies we dreamed to partner with. For us, the best partners are people that we like and that we want to work and spend time with. The best partners are also the ones who make the products we believe in. Feedback Sports fit exactly that profile. The whole team is passionate about cycling, and passionate about making quality products…they want to be the best at what they do and have fun while doing it, which is the same philosophy David and I have towards our racing endeavors. For us, there is a lot to learn from the way they run their company, and that’s inspiring. ”

She added,”We are extremely proud to have Feedback Sports as a co-title sponsor this year. I’m excited to be representing them in the races I’ll be doing. I like the company and I’m seriously proud to have their logos on my kit. Plus, I know that everyone in the company will be watching the races, because that’s how passionate they are about the sport, and to me, that’s super motivating. I have no doubt this will be a fun year working with them! Feedback Sports really has the CX Fever!”

David Gagnon, Maghalie’s partner, mechanic, and coach is a large part of the team. Although we don’t get to see the work put in behind the racing scenes, David makes the same commitment throughout the season as Maghalie. He also has plenty of racing experience himself, formerly racing on the ITU triathlon circuit. He also has deep understanding of physiology, working as Head Coach and Co-Owner of the performance center PowerWatts Nord in Quebec, Canada. Beyond sport, David is also a food lover and is at home in the kitchen or over the grill.
David is excited to be part of the Feedback Sports team, stating “Feedback Sports is an example that it is possible to blend perfectly business, life, family and sport together. Their strong presence and support of the racing scene in the past decade shows how passionate they are about racing and for these reasons, we couldn’t be more proud to be associated with such a great company.”

“When people watch bike races, they see the bike and the rider. But when you look at everything that goes behind the race itself, you quickly realize that there is a lot more going on. Travelling to races, preparing the bikes, warming-up and cooling down from the race and storing your bikes back at home – Feedback Sports products are an essential part of what we need to make this team happen.”

“For us this year, Feedback Sports products are the unsung heroes and we’re incredibly excited to bring them to the front row with us.”

To learn more about Maghalie’s plans for the upcoming season, check out this Cyclocross Magazine interview. And because #crossiscoming, check out David’s top tips for gluing tubulars and see what Maghalie thinks about trainers vs rollers. 

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Q&A with Pro Mechanic, Doug Sumi – Team Holowesko|Citadel

With the 2018 Amgen Tour of California now underway, we thought we’d check in with one of our favorite supported teams racing it– Team Holowesko|Citadel.  Read the Q&A below with head mechanic, Doug Sumi (one of the most entertaining pro-mechanics we know) to find out what a day in the life is like for a mechanic at an event like the TOC, what super-secret skill every mechanic needs and what Feedback Sports product is practically glued to Doug’s side at every race.

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FBS: Tell us a little bit about yourself, Doug. 
Doug: Doug Sumi/ Seattle, Washington. I enjoy Imperial stouts and light roast coffees, though typically not in that order.

FBS: What led you to being a professional bike mechanic for Team Holowesko|Citadel
Doug: A friend of mine needed helping running a crit pit in front of the bike shop I used to work at in Seattle (Recycled Cycles). Since I had never worked in that situation before I was mainly in charge of pumping bike tires and setting up tents. After a pretty big crash I got handed a bike with a very bent derailleur hanger and my friend said I had 15 seconds to fix it our that racer was out. 15 seconds later I was pushing him back into the race with a bike that mostly shifted. After that I was hooked. I worked a lot of local events around Seattle to get started and since then have spent time with Hagens-Berman, Jamis, Raleigh-Clement, and Kona Factory CX and am just starting my 4th season with Holowesko-Citadel.

FBS: Explain a day-in the life of a pro road mechanic.
Doug: I like, sometimes to the frustration of my roommate, to be up an hour before any work has to start. I spend the first hour of the day drinking coffee, reading something that has nothing to do with bike racing and hopefully breathing slowly. After that we start the day in earnest. Bikes come out of the trailer and get aired up, spares of everything checked and loaded into the car(s). Breakfast generally happens right before or right after this depending on our setup. Then we head to the start. Mechanics float around a little bit and chat with the riders. Good riders always check out their bikes before they roll to the start. No one is perfect and typically if we’ve done our job well there won’t be any issues but we are always around to make sure everything is as good as it can be. Some guys just double check their wheel skewers are tight and brake calipers are centered, others take out a tape measure and double check saddle height or saddle fore and aft.

Once the race has started you’re hopefully in for a nice relaxing afternoon trying not to stay awake in the back seat of the team car. For us, the more boring the better. Any busy day for mechanics is not a good day for your riders. And in the end they are the ones that matter, otherwise all the TV coverage would be of us trying not to fall asleep. If there is a mechanical, flat tire, crash, any of those things we do our best to remedy any issues quickly and get the rider back in the race. With spare bikes on the roof and spare wheels in the car we usually can remedy any equipment issues pretty quickly. After the finish it’s back to the trailer. Every race bike gets washed, dried and gone over to make sure it’s 100% for the next day. We may also change out gearing or wheels depending on what the next stage looks like. Part of the reason we wash bikes every day is it makes it much easier to spot small issues before they affect the race. Small pieces of glass in tires or lightly bent links in chains are much easier to see on a very clean bike. It may seem like overkill from the outside but it’s very critical to what we do. If there were flats or crashes we replace parts or glue fresh tires. Then the cars get washed, trailer is packed and locked, and hopefully we have time for some dinner and a beer.

FBS: What’s a super-secret skill you are really happy you have as a mechanic?
Doug: I can eat really fast (apparently a genetic talent) and can sleep almost anywhere that isn’t an airplane. When you have really busy days, sometimes it’s nice to be able to knock out dinner in 5 minutes and get a good amount of sleep in a bed you’ve never slept in before.

FBS: Any crazy stories about pulling off the impossible before or during a race?
Doug: I was in the car last year at Tour of Utah when Robin Carpenter crashed and broke his helmet. Typically there is a spare helmet in the car but someone had pulled it out before the stage. For very good reasons riders are required to replace broken helmets before they can continue racing and we were standing with Robin who was literally seconds away from dropping out of the race. As we were trying to find a solution a man on the side of the street offered to walk to his house a couple blocks away and lend Robin his personal helmet. A couple minutes later Robin, rocking a early 90’s era Specialized helmet, was chasing back on to the peloton. He ended up getting 4th I think on that stage. That gentlemen also has a Holowesko-Citadel Giro helmet at his house now.

FBS: If time travel were a thing: who would win a sprint finish between Sean Kelly and Freddy Maertens?
Doug: I’m going to go with Sean Kelly here, but if time travel were a thing I would go back and tell my former self to watch many more classic cycling highlight reels. Then I would feel like I was more informed to make such decisions.

FBS: What’s your favorite Feedback Sports product and why?
Doug: I love my Sprint Bike Repair Stand. It’s a solid and firm way to hold any bike that I work on and the spinning action makes for faster/easier bike washing and fixing. When you can stand in one spot close to your tools and move the bike instead of your body everything is closer at hand and much more efficient. Plus I can carry it on to an airplane or easily fit it in my checked luggage. Road races in California or cross world cups in Belgium you won’t see me without one.

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*The team last raced in the Amgen Tour of California in 2015, when Tom Skujins came out of the shadows to win Stage 3, setting the trajectory for his professional career.

This year, Holowesko|Citadel brings seven of its strongest riders to the the tour: John Murphy, TJ Eisenhart, Brendan Rhim, Andrei Krasilnikau, Fabian Lienhard, Ruben Companioni, and Miguel Bryon. Lienhard proved his clout while racing in Europe, earning a win during the first stage of the Tour of Normandie, as well as placing a close fourth in Stage 6 of Tour of Croatia. Murphy has always been a strong sprinter for the team, taking the first stage of Circuit des Ardennes this season, as well as back-to-back wins at the Athens Twilight Criterium and multiple wins at this year’s Tour of Southern Highlands.

“We’re excited to be back at Amgen Tour of California this year,” says Rich Hincapie, manager for the team. “With the team being in Europe this time around, the riders have had much experience and preparation. This year, we have a mix of climbers, sprinters, and all-rounders, so I feel good about our chances for a stage win.”

Chief sports director Thomas Craven has high hopes as well, particularly for rider TJ Eisenhart. “TJ has been looking forward to this race and the competition. I am banking that he brings the sunshine to Santa Barbara and the Gibraltar climb.”

You can follow the team’s adventures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter