Back Discover more Shimano

Rosmalen, the Netherlands. It’s busy at Shimano’s service course. Mechanics and drivers Martin de Kok and Tom van Teeffelen have been preparing wheels, gluing tyres and changing chainrings, brake pads, and handlebar tape for weeks. They are working in preparation for the cycling World Championships, which began in Flanders, Belgium on Saturday 18th September. 

Shimano Service course

It’s their responsibility to make sure that Shimano’s neutral service team is ready to get any rider who suffers a mechanical mishap back in the race.

It’s a major operation. Every week, Martin, Tom and their colleagues provide mechanical support at professional races, including all three Grand Tours and almost all the major Classics, but the World Championships are a special challenge.

Since riders race for their national teams, it's much harder for the mechanics to know which wheel to grab when they pull to the side of the road in the event of a broken spoke or flat tyre. At the World Championships, the riders race on their own bikes with their own components. They might opt for 140mm discs or 160mm discs or a combination of the two. Some might still use rim brakes. Others use components from Shimano competitors. It’s not as simple as it is with the trade teams, where every rider uses his or her team-issue equipment. Every rider on a national team might be on a different bike with a different set up. And the neutral service mechanics have to be prepared to help every rider in the peloton. The major cycling nations can offer their riders top-notch support, but smaller countries rely much more on neutral service. So do the juniors, who need special wheels, due to gearing restrictions.

To meet the challenge they've brought six cars to Flanders, each with six spare bikes, as well as two motorbikes equipped with spare bicycle wheels. The spare bikes are decked out resplendently with Shimano DURA-ACE drivetrains and C60 wheels. They have dropper posts, so any rider who needs to use a spare bike can quickly set their saddle to the right height. In the back of each car, Tom and Martin will pack 15 spare wheels with different sized rotors and types of cassettes, along with a tool case, a pump, gels, and a cooler full of bottles and cola to hand to the riders.

background image

It will be a hectic week. Shimano’s mechanics will have to shuttle back and forth between Antwerp, Leuven, Knokke, and Bruges to cover the different races in all of the categories.

They are looking forward to it because the world will be watching. This year’s World Championships in Flanders will be even more special for two reasons, firstly because the fanatic cycling fans in one of cycling’s heartlands with create an amazing atmosphere, and secondly because it’s the 100th anniversary of the World Championships.

Thousands of spectators will gather by the side of the road to watch the best bike racers in the world rattle over cobblestones and climbs to try to win the 11 rainbow jerseys on offer. It will be a week-long festival of cycling, celebrated all over Flanders and by the global cycling community.

Martin, Tom and the other members of the team will experience it all from inside the caravan. One fast wheel change could make a champion’s race. Those are the moments that they live for. That is what makes them race mechanics: their ability to make split-second decisions and fix problems on the fly. At any given time in a race, they are ready to jump from a moving car with the right wheel, sprint to a stranded rider, and change his wheel in a few instants in front of a TV camera, before pushing him back into the fray.

Allez to the boys and girls in blue!

Continue reading