James Sullivan wears many hats for Donnelly. He's not only our pro team mechanic, he also supports our marketing efforts at all kinds of events and is the company's full-time product manager! If he's not working on bikes, he's thinking about how to make our bikes and tires better. And, if he's not doing that he's likely racing or bike packing off the grid. With a week off from racing for the squad we thought we'd give you some insight in to what race day looks like for a pro team mechanic.
"Work starts well before I get to the race course on Friday. It starts immediately after that last race and if the last race was muddy, well, then there is a lot more work to do."
"After each race everything needs to be gone over with a fine tooth comb. Cross is tough of equipment and at this level we can not leave anything to chance."
"I usually arrive a most venues on Friday, find out where I need to set up and then start unpacking. I set up all the tents, lights, work stands and trainers. Then I pull out the bikes and go through those again, too. You'd be surprised at what seems to mysteriously happens as you travel from one race to the next!"
"On race day I usually get to the venue two hours before the team shows up. This gives me ample to me make sure everything is set and I have the wheel and tire options out based on the conditions. If the weather is really bad I might come even earlier."
"When it's muddy out I know there is going to be more work to do, but it sure makes tire selection is easy. I know the guys will be using the PDX!"
"Depending on when the pre-ride is the team usually shows up about 3 hours before start. We check in, get tires selected and then start the process of testing tires and pressures. The dry days can be make this part tough because there are so may factors to consider when choosing between the LAS and the MXP."
"After the pre-ride and course inspection the team warms up the trainers to get the final preparation done and prepare to race."
"While they are warming up I clean and dial in the race bikes. Of course, if it's muddy this makes for a ton more work. Plus, when these guys pre-ride they are going full gas so the bikes, wheels and tires all need to be checked again. The bike has to work perfectly for one hour. One mistake can be catastrophic."
"The last step is to check tire pressure and make sure it is what the rider requested."
"After the warm up the riders to a quick spin on the race bikes and then we head over to the start. Depending on who is helping us out I either go to the start or straight to the pit with spare bikes, wheels and tools."
"As a mechanic I prefer dry conditions on race day only because it's less harsh on equipment and there is less risk of a rider having a mechanical. I really don't mind the rainy days with really wet mud. Usually this means the bikes are easier to clean and the riders are having fun, and this leads to some great racing. I love working in the pits and being part of a great result. However, when it's that thick peanut butter mud then it's not much fun for anyone. The racers are usually just fighting the course and the bikes are more difficult to clean. And, if the power washing set up at race is sub-par that can change the outcome of a race."
"It's a good feeling walking back to the team tent after a good result. It feels great to have played a part in it."
"After the riders cross the finish line my hope is we are cleaning up, putting on fresh clothes and heading to the podium presentation!"
"At the end of it all the riders cool down on the trainers and I am either prepping for tomorrow's race or packing up to head to the next venue. Hopefully we are all celebrating a great day at the same time."
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Team Schedule (Tentative)
Rochester Cyclocross – Rochester, NY
Jingle Cross World Cup – Iowa City, IA
Trek CXC World Cup – Waterloo, WI
Fayettecross - Fayetteville Arkansas
US Open of Cyclocross – Boulder, CO
Cincinnati UCI Cyclocross - Cincinnati. OH
Silver Goose - Midland, ON
Pan Am Games - Midland, ON
Ruts N Guts CX – Broken Arrow, OK
USA National Championships – Tacoma, WA
UCI World Championships – Dubendorf, CH