Cyclists who experience mechanical problems in a race know only too well the sense of relief when they see the neutral assistance vehicle draw up beside them.
Flat tyre, dropped chain, wobbly seat post, problem with the derailleur… some problems are easily fixed while others require more time and expertise.
UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) partner Mavic provides neutral assistance at some 120 cycling events a year, ranging from professional road and mountain bike races to mass participation events. This week, six of their mechanics spent four days at the UCI WCC in Aigle, Switzerland, where they were brought up-to-date with the latest technologies, developments and tricks of the trade. They worked on mountain bikes and road bikes at the UCI WCC workshop under the instruction of UCI Mechanic Tutor Jean-Louis Guihard-Thébault.
Jacques Corteggiani, Manager Service Courses at Mavic, Amer Sports Group, explains: “The advantage of coming to the UCI World Cycling Centre is that we get to see all the different brands and components in one place. Technology evolves very quickly. We have done a lot of practical work which helps us remember what we have learned more clearly.”
The Mavic mechanics – most of them former riders – work at professional races including UCI WorldTour events such as the Tour de France and UCI Mountain Bike World Cups, where they assist teams that they sponsor. But often their most challenging work is at mass participation events, where they man a stand the day before the race as well as providing assistance during the event.
“Often it’s a case of ingenuity,” says Corteggiani. “You can get someone whose mate has suggested they enter the race and he’s just dug his old bike out of the garage. We are confronted with all sorts of equipment!”
Corteggiani remembers one Dutch rider who flew to Paris for the Paris-Roubaix Challenge only to find that his bike had not been charged onto the plane.
“We lent him a bike for the race and when he cycled onto the velodrome in Roubaix he was the happiest man in the world. The pleasure that we can provide participants is the most important.”
Apart from this latest course specifically directed at neutral assistance mechanics, the UCI WCC conducts training courses for mechanics of different levels throughout the year. More information about the mechanics training can be found on the UCI website.