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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 July, 2003, 09:28 GMT 10:28 UK
The mechanics of racing
By Matt Majendie

Craig Geeter with the bike of Tyler Hamilton
Geeter takes a break from tending to Tyler Hamilton's bike
Craig Geeter has had his heart set on winning the Tour de France for as long as he can remember.

But the Kiwi has long since relinquished ambitions of doing so on his bike.

Despite that, he still harbours realistic hopes of helping take home the yellow jersey.

Geeter is in his second Tour de France as one of the Danish CSC team's mechanics.

Last year was a case of finding his way, this year he hopes to use his experience to aid the likes of Tyler Hamilton and Carlos Sastre.

He recalled: "I've worked as a mechanic since 1988 but last year was my first Tour. In the opening week I was sent up in the first team car to follow the riders.

"If anyone crashed or had a problem, I'd hop out and sort it out."

Geeter's cause, however, was not helped by a plethora of crashes in that first week.

He said: "I don't know what it was but every time the riders passed the 20-kilometre-to-go barrier there must have been something telling them to fall off.

Each rider has on average five Tour bicycles - three road bikes and two for time trials
CSC takes 90 tyres with those bikes and 100 spares for the race
Generally about 20 will be left by the end of racing, depending on the weather
When a tyre punctures, it is thrown away, with only the hub kept
Tyres can weight as little as 300 grams
Tour bikes generally cost about 3500
Lance Armstrong is one of the few riders with his own mechanic. Most team mechanics share the work

"It was chaos but all we could do was look for our rider and do our best to help him as quickly as possible".

Speed is of the essence in a race which has seen the winner and the runner-up separated by just eight seconds come the finish.

Mechanics need to be able to change a wheel in the space of five to 10 seconds.

But not all on-the-road alterations are done from a stationary position.

Showing a row of scars on his lower right arm, Geeter said: "Quite often we do changes leaning out of the team car while the riders are going along.

"It saves time but us mechanics get left with pretty nasty burns."

More often than not, there is little praise for mechanics. If their job is done properly, it goes unnoticed.

If something goes awry, "all hell can break loose".

Geeter said: "If we make a mistake or a rider has a bad day it's pretty much the first mechanic that gets in the way that gets an ear bashing.

"It's nothing personal. They just vent their frustration and we're all friends again."

The average day for a mechanic on the Tour is a long one:

  • 0600-0700: Wake up
  • 0700-0800: In the garage to pump up all the tyres of the nine bikes for the team riders plus their two spare bikes each. Then put in any finishing touches
  • 1000: Finish work on the bikes and head towards the race start
  • 1030+: Head to race start and off-load bikes
  • c1200-c1700: Ride along in the team car for any on-road changes required
  • 1800: Pack up bikes and return to team garage
  • 1900-2200: Let down all the tyres and make any alterations needed for the next day's racing

    Despite the long days, Geeter, who has also worked for the New Zealand national cycling team and the Australian Institute of Sport, says the Tour is every mechanic's high spot.

    "It's like the Tour is for the riders or Wimbledon is for tennis players - it's the absolute pinnacle," he said.

    "And to be part of a winning team is the goal. Fingers crossed, Tyler might do it one day."

    Links to more Tour de France 2003 stories





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