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The mechanics of being a professional WorldTour bike mechanic

Joe Robinson
11 Jan 2019

Cyclist spent five minutes with an unsung hero of cycling's most successful team. Image: Juan Trujillo

Every time a pro rider takes to the start line of a race, he sits atop a bike that is as good as new. A bike that's running as smoothly as the day the rider first received it despite it having clocked up thousands upon thousands of kilometres.

The reason for that is simple. Professional teams have mechanics. A hardened group of weathered men (mostly) who redefine what is possible on minimal sleep, constant travel and 18 hour days. 

At Deceuninck-Quick Step, they have a team of nine mechanics that work non-stop around the clock to get the team's fleet of Specialized bikes in fighting shape to allow the likes of Julian Alaphilippe, Elia Viviani and Enric Mas to ride towards the team's mountain of victories. 

At a recent training camp, Cyclist spent five minutes with one of those mechanics, Georg Van Odenhove, to see which riders are interested in bike maintenance, how quickly they can set up a bike and how you become a WorldTour mechanic.

Cyclist: What's your name, where are you from and what is your job with the team?

Georg Van Odenhove: My name is Georg Van Odenhove, I am 43-years-old, I am from Belgium and for the past two years I have been a professional mechanic with the Quick-Step team. I have been a pro mechanic for 10 years now. First, I was at the High Road team, then I spent two years with Omega Pharma-Lotto and then three years at BMC Racing before now. 

Cyc: How long have you been a mechanic and how did you get to this position?

GVO: I have been a mechanic for 15 years now. I started with a small team in Norway which were called Joker before working my way up to the national team of Norway and then the national team of Belgium. I had planned to be a professional rider but it didn't go to plan so here I am.

Cyc: How many bikes does each rider get for a season?

GVO: Each rider will have seven bikes per year to use. At home, they will have a time trial bike and a race bike. They then have another race and spare TT bike with us and then for races, they will have three bikes. One to race on, one for the first team car and then one for the second team car. In total, we use around 275 bikes in one season.

Cyc: Are you responsible for any rider's bikes in particular?

GVO: No, here at Deceuninck-Quick Step we just share the responsibility of what needs doing around evenly. The only difference is when we follow the guys to their national teams. Then I stick with our Belgian guys like Gilbert and Lampaert while our Danish mechanic [Rune Kristensen] will go with those guys. 

Cyc: How long does it take you to build a bike?

GVO: Ah, well sometimes if I am having a really bad day it can take a day or two for me to build it but usually I can have a bike built and ready to race within three to four hours quite easily.

Cyc: Do any of the team's mechanics specialise in certain aspects of bike maintenance?

GVO: No, we don't really specialise, we are all good at everything really. Although, Kurt Roose does like to glue tubular tyres to rims so we let him do that.

Cyc: What has been the toughest challenge you have faced in recent years as a mechanic? 

GVO: For sure it has been the introduction of disc brakes. If you work in a bike shop then you see everything. You see every new thing on every brand almost every day which means you learn.

I don't work in a shop, I work for the team and therefore only work on the things the team have so when they introduced discs that was tough. 

It's ok now, though, and I have to say it's probably easier now than 20 years ago, too.

Cyc: When the team wins, do you consider that a win for you? And what goes through your mind when you see a mechanical fault during a race?

GVO: When the team wins, we win as we are one team, I see that as mine. I also take more pride in the time trial victories like the team time trial World Championships last year.

When I see a mechanical, the first thing that I think is, shit, what I have done wrong? Luckily, the team isn't zero tolerance with this kind of thing and we don't actually have mechanical problems that often which is good.

Cyc: Have you worked with many riders who are interested in the mechanics of their bike?

GVO: Last year we had Niki Terpstra on the team and he knew almost as much about the bikes and maintenance as us mechanics but he has left now and nobody in the current squad has this interest, at least I don't think so.

With Niki, he'd talk to us like he was one of us, like he was a mechanic. He knew everything.

Cyc: Finally, Deceuninck-Quick Step are known as a team for the cobbles. As a pro mechanic, do you know what the perfect tyre pressure is for Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders?

GVO: Yes, of course, I know the perfect pressure for the cobbles but I'm not telling you. It's a secret!