Using the word “mechanic” is accepted for pit workers during a cyclocross race, but the racers do not come in for mechanicals as much as they do for a clean bike. A racer may roll a tire or drop a chain, but when they come in the pit for such it isn’t because they still plan on victory…it’s just to finish at that point. The racers coming in to exchange their 35 pound mud coated rigs, they are still dogs in the fight and need the advantage of a clean 16 pound bike with nothing impeding their drive train or clogging up the brakes.
Most races’ pit mechanics are just standing there just in case and may do a bike exchange for a racer that wants a different tire selection or air pressure, but it is feast or famine. Muddy races provide a certain challenge for the pit staff, methodically washing a bike and freeing the drive train takes more work and less patience than simply turning a limit screw or adjusting PSI. Your job is to not let the race conditions decide the race for your athlete. You have to know how much time between pits you have to get the task done, you have to figure out what “good enough” is and you have to know what resources you have available.
Any good pit crew should have two mechanics, tools, a wash bucket and an array of brushes for every surface of the bike and drive train, and then comes the necessary fluids.
A week and a half ago was the Masters Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville KY. I went to Kentucky on Friday to be a pit mechanic for 3 races throughout the day. Upon getting set up for the first race of the day we realized that the previous day’s mud was still there, NOT frozen back over like we’d though it would but instead insulated by a light fluffy layer of snow. This was about to be a GROSS day despite the 18 degree high for the day! We set up shop in the pits only to find that the pressure washers were completely frozen up and would not be available. This was a MAJOR problem.
Being dedicated to making sure our racers would be limited by the conditions as little as possible, the selection of fluids I mentioned earlier became more important than ever!
Being a ProGold user, Prolink aerosol, Xtreme and I would soon learn Blast Off were the selection for today.
Once we filled our wash bucket and added de-icer to it to keep it liquid the races were off. We would soon see that any attempt to hand wash these bikes resulted in iced over drive trains and pedals that were unable to be lubed. Realizing that a completely clean bike was improbable with out the pressure washers we focused on removing clumps of mud by hand, clearing the brakes and focusing on a clean, freely shifting drivetrain. Blast Off became the game changer during these races. It’s powerful solvent quickly melted away the ice and mud from drive train and pedals, clearing a catalytic path for Xtreme to be applied and the powerful propellant did it’s name sake proud BLASTING stuff it was aimed at OFF.
After a lubed drive train with Xtreme, Prolink coated all the derailleur pivots, pedals and down tube to keep a barrier between components and mud for quicker removal next pit stop.
I would say that after three races in these conditions our selections were fruitful because two out of three landed on the podium in the World Championships!
Thanks to Bruce for that second can of Blast Off, we began to panic when we emptied the first one!
I reckon I should also give a shout out to Pro Towels for cleaning the mud off of my brush handles when I got back home too!