NVGP Support

NVGP from the background

Elbowz Racing p/b Boneshaker Project had some success at Tulsa Tough and we then travelled to NVGP for the 5 day stage race. We had a strong team of 6 riders (the max allowed) slated for the race so Heath Blackgrove and I played support role for the team.  Heath would be director/soigneur while I was the mechanic/soigneur and in both cases just did whatever they guys needed to be ready to race.  For the guys to be at their best from the first day to the last, they needed to have nutrition, recovery, maintenance, everything needed to be perfect. Their bikes and bodies had to be ready every day to be at peak performance. Every day seemed like a long day. The races were sometimes the most relaxing part of the day, when you had time to think, to breathe for a minute. Every day was a new challenge, from logistics, to navigation, and last minute adjustments. The 6 hrs you get to sleep are so nice, but that was your only down time! 
The first stage was the 22km Time Trial  and I was thrown into the fire.  We only had so many extra deep wheels so I had to grab wheels off one guy’s bike 30 seconds after their finish and I had approximately 90 seconds to run over and put those wheels in the next riders bike before they took off! Oh and it was pouring rain. I looked like I had jumped in a pool and was exhausted. My head was spinning so much and everything was becoming blurred together. I was really confused when I saw our last starter, Michael Sheehan, riding to the start house as I was packing up to leave! I turned around, swapped his wheels and sent him off.  One of 6 stages down.  
Before every stage all the bikes were washed, bottles rinsed and readied, cooler packed, riders picked up and dropped off. The rain we had a few of the days didn’t help, it just made everything more difficult. In the crits I was in the pit, ready for any crashes or mechanicals while Heath was on the course shouting instructions to the team. During the Road Races, Heath drove the caravan car making the tactical decision while I handled the bottles, food, mechanical assistance, and fed Heath course info and kept track of the situation via radio. I got to change one front flat for Joe Schmaltz during the road race and helped pushed Logan after his flat. Logan flatted at a bad time as the race was splitting apart and Shimano was close by who changed it for him.  When you are a new race mechanic you want to experience to get out there and perform your job but you also did your job if there aren’t any problems for you to fix. The two flats were just bad luck as there were probably 15 flats that day so I guess we just had our share. The guys had great results and I felt a part of that because they got to relax and recover. Their bike was race ready when they needed it and all they had to do was sit in the chair and drink their recovery drink after each stage.  Heath and I took care of the rest. All in all the reason I wrote this is to say that you should have a lot of respect for the guys that do the dirty work. It’s nowhere near as glamorous but just as important work as the domestique on the road. Bike racing is about body and machine, and when you take care of both, good things will happen.

Mat Stephens


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