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From the training camp: mechanics’ holiday

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Photographs: Timothy John

Their day begins before the riders have risen and ends when the only stars remaining are in the heavens.
Spare a thought for the mechanics in the months ahead, as the season gathers pace, the fly-away races come thick and fast, and home becomes the back seat of a team car, a lorry cab, an airport departure lounge.
When the peloton returns to Europe, it will be to contest the cold, wet races of Spring. Spare a thought again for the mechanic shivering at the side of the pavé, with wheel held aloft.
The pre-season training camp represents a rare period of calm in the lives of the men who, in no small way, keep the show on the road. The riders roll out from the hotel around 10am, with only one or two mechanics in the following convoy. The remainder will work in the sunshine, or, in the case of Astana at a recent gathering on the Costa Blanca, in a hotel conference room.
When the riders return, up to six hours later in Astana’s case, the mechanics’ work will continue, but with duties rarely more taxing than washing the bikes in advance of the following day’s training. There is an opportunity also to make fine adjustments to the set-up, and to record the measurements, so that preparing the bikes in the infinitely more pressurised atmosphere of a race day is as stress-free as possible. Each of the teams 1 witnessed at close hand in Calpe used a measuring jig of the kind favoured by commissaires.
The winter training camp will already be fading into the memory of the men who maintain the machines on which the riders depend. Deliveries of new equipment, demonstrations from the suppliers’ team liaisons, the particular needs of a new rider…all  will have been absorbed.
The mechanics’ holiday, or as close to it as they come, is over. Middle Eastern deserts await, then the cobbles, the bergs, and the Grand Tours. Their work is more than a job. Routine is in short supply. We suspect that’s how they like it.

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