10 Sep 2018
On the road - Life of a cycling mechanic EP.2
The 50-year old French mechanic Frédéric Bassy has served his time well in the professional peloton as a mechanic for 30 years with many of the top professional squads around the world. But it is a job he never tires of and, for the past three years, he has been a fixture on the different incarnations of the Cannondale team that today is the distinctive Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale.
Where do you find your passion for your work?
When I was around ten years old, I was riding a bike and living 500 meters away from Bernard Thevenet. I wanted to be like him -- be a farmer and a professional rider. That was the start.
How many days are you on the road each year?
180-190 days every year.
How many Grand Tours of you done?
What are the most important parts of your day job every day?
The commitment between the rider and the mechanic is very strong. They ride very fast and take risks. The bike needs to be in a perfect state for them to do their job to the maximum.
It's the most important that we do the same work for every rider and give every bike the same attention -- leader or not. We are very focused on safety. We check every bolt every day, glue the tubulars well and check them regularly (glue becomes liquid after a long downhill in warm conditions like here in the Vuelta). It can happen that we leave wheels in our room after we glue because in the truck it's too warm and the glue doesn't stick. We never let a bike go to a race if we're not 200% sure of our work. Every bike is checked after the stage and not in the morning. In the morning, we pump the tires and load the cars.
An average day at the Vuelta:
Every morning we need one hour to pump, load and fill the car. Two mechanics are pumping and two are loading the car in order of the general classification with the approval of the sport director. When the car is done, we unplug the electricity cable and water and help the soigneurs load the truck with the luggage.
If we're not in the race car, then we drive to the next hotel, usually a three or four hour transfer. When we arrive the soigneur on hotel duty is already there with the extra luggage van and the space for our truck. We plug in the electricity and water, wash the truck and spend an hour preparing wheels (every stage certain riders use 40 or 50 mm -- we glue tubulars or prepare compact cranks for hard mountain stages).
Then we can have two or three hours of rest before we work again, preparing the work stand with rag, oil, polish. It must be ready when they arrive so that we don't lose any time.
After the stage, we work a minimum of two hours. We wash the bikes and the four cars. At the Vuelta, we eat dinner around 9:30 or 10pm.
Who at this Vuelta is most aware of the condition of his bike?
I can only say that we don't have any difficult riders here. Rigo, especially, is a very easy going guy. Moreno sometimes asks for a few small little extra things. He likes double handlebar tape just on the bottom or a piece of handlebar tape 1cm just over the shifters.