Everyone watches NBC and the Olympics for almost 3 weeks or however long it takes from opening bell to final round. What you don't see is that a few weeks later the Para-Olympics occurs and just like the "big show" this is a international competition with the same, if not more merit. It's full of unsung hero's and forgotten athletes. On each side of that fence they are giving equal if not more than the ones everyone sees on TV. Our story here is about cycling of course and the 4 gentleman (loosely used term) who made it happen.
I consider myself lucky because I know three of these individual personally and I know a handful of the athletes who were representing the United States. Mechanics don't go home with medals, we go home with some new shirts, shoes, pants and jackets. We go home with pride. We go home with a sense of accomplishment that our athlete(s) succeeded and our work, our work ethic and our expertise helped them to get there.
For the 2016 Para-Olympics in Rio Team USA was supported by Chad Contreras, Steve Donovan, Tony Pedeferri and Vincent Gee. What brings a team together is a common goal. In this case supporting athletes at the highest of levels. Olympic sport is second to none. Four guys who sometimes see one another throughout the year and sometimes don't.
Each of the four have different day to day backgrounds. Chad is the face of SRAM NRS in California, Steve a bike shop mechanic in Denver, Tony owns a shop that does custom fabrications for Para-Athletes and Vincent is a race mechanic with a storied career.
Tony in fact was a Para-Olympian himself representing the USA in the 2012 games in London. His first hand knowledge is critical to success working as team. Chad has a memory like an elephant which makes logistics and daily organization a breeze. Steve is simply great at solving problems. Vincent rolls into the group as the worker bee. Experienced in all disciplines of cycling he helps with all the mechanical tasks.
Para-Olympics by the numbers:
Days on the ground: 20 in Rio (12 addition days at a pre-Olympic camp)
Athletes: 22 (plus two tandem pilots)
Cycles: 34 (10 road bikes, 11 track bikes, 2 trikes, 8 hand cycles, 3 tandems)
Wheels: 108 pair (56 team race wheel sets, 52 personal wheel sets)
These guys as a team deserve a gold medal. The unsung heros of cycling as a competitive sport. We work before and after the race, we work in the dark. We work in our rooms. We work behind the scenes. I always through the best way to know if you are a good mechanic - is that nobody ever even knows you've been there.
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