Guest writer Michael Kubancsek
A mechanic with far more experience than I, someone I look up to, once said (I believe in an Instagram caption), “The best thing to do, when you've done everything, is to remind yourself why you do it to begin with.”
Luckily, as a collegiate cycling team mechanic, that’s the easiest part of the gig. We travel a lot, race days are long, logistics are often a major headache, and there are too many moving parts to count (70+ athletes – five disciplines – overlapping schedules – pros through brand new racers). But… we have a bigger goal than just winning bike races. There’s intrinsic value in development, watching students graduate and move into the world, and most importantly, the value of TEAM with a collegiate program is far beyond anything else I’ve ever seen in the sport.
But this blog post isn’t supposed to be about why I love what I do. It’s about one of the toughest parts of being a race mechanic… life on the road. And life on the road is all about how you manage it. I’m no expert but I’ve learned some tricks.
Average race day for collegiate road season? Starts around 5am. Team time trials at 8am. Road races starting around 10am and running all day. Then re-set for crit day on Sunday and do it all again. We’ve got seven different categories of riders in both genders, we’ve got the most possible variety of equipment, and there’s always a new challenge. But I wouldn’t trade it for a shop job… or a 9-to-5…. Or really anything.
Being on the road a lot teaches you to be prepared. I might be over-packed, but my background in the Scouts drilled into my head that it’s “better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.” And as recently noted in with the interview with traveling legend Troy Laffey, you must have your creature comforts lined up. Mine are Holiday Inn Express cinnamon rolls, a supply of quality coffee, and good music for the long driving hours. And the relationships can’t be taken for granted, not just with the athletes and colleagues, but with officials and the other members of the road show that you inevitably run into every weekend. Special shout out to the official a few weekends ago who gave me a bunch of (light-hearted) grief for bringing a chair to the crit pit … six hours of racing is a long time to stand.
Bike races are fun, but so are the peripheral stories that accompany the travel. I’ll never, ever forget barreling down I-80 in central (desolate) Iowa and discovering the truck has no brakes. Or the hotel in Wyoming that used dial-up to run my card at check-in. Or the host house that had multiple animals roaming the grounds and home.
I may not have logged the miles and hotel nights that some of my pro team peers have, but I have seen some beautiful places and witnessed some excellent racing… which is what gets all our adrenaline up at the right time to make for a rewarding race day. I’ve been on the staff for a number of team national championships, at velodromes, road race venues, cyclocross parks, and BMX tracks. I’ve been pushed and learned a lot… and I hope that never stops.
this blog post submitted from the road… the author currently en route from Indy to Grand Junction, Colorado for Collegiate Road Nationals
Follow along with MK’s adventures with @MarianCycling on Instagram @MKubancsek.
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