With US CX Nationals week already in full swing, there is a lot of excitement around the racers. We want to know how they prepared, how they will deal with the pressure and we’re getting excited to see how they will execute comes race day.
However, a big event like Nationals is not just about the racers. Sure, they are the ones under the spot light and they will be the ones racing their bikes at Riverside Park on Sunday. But they won’t be alone; January 8th is going to be a big day for their support crew as well.
So far, it seems like the conditions are pretty epic and that means a lot of work for every team mechanics. We had the chance to talk with Cannondale Cyclocrossworld’s mechanic Joe Devera to ask how he prepares ahead of big events like Nationals.
Joe has been working in the bike industry for over 20 years and has worked in all kinds of disciplines so we used this opportunity to ask him some questions about himself, his experience and his future projects.
Good luck at Nationals and for the rest of the season Joe!
For how long have you been a team mechanic?
I’ve wrenched on and off since the late 80’s working for various cycling programs. I’ve taken long periods of time away from the mechanic world to pursue other endeavors but have always returned to my first love, which is cycling. I used to race in the 80’s as an Elite racer so I would supplement my income by working events as a mechanic to some teams, when I wasn’t racing.
That should tell you how good of a racer I wasn’t…
So I'm guessing you have been a cycling fan for a long time?
Yes! I’ve been a fan of cycling since I was a kid. My BMX bike was freedom to me to get away and venture out. I worked a paper route to buy my first road bike (which ended up being the wrong size) but soon started to race. I was a huge fan of Greg Lemond and the Tour de France. I was lucky enough to find a core group of friends in San Jose, CA ; we would call ourselves the Lundy boys; our crew named after a street we used to do lots of practice crits at. The rest is history.
Nationals are coming pretty quickly and I'm guessing it's going to be a busy week for Cannondale Cyclocrossworld team. You guys have a rider in each of the elite categories; Emma and Curtis White will be going for the U23 titles while Kaitlin Antonneau and Stephen Hyde will have their eyes on the Elite titles...That makes 4 different races, which sounds like a lot of work for the team's staff.
How do you prepare for a race like Nationals? What does your week look like heading into the weekend of racing?
I don’t really prepare for it, coming from the World Cups in Europe the week before keeps me on the sharp end of mechanics. I just like to rest up at home and catch up on sleep. I will fly in on Wednesday night in Boston and meet up with the team on Thursday Morning. I am sure Stu and the gang prepped everything before hand and now it just comes down to minor adjustments like tires, psi and selection of gearing choice. Usually we start setting up our compound for the team, which consists of mechanics workspace, food prep counter, trainers, and an area for our athletes to relax. Then, after it’s all said and done, we pack up and get the equipment ready for everyone to take to World Championships in Luxembourg. Lots of packing of bikes, wheels and spare parts.
What is your role on Cannondale Cyclocrossworld?
My biggest role is Lead Mechanic but with that said, we all wear different hats to make the Green machine work. I can be seen sweeping floors, washing the truck, scrubbing tires and cooking eggs, cooking rice and making coffee. I will do whatever the team needs me to do. I don’t do massages, chamois cream or embro in case you were wondering. But I do give High fives and hugs.
Are you nervous before big events like Nationals? If so, how do you stay calm?
I’m not really nervous before a big event. I know I’ve put in the hours and work needed so then I’m pretty calm about it. When things happen, I usually am in the zone.
Is there a rider who is most particular about his/her bike on the team?
I think each rider has their own thing they are particular about. I wouldn’t single out any of the riders on this. I don’t mind if they are picky or not. It’s a good thing since I can adopt how they want things quicker. I actually prefer it that way. It takes the guesswork out of the way.
What is the detail that you are the most particular about on bikes? The aspect that you put the most effort into?
Every year bikes and equipment change so everything gets looked at in detail. Were lucky enough to work with so many great sponsors to make our job easy with top notch equipment. As a mechanic it’s natural to make sure things work. The one thing often overlooked is to make your bikes are presentable to the public, photographers and sponsors by keeping things neat and tidy on bikes. Putting bikes away dirty is somewhat unacceptable. If its a night race sometimes you run out of hours on the day so you have to balance it.
As for effort, I put the same amount of effort into everything. If the rider puts the effort in, I try to match it or better it.
What is the hardest part of being a professional team mechanic?
Long Hours! And being away from my family. Sometimes during a race weekend, although you want to grab a drink or have some personal time off, long hours and getting the job done is just part of the reality and extends your work day. The ability to work in different time zones and execute can also be challenging at times.
On race day, what does a day in the life of Joe look like?
My race day consists of coffee, followed by more coffee. Then I spend some time in the gym and go to the team trailer where we unload all the equipment and setup shop. I usually make a breakfast smoothie to get me started, cause I am pretty burnt on hotel breakfast. Then I again check over all the bikes and make any changes we’ve talked about the night before the race. The riders usually start arriving about 3 hours before their race and some text me to start making rice (must be an Asian thing). Pressure checks start and maybe a visit to the pit for some final PSI adjustments then back to trailer to wash up the bikes and get ready for the start line.
Finally, the races start, which has me going to the pit. I work the Elite Women’s race with Kaitie and soon after, the Elite men’s with Hyde. I usually ditch out a bit early (If USAC makes the schedule tight, would be great if they didn’t) from the pit and back to trailer to take care of the boys on last minute stuff. Once the racing ends, the work doesn’t stop. We start packing up, followed by a late dinner (night racing no dinner) or if the timing is right, hop on a plane back home.
At the races, Joe is always in good spirits and seems happy to be there, which is key to bringing good vibes to the team before or after competition. He is definitely busy, but he always seems relax and never looks burned out or overworked. After a long time on the road, though, I think it can be hard to stay motivated and excited, but it seems like Joe has figured out some good techniques to enjoy time on the road this year.
Looking at your social media accounts, it seems like you found a way to make the travel days more fun this year by going golfing or climbing during race weekends. Do you feel like doing these activities helps you do a better job?
I would say climbing before golf. Stu is the golfer so I just go out with him and pay a round or just go to the driving range. Climbing is my second love next to cycling but lately it’s been my first.
Doing things like climbing and golfing or just hotel gym workouts lets you focus on something else and keeps you from burning out. It does help you relax and concentrate as well. This year has been a bit more active for me, which keeps me out of funky moods.
What do you like the most about your job and what keeps you coming back year after year?
Being on a winning program always helps and keeps me coming back every year but I would say that forming relationships with your riders and staff is a big part of it. It sort of starts to become family since you work in tight quarters and see them basically every week for 6-7 months out of the year.
You have worked in all disciplines of cycling. Professional MTB teams, and SRAM race support at many big races. Is it difficult to change from a discipline to another and learn the different standards? Or do you like the challenge of changing things up?
Funny you should ask this. I like the challenge of changing things up. For example, coming from cross season going into road. Before an event, I have my wife Melissa to time me for wheel changes for single front and rear wheels as well as for double wheel changes. Just to make sure I have my routine down.
For MTB I do the same, but since you have to work on everything in the race pit during the race I kind of start going through scenarios in my head of different types of mechanicals that can happen in a MTB race and how I can repair them quickly.
Triathlon is different since you can’t really support a Tri so you have to make sure everything it dialed the moment they check in there bike. Four hours on the bike is a lot of time on the bike so you better make sure everything is dialed.
In neutral race support, anything can happen and it’s a nice thing to do since you get to see all sorts of components and figure it out. I kind of like these cause it puts me up to date on the latest and greatest. But cross is King cause when things go wrong, you have a bike to give on the next half lap. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of Moto support. So this is fun for me since I love riding motos.
Any favorite moment or great memory that stands out in all your years of working in cycling?
I have so many good memories and I have been blessed to work with so many amazing top professional athletes in MTB,CROSS,TRI AND ROAD and each individual victory has a special place. But I want to talk about the one that wasn’t a victory but a victory in my eyes. Being the mechanic for Kaitlin Antonneau while watching her race from the race pit when she raced to a podium 2nd place finish at World Cup Valkenburg Netherlands in 2015. The moment was surreal watching her race her heart out! It was smiles all day long! That one has a special place in my heart. (BTW I lost my voice that day). I’m hoping to create more great memories in the future as well.
Funniest thing that you have seen happening the pits?
Funniest thing I’ve seen was a mechanic hand off the wrong bike to the racer during a bike exchange only for the rider to look across the course at his mechanic with disapproval. That was pretty funny. I do have to add things get a bit confusing when you’re the only mechanic with multiple riders.
Do you plan on working for a MTB team this summer? Or do you prefer working directly for SRAM race support at different types of events?
I don’t plan on doing any MTB in the summer, but I do miss it. If an opportunity presents itself I wouldn’t mind. I will most likely do small events with Neutral Service to fill the gap with road events, grand fondos, Dirt fondos ,etc. But honestly, I’ve got some pretty big plans for climbing and fly fishing this spring and summer so I’ll make sure my schedule is light on the cycling side of things.
Thank you so much Joe for taking the time and for giving out all your advices! We wish you and the team the best of luck this weekend and for the rest of the season.