The real heroes of cyclocross are the band of helpers that are stuck in ankle deep water for the duration of the race, unable to see the majority of the racing, just pinned into an enclosed quagmire. For those not familiar to cyclocross, a rider’s pit crew have the unenviable task of having a dirty (sometimes broken) bike chucked at them and are required to have that same bike clean and working in about 6 minutes! All this in a wet and cramped designated area in, at best, a windy field in mid winter. Space is at a premium in the pits and mini territorial battles often ensue, the seasoned pit crew will know a quick wayward blast of the jet washer should ward off encroaching fellow helpers. The action of a pit crew can and often do affect the outcome of the race. Pits are often available to a rider from two sides, i.e. every half lap, maybe about 5 minutes of riding.
In a recent race I had just swapped bikes when a mechanical incident had snapped 4 spokes and bent 4 more. It was a testament to the quality of the Reynolds wheel that with half it’s spokes damaged it still kept turning and although I couldn’t pedal (due to the chain being wedged behind the cassette) I could still free wheel downhill. So it was just a case of running up the inclines and jumping on for the downhills. It had been only a few minutes since my last bike swap so I knew Davina wouldn’t be expecting a change. As I descended the muddy bank to the pits I could see Davina running from the wash area back to the change area. She had seen me shouldering the bike on a section that I should have been riding and knew I had a problem, so curtailed cleaning. The timing couldn’t have been better as she appeared through the rank of helpers all awaiting their rider just as I was careering in. A perfect change and I was free again to power off on the course.
Pit crew tips, what she has learnt;
-Stretch your back well before being forced to lug 3 containers of water 800m across a boggy field.
-Don’t wear anything that you will be upset if it remains caked in mud forever.
-Learn to endure a frosty drive home, if your rider isn’t 100% happy with his performance.
-Realise that you have no weekends to yourself between September and January.
-Accept that numb frozen feeling, it doesn’t go away.
-Hang around for hours after an event as every speck of mud is removed from each bike.
-Say goodbye to junk food and learn to tolerate raw vegetables and other odd dietary needs.
-React calmly when your roommate brings his own pillowcase to avoid ‘germs’.
-Don't get disgruntled when the accommodation is deemed too 'germy' and we have to move on.
-Remember to check which is the piss bottle before having a swig (All I CAN SAY IS SORRY…..AGAIN).
But above all…..
.....be there every time, like an absolute angel, thank you x