Italy’s Ronny Baron grew up in the shadows of professional sports. His father was a soigneur for the professional soccer team in his hometown of Padua. Ronny, however, chose cycling. And after racing as a junior and an amateur, he found work in the Wilier-Triestina bike factory, something that proved to be a perfect preparation for the professional wrenching ranks. Meet Ronny Baron, Nibali’s Wrench.
Words/images: James Startt
Peloton Magazine: Ronny, how long have you been a pro mechanic?
Ronny Baron: Since 2008. I raced as an amateur and I come from a family of masseurs. My father Rino was a soigneur for the Padova football team. I got my start working at Wilier-Triestina for seven years and then got my start working with the pros when I joined the Lampre team, who at the time had Wilier bikes before it became Lampre-Merida. There I got to work with a lot of big riders like Alessandro Petacchi, Damiano Cunego, Rui Costa…just a lot of big riders.
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Peloton: This year there are a lot of changes as you are working with Bahrain-Merida, a brand new team. And now you are working with Vincenzo Nibali. What’s that like?
Baron: Vincenzo is a big pro and he is very meticulous. But what I like about working with Vincenzo is that he loves working on bikes himself, so he really knows his bike. It’s a real pleasure to work with him when it comes to the bike, because we speak the same language. When he is at home, he is always working on his bike. Whenever he brings his bike into the service course, it is perfect. He’s really meticulous when it comes to setting up his bike, getting the seat height and stem just right. He knows exactly what he wants and he knows how to describe those needs to me.
Peloton: How many bikes does a big rider like Vincenzo have during the season?
Baron: Oh, when you count time-trial bikes and all, eight or nine.
Peloton: Oh, wow! Is it hard to get every bike set up exactly the same?
Baron: No, we have a specially made instrument for that. We call it a “cross”—we put each bike on it and it allows us to dial in the exact same measurements on each bike. You can’t find this in a bike shop; they are specially made by an artisan that produces them just for a few teams.
Peloton: You have been working with Merida bikes for a long time now, first with Lampre and now with Bahrain. What do you like about working on these bikes?
Baron: Firstly, it is a very serious company. It’s a huge worldwide bike company, but for the high-end bikes and pro bikes, everything is designed in Germany and I have a direct relationship with the R&D department in Germany. As a result we can make modifications quickly.
Peloton: I noticed that these Meridas have the rear brake below the rear triangle, something we are not seeing so much these days.
Baron: Well, we have several models. To be honest, they work fine. When you have a stable frame, stiff wheels and responsive brakes there is no difference really. Perhaps on down-market models that is not the case, but at the high end these brakes work fine.
Peloton: What is the best part of your job?
Baron: Being in places like Argentina for a bike race, even if I spend most of my time in a parking garage. No, seriously, I love everything about my job! But if there is one thing, I would say that is seeing the riders coming back from a ride happy.
Peloton: What is the hardest part of your job?
Baron: I would say at the very beginning of your season when you have all of the season’s bikes that you need to set up and get ready. That is always a very intense period. This year is a new team so everything was new. We had more than 200 bikes to build up and even more wheels.
Peloton: What is your favorite race?
Baron: The classics. They are the university of cycling!