Trek Part 4: A Mechanic’s Hectic Tour

As PELOTON follows the Trek-Segafredo team at this year’s Tour de France, we caught up with Glen Leven, one of the team’s three mechanics, to discuss the challenges of what is essentially maintaining a service course while traveling around France for three weeks.

Words and Images: James Startt

PELOTON Magazine: Glen, the Trek-Segafredo riders are on three different bikes at this year’s Tour: the Domane, Madone and Émonda. That’s a lot of juggling for a team mechanic, right?

Glen Leven: Yeah, and then there are the time-trial bikes. Most of the time the riders choose between the Madone and the Émonda. But then, on the Roubaix stage, they had the Domane because that was the most comfortable bike on the cobbles. The wheelbase is a little longer and the bottom bracket is a little bit lower and it is practical to have a lower center of gravity on the cobbles. When you put all of that together, along with the IsoSpeed decouplers, it is really a great bike for the cobbles. But fortunately the Roubaix stage finished close to our service course in Belgium, so we were able to take them back after the stage.

But for most of the Tour the riders switch between the new Madone and the Émonda. In the first part of the Tour, the riders were on the Madone because it is a great aero bike. It is comfortable and fast. But then as we got into the mountains we switched over to the Émonda, which is a pure climbing bike. It is not about being aero, but all about being light weight. And at about 6.8 kilos (14.96 pounds) it is right on the legal UCI weight limit. Then, on the transition stages like these stages between the Alps and the Pyrénées, it is really up to the rider to decide. Some guys prefer the aero advantage while others want the climbing advantage.

PELOTON: How do you decide which bike to use each day?

Leven: Well, at the end of each stage, when the riders are on their way to the hotel, I send them a message and ask which bike they want to go with the next day, which wheels they want and if there is anything special they want on their bike.

PELOTON: Have you found that there has been a sort of go-to set-up for the riders on the Tour?

Leven: It really depends on the rider. I would say that, with Bauke Mollema for example, it is more the Émonda, but with guys like John Degenkolb, they use the Madone more. It’s the same thing with wheels. On the northern stages the guys tended to use a 60mm rim, and in the hillier stages they go more with a 40mm rim.

PELOTON: So how many bikes are there per rider on the Tour?

Leven: Well, fortunately, the first time trial was in the beginning and the second TT is at the end of the race. So we were able to send the TT bikes back to the service course in the middle of the race and just bring them back down for the final TT. So for most of the Tour each rider has three bikes. Some riders prefer to have two Madones and one Émonda, while others prefer two Emondas and one Madone. Then for the time trial they each had two TT bikes and for the Roubaix stage they each had two Domane bikes—but fortunately we don’t have to carry them all around for the whole Tour!

PELOTON: And how many wheelsets do you have on the Tour?

Leven: We have about 60 wheelsets on the race. But at the Roubaix stage we had 45 extra sets of wheels with larger tires. But most of the time the riders go between the 40mm and the 60mm wheels.

PELOTON: And how many bikes are you working on each evening?

Leven: Well, now we have seven riders in the race [after Tsgabu Grmay was forced to abandon early in the Tour], so on average we have about 10 bikes per night that we really work on. First we clean the bike that they raced on that day. And then if a rider changes his bike the next day we clean that bike as well. At the start of each stage they have their race bike and then a spare bike on the roof of each of the two team cars. And if it is a dusty or rainy day we have to wash and clean all of the bikes, hence 21 bikes.

PELOTON: In addition, Trek-Segafredo has been the first team to use disc brakes entirely throughout the Tour, save the time-trial stage. How has that been working?

Leven: Well, in some ways, it is still a challenge because it is still new for us. There is subtle tweaking that we are mastering. Sometimes a rider will have an issue with one of his brakes that we just have not encountered before with traditional brakes. In the past, when a rider had an issue with a brake, we knew exactly what to do because we had so much experience working on traditional brakes. But discs are still relatively new, so we can have an issue that is new for us. But fortunately we have been working on disc brakes since the beginning of the year, so we have been able to work just about everything out. And fortunately, so far in the Tour, we have had no issues, and in terms of the safety that it brings to the bike, well, it’s just a real advantage.