Interbike is great way to see the latest and greatest, and any films from the gang at World Cycling Productions provides insight into the PRO peloton and the art of racing in the big leagues. Both, however, lack the depth and insight into what it means to be deep in the PRO world. Deep in the sense that you are living and breathing PRO cycling.
BKW recently caught up with veteran of the PRO ranks: journeyman, mechanic, and Belgian resident George Noyes, to discuss the subtleties that make the PRO circuit so enthralling.
About Mr. Noyes
George began his career in the mid-eighties as a team mechanic for the Schwinn PRO team, graduating to the International stage, and making his Tour/Classics debut with the 7-11 team. From there, George built on his experience and knowledge as head mechanic for the Motorola squad in the early 90s, a short stint at Cofidis, and then the mother of all Classics squads, Mapei. George’s professional experience included Andy Hampsten’s Giro win, Armstrong’s World’s victory, and complete and utter Mapei domination at the “Queen of the Classics,” Paris-Roubaix.
George has prepared machines for some of the 20th century’s greatest riders and lived the "behind the scenes" experience by which BKW is so captivated. Over a few espressos, George opened up about his experiences and, naturally, I probed him for information and a sense of what his life was like while working for these teams. Honestly, there was so much incredible information that came from our discussion that it would be impossible to compile it into a readable form in a single post. Therefore, based on the size of George's experience, I'll provide small vignettes that comprise George’s experiences. Some parts of our discussion dealt with the classics, others with the Grand Tours. A few times, we merely spoke in generalities, other times, in full swing with detailed accounts of the weeks, days, and hours leading up to the moments in PRO cycling that are burned into all of our memories. The title for these posts will be “Bring the Noyes” and, it's only fitting that I commence this series with a tale of LA’s World’s victory in a rain-soaked Oslo in 1993.
Oslo, Norway - August 29, 1993
Lance has always been a leader. Early in his career, LA's tough exterior and strategic mind were beginning to take shape, a glimpse of the road ahead perhaps. In the days leading up to the road race, Motorola's team management had exhaustively discussed race day tactics and without question, LA felt he had the legs to capture the rainbow jersey.
Motorola's staff and riders awoke to a steady rain the morning of August 29th. LA was to ride a Tennessee-built titanium bike for the day's event. George had prepared Lance's wheels and glued a fresh set of tubulars. The pressure for the day's rain: 7.5 bars (r) and 6.5 bars (f). As the mechanics feverishly prepared the team's machines, LA and Motorola DS Jim Ochowicz had come out to the service course to check on the bikes and the weather. Ochowicz was especially concerned about the weather, the rain, and the team's chances. The big issue for the mechanics focused on LA's bottle cages. Apparently, the threaded inserts that held the bottle cage into the frame would not tighten properly and both cages were rattling. There was risk they would fire off mortar-style, mid-race. With the start approaching rapidly, one of the mechanics disappeared into the hotel to seek out a solution. He returned a bit later with four, self-tapping screws; the kind an old ski binding would use to mount to a ski. (In fact, they were the very hardware that held the hotel owner's bindings to his skis!) The four simple screws were forced into the frame, securing the bottle cages to the frame. (Rumor has it the hotel owner had no idea that the screws from his skis had been carried to a World's victory. That is, until his ski holiday was brought to an abrupt close mid-run. Apparently the screws never made it back to his skis.)
As George applied the finishing touches to LA's machine, Ochowicz and LA continued to discuss the weather and the team's chances and George was treated to a front row seat, which made him privy to a defining moment in LA's career. In fact, in hindsight the comment seems so telling: As Ochowicz expressed his concerns for the weather, LA with an air of coolness and simplicity, reassured Ochowicz by saying, "Let me handle it." In 1993, LA knew he had the mind to be a legend, it was only a matter of time before he began to lay the groundwork. Hours to be exact.
Photo Courtesy: JS