Daniele and I

Back in 1995, I signed on as Head Team Mechanic with Diamondback Racing, managed by Keith Ketterer. Two of our riders, David Wiens and Susan DeMattei were competing in the World Championship Series, or WCS; thus it was that I found myself in Cairns, Queensland for the Aussie leg of the series. Diamondback Europe had also sent a team which included Daniele Pontoni, amateur Cyclo-cross World Champion in 1992 and destined to be Professional World Champion in 1997.

Cairns is in the Tropics, so all the riders were using two bottle cages on their machines. Many Euros, however, only used one in Europe because of the lower temperatures and different nature of the courses on which they competed. So here I am, slaving over Susan’s bike when the Italian mechanic comes over. Pontoni’s bike has a seized water bottle bolt on the seat tube. It needs to come off so that a second cage can be installed. Pontoni was riding a steel bike constructed by his trusted frame builder that was then sprayed in Diamondback colors. It had been spray washed numerous times and the bolt threads had rusted into the frame.

I always brought along too many tools when we travelled abroad, and on this occasion it turned out to be a blessing. I went back to the pit area and found a tool known as an “easy-out”. It’s a device that looks like a coarse left-hand threaded screw. You drill a pilot hole into the back of the seized screw or bolt, insert the easy-out and if you’ve done everything right, you stand a good chance of removing the stuck bolt. I got lucky; out comes the bolt — Pontoni is saying “Bravo, bravo!” and the Italian mechanic is my new best friend.

The next day, Pontoni wins the race. To this day, I cannot remember seeing a rider turn over such a large gear so quickly, with no apparent effort. With one lap to go, he came through the finish going so fast and smoothly that he was surfing the tops of the bumps!

Later that day, I’m walking through the pits and Pontoni’s coming the opposite way with his entourage. He sees me, turns to face me and gives a nod. Then he walks on.

It was a good day to be a mechanic.