Staff Stories – the Mechanic

Hear from Andy Thirlwell, seasoned mechanic:

“I’ve been a staff member on Tour de Force every year since 2012 (and even worked on the 2010 ride that was for friends and family of Will’s family – before the event was opened up to the general public).

The last few years I’ve worked as night shift mechanic but I was lucky enough to have a mixture of roles this year. On stages 10-13 I ran a feedstop van with Claire, a sports Physio from Athlete’s Angels. On a typical day we would start by getting the bikes positioned so they were available for the riders around 6am. If there was a transfer it would mean setting off an hour before the coach to the start point and unloading the wagons. Once the peloton leaves the race is on to get to the first feedstop and set up. ‘Second breakfast’ normally consists of French pastries, cakes, nuts and the cyclists favourite…..bananas….lots of them! Up to 15kg a day! I try to address any mechanical issues that arise with the bikes during the day; gear tweaks, creaks, saddle adjustments etc. We try to keep cyclists going on their own bikes as long as possible but on a few occasions this year I have made use of the Trek spare bikes…. there’s not much we can do to repair sheared mech hangers and cracked frames!

My second role on the tour has been night mechanic. This is more of a background role, shuttling the 80 or so suitcases from hotel to hotel, buying the huge amounts of bananas and fizzy drinks that are required every day and getting the hotel set up to accept the riders. As the group rolls in the Athlete’s Angels fix the riders and I get to work fixing the bikes. Mechanicals are wide ranging from broken springs in pedals to dead batteries. The amount of ‘sad’ bikes varies from day to day so sometimes work rolls on until the early hours.

Being a cyclist myself of many years it is incredible being on the tour and being so deeply immersed in such an epic event. The achievements witnessed by the participants day to day are fantastic to watch and it’s great to know that with every pedal stroke money is being raised for an amazing charity. Since I started working for Tour de Force the William Wates Memorial Trust has raised over 2.4 million pounds – an achievement the riders should be proud of as well as their amazing cycling triumphs”.