Alpe d’Huez assault part twelve: The fifth discipline

Oily fingers and shiny shoes for the girls of Team 33Shake this week as Alpe d’Huez draws closer. Warren Pole reports...

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Triathletes talk of transition as the ‘fourth discipline’, but there is also a fifth: bike maintenance. Overlooked by even supposedly experienced campaigners (how I laughed during Ironman Switzerland when my chain snapped on the bike – it hadn’t even occurred to me that at three years old it might need replacing) bike maintenance is the bedrock upon which your race precariously rests.

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So when Erica had a long walk home from a recent hill session on holiday on Italy after a puncture, I realised it was time to dig out the spanners and go through the basics. In Erica’s case on that occasion, she was saved by splendid Italian chivalry which saw a passing bus driver stop and insist she get in with her bike as his waiting passengers looked on bemused. Unfortunately the girls can’t rely on this fine gent being there on race day so planning for self-sufficiency is probably best.

First, the basic toolkit: one spare tube, one small pump or gas canister set up, two tyre levers and the right allen keys, ideally all stashed in one small underseat bag. If taking the pump option over the gas canister, this will clearly need mounting on the frame.

Anya was prepared as ever – she loves buying kit as much, or possibly even more, than any bloke I have ever met – so had already bought her underseat bag, tools and a large can of tyre weld. The latter I suggested should stay at home as not only did it carry a large chance of leaving her coated in tyre goo at the roadside in the manner of someone who has been in a custard pie fight, it was also heavy and not guaranteed to work for more than a couple of kilometres.

So we set to work, running Le Mans style pit drills replacing loose chains, removing wheels, whipping out inner tubes, and putting the whole lot back together again, while also covering a basic bolt check of anything that might come loose.

For many people getting into tri, it comes off the back of years spent on bicycles which means all this is pretty much second nature from the start. But for the girls of Team 33Shake and many others who haven’t ridden much if at all before coming to the sport, it’s easy to forget how much the rest of us can take for granted here. It was a massive credit to the girls that they all dived in, happily getting themselves covered in oil in the process, and as the session wore on their skills came built impressively to the point where they could all run an inner tube change unaided.

As the session was drawing to a close, Anya drew a pair of spanking new shoes and clip-in pedals from her bag. It was like something out of Cinderella as all three of them crowded around the new shoes in reverence and then began trying them on, discussing how they worked, and running test rides up and down the park, first with one shoe and then with both.

I had initially thought clip-ins might be a step too far in such a short time, but the team are coming on so strong they seem to be proving me quite wrong. Roll on raceday.

Team 33Shake is naturally fuelled to perfection by 33Shake, 100% natural superfood sports nutrition (www.33shake.com), with additional big thanks to Specialized bikes for the Dolces (www.specialized.co.uk), and Polar for the RCX5 GPS watches (www.polar.com).

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