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Gearing Up for the Giro: Focus on CSC Mechanic Nick Legan
 
By Cathy Mehl
Date: 5/4/2006
Gearing Up for the Giro: Focus on CSC Mechanic Nick Legan
 

Dreaming of being a professional bike mechanic since he was fourteen, Nicholas Legan has broken into the big time with his position at CSC this season. He worked on pro bikes for a time at a shop in Boulder, Colorado, and then started making his way onto the domestic scene by wrenching for Ofoto and Health Net in 2004 and 2005. Always hoping to eventually get a job with a Pro Tour team in Europe, Nick was able to make that big leap in the 2006 season when he accepted a job with CSC and relocated to Luxembourg. I met Nick when he worked for Health Net and was happy to catch up with him this season to see how his new job and new life are treating him.

Daily Peloton: Tell me how you first got interested in cycling, Nick.

Nick: As corny as it sounds, I first worked on a merit badge in cycling when I was a Boy Scout. Soon after that I quit the Boy Scouts but kept riding my bike. I grew up in Indiana, so I had lots of flat, flat square blocks of corn fields to ride around.

DP: So you worked in cycling for a few years, and then you got this great job with CSC. Was this a dream of yours, to work in Europe?

Nick: It was a shock. Absolutely it was a dream. I thought I was building something for '07 or '08 to be honest. Now I live in Luxembourg! I live with another mechanic and a neo-pro rider. We live in a big house, with room for storage of the big trucks and lots of bikes. But I'm hardly ever here. I think I've slept here 13 or 14 nights since I moved here in January.

Nick at the 2005 Tour de Georgia

I know CSC's official team language is English, so I'm wondering if you've had any trouble with language at all? And how is your Danish coming along?

Well, I only know a couple of words in Danish, so it's not coming along at all! I know how to say Cheers and Thank You. That's about it. CSC does a great job of promoting the use of English. They will help out with tutors if you are having trouble with the language. There are only two or three riders on the team that have a little trouble with English. And I speak French, so I can get by in a pinch with some of the guys.

So you worked Tour of California and Tour de Georgia. How did you think those race went?

From a team aspect, they were both good races. We finished second and third on the podium in California and we showed that the team is riding well together. CSC is an American sponsor so it was important to do well, and we did. Georgia was great too. We had a stage win and the jersey. And Dave (Zabriskie) put in some good rides, and he's on his way up in terms of his form. He had a great time trial and he attacked in the climbing stages. I think he's changing as a rider. He's coming from a Time Trialist background but he's working on his climbing a lot.

From a personal aspect, both races were great. It's always nice to be back in the U.S. I love California, and Georgia was my first pro race years ago, so it's very special to me. Medalist Sports does a fantastic job. They are world class at what they do. Bobby Julich said it best when he said after the Tour of California: "This is what bike racing should be like. More Europeans should come over here and see what bike racing can be like."

Now you're going on your first Grand Tour as you work the Giro. What are your feelings about this upcoming event? Do you feel a lot of pressure?

The only pressure I have is from myself. The team expects me and everyone else on the team to do the absolute best they can do. Basso is going for the win so we have to do everything we can to work for him. I can't win races for CSC, but I can lose them. So my job is to not lose races and let the riders do the winning part. So I am really, really excited. This is a dream for me. I'm trying to get as much sleep now as I can!

Tell me some of the differences in working for a Pro Tour team rather than a domestic team.

Well, a bike is still just a bike. So from working on a bike, there is no difference in which team. But the teams over here (in Europe) are really set up for it. Everything is much more streamlined. They have a sponsor for everything imaginable. You are never wanting for anything. An example is that we have a power washer sponsor, a lube sponsor, a degreaser sponsor.

The biggest difference for me is that there are more race days. Races are happening all the time. Lots of mid-week races and just more racing all over Europe. Another difference of course is traveling to so many different countries. In the United States you travel a lot of miles, but you're still in the States. I have to deal with borders and customs and different languages every time I have to go get diesel in the truck. It's really cool. Another difference is that there are three programs running for the riders, so we have to switch around bikes and equipment depending on which rider is going where. That's one of the trickiest things: getting the right bikes to the right races!

So the rendezvous point for a lot of the races is right here in Luxembourg at the house, so we often have all the trucks show up here at home and then we're swapping bikes and materials so everyone has the right stuff. It can be difficult, too, because of injury or illness, or change in program, or someone's cousin gets married and they have to miss a race. Things can change at the last minute and you just have to roll with it.

What will you be doing to get ready for the Giro?

Sleeping, enjoying some time to ride and run, relaxing. Then we get ready to start in Belgium. We're taking two trucks to the Giro, so we'll load up with everything we can possibly need. We'll start with four mechanics, and then one might go home after the Team Time Trial.

Does the Team Time Trial pose any special preparation or concerns?

It's a tough one on the mechanics because the riders all start at the same time. Usually at time trials the riders are going off at different times, even if the times might be close together, so you still get to give individual attention to each rider. But for this we will have to have everything ready at the same time. I probably won't be the mechanic in the car during the TTT; the likelihood of that is very low. Alejandro Torralbo and Christophe Desimpelaere are the go-to mechanics and are always in the car during the Grand Tours. They are very good at what they do. Alejandro does all three Grand Tours. He's incredible; he's done this for 27 years. So I'm not especially concerned about the TTT. In the end it's just another day for the mechanics, and it ends up being one of the shorter stages of the race.

How do you get along with Bjarne?

We get along great. We spent some long days in the car together at the Tour of California. He's a lot of fun. The stage from Monterey to San Luis Obispo, down the coast, he was just enjoying himself so much, looking out the window, spotting whales, checking out the eagles. He's a very special man. He definitely pushes the people around him. When he's there it's a whole other game. I enjoy talking to Bjarne. He's a straight talker and that's something I appreciate.

Can you share with me a couple of unique things you've come across at races in Europe.

Well, fans in Europe are rabid! They love their races. A lot of soigneurs in Europe don't put the water bottles on the bikes until the very last minute because fans will walk up and take them off the bikes. So the rider ends up on the course without a bottle, and you can't feed until 50k into the race! So that's different. Another thing is when you are all loaded up, with the bikes on the roof of the car, my job is to maintain security of the bikes. The fans will come up and tap the bikes, spin the cranks, and it really drives me nuts. Presentation is everything and I'm pretty particular about the way things look. Anyway, they don't hesitate.

Another thing that happened was in the velodrome at Paris-Roubaix: some special, cool number holder had been made by the mechanics just for that race, mounted off the seat post I believe. After his win, Fabian (Cancellara) wanted to buy the bike complete, just as he'd ridden it in the race: same wheels, same everything. But when they went to pack it up to send to him, they realized the number plate was missing. In the hustle and bustle of the velodrome someone had grabbed it, so someone has a great souvenir. But it's too bad the souvenir can't go to the person who deserves it the most.

What a day for the team! That win at Paris-Roubaix was huge.

Yeah! I was home packing up bikes for the Tour de Georgia, and we didn't have TV at the house then, so we were on line reading the updates, biting our nails. When Fabian won it was so incredible. And he is such a good guy. He is the team clown. When he's there, no one stops laughing. And he likes to savor every last minute of his wins, so it's cool.

Okay, Nick, here's wishing the best of luck to CSC. We'll watch for you at the Giro.

If I'm lucky, you won't see me! That means everything will be going right!


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