Thursday, November 30, 2023

Craig Geater – when a CSC Mechanic


HomeInterviewsCraig Geater - when a CSC Mechanic

We mentioned the other day that Craig Geater is now working for the Discovery team, but before that he was a spannerman for Riis’ CSC outfit, and it somehow seemed fitting to now publish our interesting interview with him from that period.

We have the CSC mechanic captive, the café window on his left and I am on his right, on the bench seat, blocking his escape!

Now then, Craig, what is the secret of CSC’s stunning Spring campaign?

There were wins in the Tour of the Med; Paris-Nice and Criterium International; all in decisive style. The laid-back little New Zealander answers w.ithout hesitation:

“No secrets mate, the training camps were savage. Bjarne had the guy from SRM Powercrank at the camps and every run was analysed. Once you know how, you can interpret the data and strengthen weaknesse – every training run had a purpose.”

Craig Geater
Craig guiding the CSC Team truck into position. Be easier if he closed the doors though.

The 27 year old Kiwi continues;

“Bjarne had them on their time trial bikes for four hours one day to make sure positions were perfect.

Another day he had them doing time trials and then road races up a mountain. I spoke to some French guys about their camp and they said; ah, we did what we’ve done for years, but they couldn’t tell you why they were doing it. It’s not like that with Bjarne, everything is done for a reason.

Correct and fair are the words that crop up all the time when people are talking about Mr. Riis.

Craig, I’ve heard Riis is a perfectionist – you got any examples?

“Yeah mate: half way through the Tour last year we were all getting a bit tired and this day Bjarne comes down and begins taking the spare bikes off the car and measuring them. The dimensions for all the riders machines are in a central computer back at the Service Course, if any one changes any measurement to any bike they have to e-mail it back so that the data base can be up-dated.

What happens though is that one of us pinches a component off a spare bike and then when replacing it doesn’t bother to double-check all the dimensions. We were lucky, Bjarne didn’t pick up on anything, but everybody checked everything after that!”

Craig Geater
A truckful of exotica.

Incidentally, in Craig’s pocket is a chart with the key dimensions for all the team’s riders. In case you were wondering, bracket centre to saddle height for Bartoli is 73.5 cm; Jaksche 79.4 cm and Voigt 83.5 cm. The above mentioned Michele, Jorg and Jens all ride special mounts with extended top tubes. And, yes the UCI do indeed regularly measure the bikes! The SRM is another case in point of Riis’ attention to detail.

Is Riis on top of all the technology?

“The four Directors, Sean Yates, Alain Gallopin, Kim Anderson and Bjarne all know how to interpret the data, each of them has six riders, they receive weekly down-loads by e-mail of all training done by their group. Nothing is left to chance, it’s all done correctly.”

So now you know. No secrets, just hard work (Just like Lance says!). Geater grew up in the same town as New Zealand pros Julian Dean of Credite Agricole and Scott Guyton, formerly of TT 2 Flanders. He is also friends with Robbie McEwen and motor paced the Australian sprinter as part of the preparation for his first Tour stage win.

With no bike shop for miles and no spare cash Geater had to learn how to do his own bike building and repairs. He came to Europe to race but was a bit on the small side for the physical nature of the racing.

He began to do mechanic work for the New Zealand national squad then the ill-fated Linda McCartney squad before going to the Australian Institute of Sport. The CSC job was too good to turn down and that’s how he came to be looking after the most successful stage race bikes of 2004.

CSC ride the Canadian Cervello frame, trying hard to break into the European market Cervelo know nothing creates more sales than big wins.

The frames for Paris-Roubaix have just arrived that day and are in matt black – not the usual red, white and black gloss. To the casual observer, they do not look that different to the current frames.

Closer scrutiny however reveals more clearance under the fork crown and rear brake bridge with extended chainstays. As well as their usual heavy workload, Geater and his colleague, Belgian joker Christophe (he listens to my Fife accent for a bit then tells me I should consider learning to speak English!) have all the Roubaix bikes to build.

Craig Geater
Craig (right) and Christophe set about building the bikes that CSC will be using for Paris-Roubiax.

Watching them at work gives us the chance to talk about the team’s equipment. Like so many of the teams nowadays, Riis did not go down the “full-groupset” route: whilst brakes, gears and levers are Shimano, chainsets and headsets are from FSA, pedals are Speedplay and wheels supplied by Zipp. With these three companies keen to break into Europe on the back of a successful squad there is the suspicion that these associations will be to Riis’ benefit. If you have just shelled out a fortune on a pair of carbon wheels then don’t read the next bit!

Carbon wheels in the classics?

Craig tells us; “If the guys puncture in a race they ride on the flat tubular until we get up there with the team car, by that time there will be lumps broken off the rims… we just skip the bust wheels!” Ouch!

Who are the equipment fanatics on the team?

“No one really, but Michaelsen and Pil are fastidious about their positions, it has to be exact; Guidi is the opposite, very laid back.” And the least favourite jobs? “Driving the truck and getting lost all the time!”

Everyone imagines that the mechanic spends a lot of his time simply washing and cleaning the equipment, what about the dreaded bike washing?

“Ha ha:  – the hot water pressure washer we have is really good and all the bearings are sealed now so I don’t mind it so much.”

So Craig, what’s the best and worst of being a mechanic?

“The worst day was with McCartney, we had 11 punctures one stage of an Italian race. The best is when we win, it’s very satisfying.”

I guess with Sean Yates on the team there must be a good “Yatesy” tale?

Craig chuckles; “Yeah, on one of the early season camps it was a horrendous day, freezing rain and blowing a gale. The guys just went on their resistance trainers [turbo’s] indoors. Sean was out on his own, and did four hours!”

VeloVeritas thanks Craig for his time and looks forward to seeing him at the races in 2007, this time cleaning Disco Trek’s!