It’s almost 9:30 pm. Only the neon light from the IPT truck can be seen in the darkness that fell long ago on this village, not far from Bilbao.
Three men are now gathering on the metal steps of the team’s mobile racing bike workshop, finally able to sit down and relax after their seemingly endless day which started 14 hours ago. Still, nothing about their body language hints at fatigue or even an urgent desire to get to the dinner table and call it a day. They appear to be keen on just sitting around, sipping their well-deserved can of beer and chatting about another mechanical issue they solved.
They come from three different countries, speak three different languages, and were raised in three different cultures, but the harmony and chemistry created by the shared passion for what they do is crystal clear.
“It’s a job with a lot of pressure,” explains Vid Jejcic, the youngest of the men. “We must find a way to give each other some space, be sensitive when one of us has a bad mood day or needs support. That’s the chemistry and harmony that is required to make it work.”
Pressure? One would think that the sole territory of the riders. But, for the IPT trio of mechanics in this race, the pressure is visceral. “We need to look a rider in the eye and know that we delivered a perfect bike for the stage – that will function and not ruin his day. It’s an inside pressure. You know you need to be a perfectionist in the heart. Every small mistake can turn on you, so trusting each other’s professionalism is critical.” Between them, they have a 15-year record as WorldTour mechanics. That makes trust easier.
We need to look a rider in the eye and know that we delivered a perfect bike for the stage.
They share the load fairly, dividing the tasks between themselves. One day, Vid will be tasked with washing the bikes while his partners change chainrings for the next day. They take turns in the race cars too. One day, it would be Vid driving the truck to the next hotel while his two buddies are in the race.
The most admirable virtue they share is their passion for the job. “Many say that we have the hardest job in the team because of the long hours,” says Vid. “But for us, this is not the source of pride. That comes from a day of racing when all the bikes work perfectly. And each one of us will tell you the same: we will not replace this work for anything else. Ten days at home after a long block in the races, and I am already itching to come back.”
IPT mechanic line-up in the Basque Country:
Pro: 4 years
Pro: 8 years
Pro: 3 years