Doug. He’s our head mechanic. He’s not a man of many words… and yet he isn’t direct either. He’s more comfortable on the sides of conversations and then dives in before receding to the edges again. He’s observant. Likes to play guitar. Knows what he likes. He’s good at his job and a great teammate.
As I write, I know that Doug might cringe reading this blog. Maybe. I’m not sure and I don’t claim to know Doug Berner that well. I can, however, tell you one thing about Doug: he knows that social media, blogging, etc are part of what we do, but so often he implores me to just let him do his job. He’s not rude about it; he just wants to contribute in the most effective way and not make things more complicated than they need be. So that suggests another thing about Doug: he is idealistic to the extent that he believes that if everyone just does their job, we have a better chance of racing to our potential. So Doug has his ideals, but he’s not naive and he’ll do the extra efforts required to make things work–even if it is far from perfect and far from the way he would have done things. In sum, here are two points I want you to take away from my description of Doug: he just wants to do his job and most importantly, Doug knows how to win.
You don’t hear that said enough about mechanics: an assessment of whether they know how to win or not. I would guess that the majority of cycling fans underestimate the role of a mechanic on a team, and that they primarily associate their work with fixing bikes. Doug manages our vehicles, bikes, and equipment, working with riders, staff and suppliers. He manages our service course and tools. He’s consulted re: equipment for races, such as chainrings for TTs, and plays a role in our logistics. Think of it this way: our team has Argon 18 bikes, Easton wheels and cockpits, Fizik saddles, etc. We have vehicles to get people and things to races. We have riders that get on the bikes and race. We have Gord Fraser directing the riders. Delphine Leray and other staff caring for the health of the riders. We have a photographer, people running communications, logistics and accounting. We have owners, sponsors and fans… but if we don’t have a good head mechanic IN THE FIRST PLACE to assemble the bikes and keep our vehicles/equipment running then we are a mess of the misguided. That’s Doug’s job. And he’s built a platform for the team that helps it win.
The truck, trailer and the race car provide the mobile platform for the team. They are where Doug does his job. Curiously, the vehicles are mobile but tend to hang out on the edges of the race in parking lots and caravans. For example, during a race the mechanic dives into the thick of things when the occasion calls for it (flat, crash) and then retreats to the back seat, while the director takes centre stage communicating with the riders, officials and other directors. Next time your at a race, pay attention to the way space is organized around the riders. It is Doug that has assembled our truck-trailer-tent “footprint” at races. Seems simple but all the little details make huge differences in the everyday lives of our riders and staff.
In the end, Doug’s skill, organization, and demand for accountability has left its mark on our bikes and on the culture of our team. I don’t say this lightly. We have won races for many reasons this year, but one of them is because Doug observed what was going on in 2015 and drew up a strategic blueprint for us to be better in 2016. Doug might chuckle and say that calling a few emails and documents related to vehicles, the service course and equipment a “strategic blueprint” is an exaggeration–after all, it’s just part of his job. Then again, if there’s more important work to do, he might not respond at all.