Feature Interview: Luke Mellor

Former rider for five years with Rapha/JLT Condor, Luke Mellor at 25 is now in the World Tour as the Service Course coordinator for EF Education First Drapac p/b by Cannondale in Girona – we chatted this week

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Feature Interview: Luke Mellor

As a rider, Luke Mellor rode for John Herety at JLT Condor for five seasons, showing he had some talent at turning the pedals around at the highest level in Britain. Now though, he’s in the World Tour with other former JLT Condor staff members and riders at EF Education First Drapac

These days there is a lot of talk about British riders in the pro peloton but what about staff? The British contingent at EF Education First is quite something and there may well be some I have missed. The key factor though in these staff is most came from John Herety’s Condor Racing team.

Whilst Charly Wegelius and Dan Mclay are two Brits in the team who did not come from the John Herety squad, Luke who did is joined at EF Education First Drapac with others including Tom Southam (DS), Hugh Carthy (rider), Tim Kennaugh (performance manager), Rob Palmer (chiropractor) and James Griffin (mechanic).

Luke is back in Britain to ride the 3 Peaks this weekend with brother Ewan and dad Dave and had just been to Mike Cumming’s wedding as well. It was, with the Worlds on, a good time to take a break from his job based in Girona, home to the main service course for EF Education First and living in Spain is a nice perk of the job says Luke.

We sat down with Luke at Dave Mellor Cycles in Shrewsbury and talked about his job which entails him keeping an eye on bikes and other equipment, vehicles that need servicing, making sure the trucks are well stocked for races and ready for any eventuality and also forward planning like building bikes for the coming season.

Luke finished racing at the end of 2016 and then went to work in his dad’s shop in Shrewsbury (Dave Mellor Cycles) before taking some time out for a four month cycle trip around Europe. After returning from his epic cycle ride, Luke continued to work in the bike shop until a job offer came out of the blue.

“James Griffin, who was a mechanic with Rapha Condor when I was with them, and now works for EF Education First, put my name forward and I then got a phone call one Saturday night from Andreas Klier (2003 Gent-Wevelgem) asking if I’d be interested in going out to the Service Course for a few days to get familiar with it and I’ve been there ever since!”

Luke, who has been working in his dad’s shop since he was 12, says that his experience in the shop has held him in good stead with similar work to be done at the service course. The job is a new one at the service course but Luke says having someone there to make sure the place is clean and tidy and the equipment well stocked, makes the lives of those working there easier.

Whilst Luke’s job is at the service course most of the time working behind the scenes, he has managed to get to a few bike races when the team have needed him to help out moving equipment and backing up other staff. Those trips included a few stages of the Tour de France such as the Team Time Trial and the cobbled stage which he says was a great experience seeing the Tour from behind the scenes.

Asked what the team ride bike wise, Luke replied “the Cannondale Supersix Evo is the main all round bike. Cannondale have also launched their first aero bike, the System Six so that has been a big part of the work this year, getting the bikes built for the riders. The riders also have the Synapse with its endurance geometry for the cobbled classics and a time trial bike too”.

What a lot of bikes – going from Dave Mellor Cycles to a service course was easy for Luke

Are the bikes similar to what people might find in a bike shop like his dads I asked? “Very similar” was the reply. “There is no real custom equipment you can’t buy. It’s all Shimano Di2 groupsets, FSA bars, stems and seat posts, Prologo saddles and Vision wheels. So whilst it’s all high spec, it’s not something the consumer can’t get their hands on.”

In the main, the road season runs from January to the end of October, and from then on, the equipment for the next season starts arriving so it is a year round job for Luke and he says even at the Tour de France, they are forward planning for the classics etc. At any one time, Luke adds there can be two to three races going on making it a busy Monday to Friday, 9 to 6 job with plenty of hours outside that too simply because working in cycle sport is not a normal job.

Is it an exciting gig to have I asked Luke? “It is exciting. When I finished racing, I was a bit stumped at to what I was going to do next. The role I have now is good because I was interested in working with bikes and making a career out of them. I am lucky and glad of the opportunity. Working for a world tour team is a whole different level compared to a conti outfit.”

When Luke raced, they had two road bikes and perhaps a TT bike but at a World Tour team there are something like 300 bikes floating about in the world belonging to the team’s riders. Luke went on to say his job has seen him learning all the time despite all the years in the sport he has already had for half his life.

“Observing the mechanics, I’m learning some tips and ticks like gluing tubulars on, wrapping bar tape quickly (bottom to top), and how to speed the bike building processes up.” One of the insights Luke provided was the rubber on the wheels the team use. In the main they are the Vittoria tubulars but on the time trial wheels, they have gone tubeless.

“We use Vittoria Corsa Speed tubeless ready clinchers, with two layers of tubeless tape and 20 ml of solution, half the normal set up. It works well too” he says adding “just before the Tour de France we had a team time trial training camp and after the riders had been out, we checked the tyres and there were a few where you could see a little of the sealant had come through when a hole had been made but it sealed” Rolling resistance is also less because the tyre is more supple without the tube added Luke.

Luke still rides and whilst he doesn’t get to race except for the 3 Peaks this weekend, he does ride when he can in Girona which he says is a big hub for pro cyclists in Europe.

Half his team for instance live there and Luke explained how in a walk around the town, you’re bound to bump into one or two stars of the road there. And because so many of the pros lives there from his team, many will rock up at the service course to wash their bikes and have some work done on them meaning there is also plenty of time for chit chat and hearing the latest peloton chatter.

Luke’s first experience of being at a major race with the team came at the Tour of Flanders. “I was on wheel support on the cobbled climbs and that was a great experience being in amongst the crowd as the riders came past. Having only watched it on TV, it was great to be there behind the scenes.

As a rider, Luke’s biggest races were the likes of the Tour of Britain and Tour of Yorkshire and asked for the difference between then and now, he replied “being a rider, you don’t pay too much attention to what is going on from the staff element. The mechanics for example are working before stage starts, then in the cars all day and then post race out washing the bikes. The days are very long for the staff.”

At which point, his dad Dave came in and we started talking ‘shop’ ahead of the big challenge of the Three peaks cross race for him and his sons. My thanks to Luke and congrats to him on finding a nice niche of a job in cycling at the highest level … sure beats a normal job!



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