From the Bike Barn to Belgium

By: Chelsea Shank

When Andy Haggerty was 14, he was always taking his bicycle apart and putting it back together, holding to the belief that to be a really good cyclist you had to know how to work on your own bike.
At age 16 he used his first paycheck from his job at the Sun River Bike Barn in Oregon to buy a bicycle.
Now at age 21, Haggerty’s interest in biking has led him to be the youngest U.S.A Cycling Team race mechanic. “I am the youngest mechanic to ever work with the team,” said Haggerty, a Millersville junior majoring in molecular biology.
Haggerty has been working seasonally as a bike mechanic with the team for two years. He worked for them the past two summers and also took the last fall semester off from classes to work with them.
“The athletes I work with will go on to compete at the Olympic level,” explained Haggerty with regard to working with the Olympic Development Program.
“This all started with working at a bike shop when I was 16,” Haggerty said. “In all honesty I didn’t think it would go this far but it did.” While most bicycle mechanics attend a specialized school, Haggerty has learned everything through practice and meeting special people.
He went from being a low-level bike mechanic to meeting people at races in Lancaster who recruited Haggerty to work with their professional teams at the domestic level. At those races he made connections with people racing at the Olympic level.
“If I wanted to I could be at the Olympics next year,” said Haggerty. The 2012 Olympics will be held in London, and they are projecting that the U.S. will win a gold medal in the women’s team pursuit. Depending whether Haggerty decides to transition from a seasonal position to the full-time job they have offered him, he could accompany the team there.
For the past two summers he has traveled with this job around Europe.  The U.S. Cycling team is based in Belgium where they have a house he usually stays at, but they also have apartments in Italy and other countries. All of his traveling expenses are paid for by the U.S. Olympics, and he receives a salary as well.
“I could live anywhere in the world and do this job,” said Haggerty. He is currently based out of Philadelphia while he finishes school and decides whether or not he will pursue this career further or put his biology degree to work.
In late August he worked at the World Track Championships in Moscow, where a team of elite athletes from every nation represent their country to compete in cycling races.
Track and road bikes are Haggerty’s focus. The mechanics go to all of the races and ensure that all of the equipment is taken care of.
Taking care of the equipment includes making sure that everything is transported securely. On a trip through France, the truck Haggerty was driving to carry $50,000 worth of bike equipment stopped working. Without a cell phone or money, he walked to a callbox to request help. The person he spoke with did not know English, but Haggerty assumed he would understand that he was in distress and waited for him to send help.
The first tow truck came to the scene and left when Haggerty realized the driver did not speak English. A second tow truck arrived and said he could not do it and left. Around 4 A.M. a third tow truck arrived and although the driver still spoke no English he loaded up Haggerty’s truck full of equipment and dropped him off at a hotel in a small French town before driving away with everything. Haggerty emailed his boss, who was able to then track down where everything was.
“We thought that our truck broke down, but it turned out it was just out of gas.”
In addition to calmly handling potentially catastrophic situations while traveling, Haggerty has mastered the art of working with demanding athletes. “One rider last year woke me up at 6 A.M. because he didn’t like the wheels he had – and it was only for a training ride. They’re very, very particular with it.” Cyclists tend to be meticulous about everything from tires to the color of bar tape on their bike.
This year Haggerty has been working with the junior athletes, who are age 18 and under, and last summer he worked with the under 23 athletes. “Every time I’m at the races I’m always mistaken as one of the athletes.”
The job has taken him to Belgium of course, as well as Switzerland, Holland, Germany, Russia, France, Italy and a variety of other countries. “It’s a totally free trip to Europe and you’re also getting paid for it,” Haggerty said. “It’s very rare but I do get a day or a weekend off and get to travel and see the sights.”
“Italy’s my favorite place to ride because in Italy it smells like roses and pizza,” said Haggerty, adding that there are lots of beautiful views and places to climb. He especially enjoyed Lucca, a small Tuscan town with great pizza and gelato where you could spend all day drinking cappuccino and people-watching at cafes.
Haggerty is an avid cyclist and president of the Millersville Cycling Club, which meets on Tuesdays at 9:15 P.M. in room 203 of the SMC. He races with the Millersville team, which competes in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling League. They race against Ivy League school teams and Millersville is ranked second in Pennsylvania next to Penn State University’s team.
“Lancaster County itself has a huge cycling community. There’s a lot of old pros that live here,” Haggerty said, adding that there is a race that passes by Millersville every afternoon that is led by Scott Haverstick, a former national champion.
Haggerty works at the Era Ski and Bike Shop on Flory Mill Road in Lancaster. Skiing is another one of his hobbies.
Although he has not decided whether he will make his job as a race mechanic for the U.S. Cycling team a lifelong career, he loves the fun job and opportunity to travel. “Every week I’m in a new country. I could get a call this weekend to go to Columbia and say ‘oh no I have a test.’”
With such a high level of discipline, knowledge and experience, it is no wonder that the U.S. Cycling Team wants Andy Haggerty working for them.