What's Cool In Road Cycling

Exclusive Interview: Fassa Mechanic Koki Nagai

Koki Nagai is a team mechanic for Giancarlo Ferretti’s Fassa Bortolo squad. He was born in Japan in 1972, and spent several years racing there, while learning how to twist his own wrenches. His love of the sport led him to Italy, where he found his big chance with the Riso Scotti team in 1998. Almost 5 years later, he’s earned a permanent spot with Ferron’s teams, and he took time to talk with our Michele Tomasi.

Date and place by birth
29/03/1972 Koufu-shi Yamanashi-ken Japan

Years and teams were you run
– 3 years as juniors
– 8 years as U23 (Team Acom Ravanello – Japan)

Years and teams were you worked:
– I worked as maker of frames of road bicycles (Ravanello bikes)
– 1998 into Riso Scotti
– 1999 into Cantina Tollo – Alexia Alluminio
– 2000-2002 into Fassa Bortolo

>1. How did you arrive in the cycling world?
KN – When I was 14 years old, I saw on Tv a program about Tour de France, 1985. After that, I wanted to do this sport.

>2. When did you understand that you’re career as cyclist were going to finish? And how did you become mechanic?
KN – My passion about the job as mechanic started when I was 15 years old, but at the same time, I wanted to become a rider. Year by year I wanted to become a rider, but I knew that I should come in Europe to improve myself but at the same time, the job as mechanic was good. When I was older, and it was getting late for my career as rider, so I chose to become a mechanic.

>3. How did you arrive in Italy? Did you have difficulty with the language?
KN – I arrived by airplane! I’m joking! I knew a public relations for the sponsor “Riso Scotti”. I asked him for a contact into any professional team, so I arrived in Italy. About Italian language, of course I had a lot of problems. I didn’t know even how to say “screwdriver”! Before to came here I studied a little, but I was worse than a child. I guess that also my teammates had a lot of problems understanding me. I must say thanks to them.

>4. Where do you live and how did you do with your family?
KN – Now I live in Lugo di Ravenna (Emilia Romagna), near the head office and warehouse of Fassa Bortolo. I’ve my wife with me, but sometimes she returns in Japan because I’m often away for the races, so she’s ever alone. Of course we miss each other very much.

>5. You arrived from a country where cycling isn’t as popular a sport. How did European cycling seem to your eyes?
KN – There are a lot of differences between European cycling and Japanese cycling. For example, the mentality of the rider, the tactics, making a team, how to make a race, massage, and many other things. Also about culture – not only the races. I wanted to see these things with my eyes.

>6. If you weren’t working in cycling, what would you like to do?
KN – It’s too difficult for me this question….I’ve really no idea. I never thought at this.

>7. Do you have a favourite rider of the past or the present? And what about team managers?
KN – Mine was Bernard Hinault. I started to watch this sport and follow it because I saw him winning the Tour de France.
About team managers, Giancarlo Ferretti for sure. I will stay always with him.

>8. This year you’ve been working with Fassa Bortolo at Tour de France. Did it happen any curious trouble?
How did you live the white jersey of Ivan Basso into the team?
KN – At the Tour de France we ran well, without problems. But in the last stage, we were running late to catch an airplane. So, when we were going at the Hotel because the riders needed to take a shower, in a bypass, we lost a bike! It fell from the luggage rack. It was a big shock for us mechanics of Fassa!

>8.5How was it having the white jersey of Ivan Basso in the team? Ivan Basso has been really good, but we didn’t run well as a team. Because we didn’t win a stage and there wasn’t any of our riders in the first 10.

>9. How important are the technical support guys? How much are they worth in a victory?
KN – Of course mechanics and riders must work as best they can. We are professional. But it’s more important to have fun with our job. And of course, the victories help us to work better, and with the sponsor too. And also the other riders start to feel stronger.

>10. Is there a race where the mechanics have a lot of problems?
KN – Paris – Roubaix and Tour de Flanders, and also a stage of Vuelta de Espana as Alto de Angliru.

>11. How is it a typical mechanic’s day? And what about a race day?
KN – I present you a normal day in a tour:
7.30am – wake up and we have breakfast
8.00am – start to work on the bikes, wheels and all the materials that the riders need.
9.30am – go at the start of the race.
11.00am – the race starts.
4.00pm – the riders finish the race, we take the bikes and return to the hotels.
5.00pm – start the work on the bikes for the mechanics.
7.00pm – finish the work and we prepare for the dinner.
8.00pm – have our dinner.

>12. How are you feeling in Fassa Bortolo? Which contract do you have?
KN – It’s a great team and I’m feeling fine with them. We always do our best, and compared to some other teams, we’re the best team. It’s the merit of our spirit and of Ferron. We have 5 mechanics, all very goo, and our boss, Giancarlo Bianchi. He’s the best mechanic that I’ve ever known. About my contract, Ferron tells me, “you can stay as long as you want. Your place is always ready for you!”, I don’t want any other thing, I’m glad that he says this.

>13. Is Ferron (Giancarlo Ferretti) really so demanding? How does he treat the mechanics and the riders?
KN – He isn’t so demanding, but he is very serious about cycling and riders. And to me, he is a person who has heart. Almost for me it’s so. Sometimes he’s hard with the riders, but he has more “eye” than the others, he is ever more attentive than the others and thinks more than the others. And this is the way to command a strong team.
Am I defending him too much?

>14. How do you spend your free time? Do you still go out on your bike?
KN – When I think about my free time I always think about doing a lot of things, but when I’ve got it, I spend it all by staying in bed. Also if there’s my wife, I try to stay with her.

>15. Have you ever been in North America?
KN – I’ve never been in America. If I’ll have the chance, I’d like to go in a place where there’s cycling, for example Colorado….anyway in a town where the peoples go on their bikes.

>16. Cycling is gaining in popularity in North America, what do you think can be done to make it even more popular here and around the world?
KN – I’ve really no idea. But I shall present this sport to peoples who don’t know it, for example, kids, guys, women….give them my experience.

>17. Do you have a personal website that our readers could visit?
KN – Yes, it’s https://homepage1.nifty.com/koki2000/ but it’s only in Japanese.

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