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INTERVIEW | SA's Tour de France master bike mechanic

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Driving the team car, is one of Gary's responsibilities (Photo: Israel Start Up Nation)
Driving the team car, is one of Gary's responsibilities (Photo: Israel Start Up Nation)

Gary Blem is proof that South Africans can make it on the World Tour stage.

After nearly ten years and multiple Tour de France victories with Team Sky, Blem recently followed Chris Froome to a new team, Israel Start-Up Nation. Blem is a lead mechanic on the team, preparing and maintaining bikes for the likes of four-time Tour de France winner, Chris Froome, and South Africa’s Darryl Impey.

Ride24 chatted to the Pretoria local, as he prepared for the 2021 Tour de France.

You trained under Matthews Leganyane in a local Pretoria bike shop. Is there anything specific that he taught you, that you still do today working on a World Tour team?

Matthews really taught me that when you are faced with a problem, there is always a solution.

Guys used to come into the bike shop with mangled derailleurs and we would mix and match parts to get them back on the road.

He was instrumental in getting my career started and taught me patience and that I need to be able to think outside the box to solve issues.

What would you define as the greatest moment in your career?

My first Tour de France in 2007 was really special, coming from watching the highlight videos on VHS before school to actually being there and being involved. And then the team went on to win two stages and the polka dot jersey.

The Tour de France win with Wiggins was obviously great and then to follow that up with wins by Froome, Thomas and Bernal, those were all proud moments.

Frome’s win at the Giro was also very special, when he attacked with 80km to go and stayed away. He had a crash and was suffering from knee pain prohibiting him from standing.

He had massive saddle sores and his chamois was full of blood. Showed character and never gave up, winning that stage comprehensively and managing to hang onto the jersey overall. I have been fortunate that the teams I have been part of and riders I have supported have enjoyed a large number of successes.

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