Keep those pedals spinning,
Follow the Lupus Racing Team online at www.lupusracingteam.com and on social media, @LupusRacingTeam.
Team camp for a cycling team is always an exciting time as it marks the true beginning of the season, an opportunity to meet new teammates, get set up on your new equipment, and receive all your new swag for the year of racing to come. Camp is the only time of year all the riders and staff are together in one place, something unique to the cycling culture. Our camp began with some serious unknowns as one of our riders testing positive for EPO on a retroactive test the week before camp. I thought the team did an awesome job dealing with it quickly and effectively by firing him before camp came around. It was a quick and firm decision that I really respect the management for. It's also great to see the UCI continually striving to clean up the sport; hopefully the IAAF follows suit, but that's a topic for another day. Still, the team was short a rider going into camp, and an important rider at that, one that was signed to help us get into the biggest races like California and Utah. The team cleared things up quickly once camp rolled around, announcing at dinner Thursday night that Chris Horner would be joining us for 2016. Chris definitely changes the team dynamic: where Jure was a sprinter and stage hunter, Chris is a GC threat at the big stage races the team is most interested in this year. He also provides 22 years of racing experience, an awesome addition to the team as we look to make a name for ourselves this season. There is a lot to learn and the team is providing everything we need to succeed this year.
Friday was the first full day of camp. We received our new Eddy Merckx bikes (San Remo 76), our new kit (Biemme), and a couple of bags for traveling, Christmas in February! We had a busy morning getting the bike fit dialed in at Peachtree Bikes, who were amazingly generous to lend us their shop for the Team Presentation that followed in the evening. A quick test spin around Stone Mountain and we got back to the hotel in time for a media relations meeting. An hour of learning about and practicing interview techniques with Deborah Gibb, a local newscaster from Chattanooga, left a little time for dinner before the team presentation back at Peachtree Bikes. Most of camp is about knocking out all the administrative odds and ends as the year gets started, meetings, pictures, meetings, eating, riding, more meetings, more pictures.
The setup at Peachtree bikes was awesome for the presentation with a big stage along with plenty of food and booze to keep people interested. We spent most of the beginning hidden in the backroom as our General Manager, Brendan Sullivan, kicked off the event. He promised to keep it brief, but I think he got caught up in the moment and excitement. His enthusiasm for the team is contagious and we're all pumped to have such an awesome GM. He's put a good team together. Next, our DS, Phil Cortes, spoke, also promising to be short, but there were a lot of people that have helped to make this moment happen that definitely needed to be acknowledged. Eventually we were all introduced and left to awkwardly stand on stage. The turnout was solid and after being introduced we got the opportunity to mingle with those in attendance. Really a nightmare to any cyclists used to spending 5 hours alone on their bike, but we did our best. Everyone I talked to was excited to be there and to have a little connection to our team. It was awesome to see all that support!
Saturday morning brought our last day in Atlanta and the "World Famous" Tucker group ride. It was fun to mix it up and hang out with the local riders. It did remind me of how crazy riding in a big city can be. Well over a hundred people showed up and it was a little bit of controlled chaos out there. I think I'll stick to my local Tuesday Night Worlds with 10-20 people, thanks. We got in a solid core session with Andrew Johnston at Triumph Training that left most of us realizing how tight, inflexible, and weak we were. Still a good opportunity to learn some new techniques that will help us rip it up on the bike this year. Finally it was time to get to the quiet roads and beautiful scenery of Callaway Gardens outside of Pine Mountain, GA and taste the cuisine at the "finest little steakhouse in Georgia". That's a direct quote off the front of the menu, and I always trust the menu. The steakhouse was in the middle of nowhere but was completely packed with cars double and triple parked in the small lot, so maybe the claim wasn't so outlandish after all.
Sunday and Monday brought more administrative details and long, easy rides across the rolling countryside of South Georgia. Both mornings started relatively early with a photoshoot on the roads within Callaway Gardens. Always promising to be super quick, we often left the Amateur team riders waiting as we went over our allotted time, leaving them with a bonus couple hours of ride time each day. Sunday we had dinner and watched the Super Bowl in the Callaway Gardens restaurant where they held a raffle for those in attendance. I'm not sure what they were expecting because they gave away a lot of gear, but besides our group of 20-25, only 6 other people were in the restaurant. To say the least we cleaned up and even won the grand prize. The awesome Bud Light football chair pictured to the left. The built in ottoman even contains a cooler. The chair will provide a comfy seat for us at races this year, since winner Chad Beyer couldn't really fly it home to Arizona, we left it in the team truck for our mechanic to figure out what to do with it.
Tuesday was the last full day of camp and included a Lactate Threshold test with our performance director Pierre Hutsebaut, a former Canadian National team coach. He'll be an extra set of eyes and ears throughout our training, making sure we're ready and prepared for all our big goals. The LT test, per usual, was unpleasant, but also went well, right on the dot of where training said it should be, and after a couple hours to detox we got out for a nice spin as some cool weather settled in. In the afternoon we met with the founders and creators of Sword, an awesome drink mix we'll be using this year. It was cool to meet with them via Skype and hear their excitement about being a part of our program and supporting us. In the evening we had the opportunity to listen to Marjorie Sullivan, the General Manager Brendan's wife, a sufferer of Lupus, talk to us in depth about what Lupus is and her experience with the disease. It was eye opening to listen to her talk about it. I did some research before camp to make sure I wasn't that guy who didn't know anything about the disease, but what I learned and what she shared were far different. It definitely gave me a new perspective on how terrible the disease is. The Lupus Foundation's slogan is "Help us solve the cruel mystery" and that might sum it up better than anything. I learned a lot and hope to write a helpful post so those that follow myself and the team can better understand what the disease is and how they might help in the fight to find a treatment and a cure. Wednesday morning brought some significant chilly weather and put a stop to the efforts Phil had planned for us that day. In the end, it's hard to smash when your Garmin is reading 24 degrees. After we finished up, Evan Murphy told us about a Butterfly Emporium within Callaway Gardens, so he, myself, and Oliver Flautt went on a little date to check it out. What a good way to end camp. A friend asked me if we had made boondoggles and roasted marshmellow's at camp, maybe not, but at least I got to tell him we went to a Butterfly Emporium.
All in all a great week to get to know the guys, we have a solid crew of riders, great staff, and I'm excited to get the year rolling. The team will open the season in the Dominican Republic with 8 days of hard racing at the Vuelta Independencia Nacional Republica Dominicana February 27-March 5th. The final roster is yet to be announced but I'll likely open the season there before heading out to San Diego to crash with a friend and soak in some warm weather before the US calendar begins in California at San Dimas and Redlands. Spring is coming fast and once it's here the schedule gets hectic and the races come a plenty. Can't wait to get the year started!
Keep those pedals spinning,