During January and February a migration south starts to happen. They leave their cold, snowy, homes for the coasts of California, the deserts of Arizona, and the balmy temperatures of Texas. Once there they shed the movement restricting layers and bare their pale skin towards the sun in an offering of relief for surviving winter’s blustery nature one more year. ‘They’ are cyclists and baseball players. This is the first and last time I will compare the two other than to say that, like baseball, cycling managers should also dress similar to the players.
This migration is known as team camp. Its usually the only time everyone on a team is together at the same time. For cycling fans, team camps reveal new jerseys, bikes, and lots and lots of pictures. There is a lot of riding and there are a lot of meetings. But I am sure you guessed that already.
Our team camp took place about an hour north of Greenville at a place called The Cliffs, an aptly named location considering all the climbs around us. In fact, there is a nasty climb called Panther Mountain located inside the gated Cliffs community. According to Strava it is 2.9 miles long and an average gradient of 10.2%. At one point it got so steep that my Garmin auto paused believing I had stopped and I thought about getting off and walking. Fortunately I kept my pride in tact by employing a zig zaging tactic instead. Panther came at the end of day 1 and put a serious damper on the camp’s early average speed. I was not even aware of a camp average speed until Oscar Clark announced at dinner it needed to be at least over 21 mph. 595.3 miles in 29 hours and 30 minutes comes to only 20.11 mph. Unacceptable.
Personally I blame the unacceptable CAS or Camp Average Speed on the food. There was never a shortage and it was so good that it was hard to stop eating. It had to hurt our CAS on the uphills. On the flip side, Robin Carpenter, Andy Baker, and I did nab a few Strava descent KOMs. All joking aside, the food was terrific. Oatmeal, eggs, rice, salad, chicken. Meals consisted of basically the same ingredients but Chef Biju of The Feedzone Cookbook somehow made each meal different.
While I cannot divulge all of his cooking secrets, I feel like I should share something.
Biju’s Version of Dessert
Mix. Enjoy. Its oddly satisfying and the honey adds just enough sweetness for those afflicted with a sweet tooth like myself. Thanks Biju!
Camp was not all sunshine and homemade granola though. There were a few days that were quite cold, a little rainy, and the last Saturday turned into a blizzard five minutes after the race. One of those super cold and rainy days happened to fall during my wind tunnel session. It wouldn’t have been a problem if we were talking about a traditional wind tunnel, but this particular one is mobile. The Speed Tunnel is a large, 18 wheeler that unfolds as though straight from a Transformers movie. It is quite a machine; the generator that powers everything is the same used by hospitals during blackouts. Both the front and the rear of the truck open up to allow air to be blasted through the body where rider and bike are placed.
I was the third rider that day on the schedule after Wrona and Baker. I woke up late, went for an easy spin and got back with plenty of time to spare. When I stepped into the house, Wrona had just come back from the Speed Tunnel. He was shaking like a leaf and had turned an odd bluish-white color. He had shown up in a skin suit that morning and was placed in the wind tunnel with 20 mile an hour winds hurled at him – wind that had been drawn from the 35 degree air outside. Head soigneur Brian Doege told me to put on every piece of riding clothing I had in my suitcase. I ditched my speedsuit and put on three baselayers, bib tights, a jersey, arm warmers, a long sleeve jersey, a rain jacket, wool socks, booties, and a cap. No messing around here. My aerodynamic profile was not the lowest on the team, but I think I was one of the warmest even though my fingers were numb by the time I left.
I know that pain is just all part of the game. In fact, if you’re not in pain while riding a bike, something is wrong. I’m ok with that. Its the pain off the bike that is foreign to me. One afternoon, when TriggerPoint came to show us how to use their products, the basement we were all gathered in turned into a veritable pain cave. TriggerPoint makes a bunch of great self massage tools like foam rollers. Mr. TriggerPoint himself, Cassidy walked us through exercises dealing with different muscle groups, but only on one side of the body so as to compare to the non treated side. Perhaps it is good in theory but at the end of the session, we all agreed to walk through the exercises again and ‘equalize’ our bodies. Working together, we (almost) perfectly recreated the steps. It wasn’t planned but in that moment I felt something; we had become a team.
The first real test will be the Redlands Classic in early April. Until then, I will be racing around the south east. Maybe hit up Delray Twilight Criterium in Florida. Who knows! The season has just begun.