I only did 3 rides with the team during the December camp and all of them were very memorable experiences. I wasn’t at the camp to get in good training for myself but rather to assist the team in getting more mobile and more stable so as to help optimize their training and racing performances. BUT
, when I had the opportunity to get some riding in I did. After all, Stafano, the technical advisor from BMC
who works very closely with all of the riders and the engineers that develops new frames, was kind enough to bring an SLR01 from Switzerland for me to ride during both the December and January camp and I didn’t want to be rude and not ride it! It was Dura Ace equipped and I must admit that I was very happy to be back on DA.
First of all, the weather was EXCELLENT
for the entire camp. The sun was out every day and by 11 you could comfortably ride without arm and leg warmers. Each ride the team was split into 2 groups. Group 1 was the classics guys and the Tour Down Under, Qatar and Oman guys and group 2 was the grand tour and not classics guys. The rides left every morning at 10 am and each group was followed by a team car with a director and a mechanic. Sayers was with group 2 most of the time and John Lelangue was with group 1. Fabio and Rik came a few days after the start of the camp and they took over when Mike left on Monday.
My first ride was with group 2 right at the start of camp, it was low key and around 3 hours long- nothing intense just moving the legs. However , it was AWESOME
to be riding in the sunshine and I always get a kick out of riding with classy riders who really know how to ride a bike. The double line was tight, and the and the speed was always steady- no issues (at least no major issues, just some basic “woah, I don’t ride that fast by myself ever).
The second ride was a few days later, again with group 2. This ride was NOT
as easy for me. And it wasn’t that the guys were railing it or anything, the constantly rolling terrain just took it out of me. And although they weren’t hitting it hard, I can tell you that if I had a meter on my bike I would have been seeing 320-350 on many of the “rollers”. And what goes up comes down. The roads get pretty narrow and when I don’t know what’s coming up around the bend on a descent, I get……….. scared. The guys are very experienced and excellent bike handlers and when they go downhill, they do it next to one another and they do it fast- without even trying to go fast. I’m just not used to that and I’m not comfortable siting right on the back of them so I open up a little bit of a gap every now and again and if I’m not careful that gap grows QUCIKY
which means I have to put in a pretty good dig to get back on. So when you add up a lot of descents and a lot of little digs, that starts to spell trouble for me. I was able to hang without too much hassle until…….
We took a coffee stop late in the ride that day and it was planned that the group would do an up tempo rotation for about 20 mins on the flats leading back toward town. That Seemed straight forward enough . I would just sit on the back no problem, flat roads, nothing to fear and hone for lunch. ALMOST
. When we rolled out of the café it was pretty much false flat downhill right away and guys were starting to get on it immediately. But some of the guys stopped for a nature break, and I needed to do the same and I figured if I stopped with them they’d pull me back to the group up the road. It made sense. The problem was that when we started rolling, Mike came back in the car and the 3 guys I was with got onto the bumper to get paced back up. I made the mistake of sitting a little too far behind them when the car started getting up to speed. These guys ride RIGHT
on the bumper when the care car is going FAST
. No, that’s not really safe. But that’s a real part of bike racing. There was enough room for me to get on the bumper too but I didn’t want to get in the way- the last thing I want to do is be the cause of mishap. From there things went downhill fast! When the care started pulling away and I was putting out WELL
above a “hard” effort (I was on the LIMIT
), I knew that I was going to be riding hone alone. The only issue is that I wasn’t sure exactly what direction that was. Mike was driving and he actually did end up waiting for me a few miles up the road. I got on the bumper in a last ditch effort to rejoin the guys up the road but after a few minutes I knew it wasn’t happening. I told Mike I’d figure out how to get home and thanks for the hand up. Lucky for me I ran into an English speaking rider a few minutes later who happened to be heading in the same direction as the team hotel. We got to talking and I told him what my deal was and he asked if I could show him around the service course etc.. I explained to him that that was not even a remote possibility but THANKS
for the assistance in getting back. I was COOKED
. The guys were pretty low key about giving me a hard time, but I know that probably enjoyed it just a little bit. After all, every morning at 7 30 am I got to tell them what to do and what I was telling them was not always comfortable for them. Karma is a bitch.
My last ride with the team during Dec. camp was on the day before I left and it was with group 1-.THIS ride put me in the BOX
. These guys were doing more intensity than group 1 due to their big events coming earlier in the season. I knew this before leaving the parking lot and for whatever reason I assumed it would be fine, 4.5 hours with some “tempo” efforts and some big gear work on a mtn.- repeats on the mtn. The first “tempo” effort was about an hour in and up a 3% winding road and the cross winds were serious. Being the last guy and sitting on the entire time should be pretty straight forward and not THAT
tough since it was only a “tempo” effort. Whatever. I didn’t have a meter on but I was for sure putting out 310-320 ish on the back and every time I hesitated for even a moment and a gap started to open, the number went UP. I settled in and it ended up being “fine”e but that was pretty early in the ride and I had a long way to go. The mtn they used for big gear work was about a 15-20 mins climb on narrow smooth roads and amazing views. I rode up it twice NOT
in a big gear and the descent off was twisting and FAST
and I did my best not to hold any of the riders up on the way down. Blythe unclipped and dragged his cleat while riding behind me which made for a loud, freak-me out sound, but one that I heard before. He sensed my unease on the fast drop and was happy to add to it. Adam is one of my favorites, one of the new guys with a great sense of humor. One of those guys that make riding look effortless. After the hill reps we stopped for a coffee- my favorite part of every ride and then it was back to another “tempo” effort. More favorable winds and no 3% uphill grade and FASTER
speeds. And that’s fine, it was more comfortable on the back but when we went around and through the many roundabouts at speed it was really un nerving for me. But no way was I going to get hung out to dry again- I made it back to base with the group this time. A few of the guys went off to motorpace for another hour…… very pro. I rolled in the last few miles in the small ring (it was about 70 degrees at this point) with Stefano, Philip and Klass. Not a bad way to end my riding at camp. And yes, I was blown up. Amen to the lunch buffet. The rest of that day I met with riders for movement screens and I think I did a pretty good job of hiding my INTENSE
fatigue. Respect to these guys for the training and racing that they do.
I rode a handful of times on my own and basically rolled 2 hours at a time, some hill repeats etc. Not big hours but some consistent riding. No complaints- any riding at all is really a bonus. And to have the opportunity to sit on the team rides and observe these guys in action is really awesome. I plan to get in some good riding before I go back in Jan and should I end up out on a long ride with the guys, I will hopefully have a little more gas in the tank. That said, they will not be stopping training between now and then so I suspect that it won’t matter how much I ride, the results will be similar. So be it. There are definitely worse jobs.