Team camp. Team camp has got to be the single greatest weekend of riding of the year. It has to be. It is the weekend that sets precedent for what the rest of the year for a team is bound to look like. There is a lot riding on the riding, accommodations, how people get along, and what the schedule is for a large group of people to maximize the full effect of training, camaraderie, and sponsor accountability within a timeframe most business experts would conclude impossible. We had thirty people at the Herbalife p/b Marc Pro – Nature’s Bakery team camp and everyone left pumped up for what the rest of the year has in store for us. The bar is set and it’s higher than we thought it was, than we even thought it could be. The riders from all divisions of our complete squad, sponsors who came to solidify their dedication and relationship, and staff who exceeded any and all expectations of professionalism and gratitude came together in such a huge way that success is the only outcome for us this season. This is what team camp is supposed to be like and how excited I can’t help sounding after three days of establishing this family.
Camp Day 1
With guys traveling from Oregon, San Diego, and everywhere in between, we came together in a small town near Folsom Prison in what can only be described as a country chateau. This place had an iron gate, giant barn, hot tub, expansive game room, and enough showers and bedrooms to fit our small army comfortably. The home offered both southern charm mixed with a sense of luxury that most of us had only dreamed of before.
We started off our ride with a 9.2 mile time trial up a popular Strava segment on Salmon Falls Rd. With riders who landed the top five times being promised a massage at the end of the day we all lit the course up with multiple riders besting the previous record. The ride ended up totaling 88 miles and 8,800 feet of climbing and we made it home with as an entire group just as the sun was setting.
That evening we all worked together cooking and cleaning, getting our body fat percentage calculated by Bruce at Athleticamps, and trying to refrain from taking ping pong and foosball too seriously. We had a good long discussion in the game room with our team director Phil Mooney as we discussed individually and collectively the goals and schedule going forward. Surrounding us like a barrier was towering Zealios product, Nature’s Bakery bars, Herbalife nutrition, Toms shoes, Giant Bicycles gear, and much more. We were spoiled and no one slept much that night.
Camp Day 2
Day two was bigger and better if you can imagine it. We banged out 10,000 feet of climbing in 96 miles finding roads that felt abandoned and left only for our enjoyment. Going through the first town that discovered gold you’d have think we had struck it ourselves. The ride started out at Folsom Bike. We opened up the ride to the public and were humbled by the turnout. Not only did Folsom Bike provide some morning refreshments, but they gave us a way to share the excitement of what we are becoming to others in the cycling community. Some people came just for the roll-out, while others hung on for as long as they could, and one impressive local rider completing the entire ride. It was fun sharing our food and letting enthusiasts, aspiring racers, and racers making their way through the ranks see what it’s like to have a professional operation taking care of you. They see how hard we work and they see how awesome the reward is. I hope it had as much an impact on them as it did for us to share in the process.
After another day of throwing down the gauntlet and working hard and learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses we all somehow managed to enter the gate back to our castle together as one team. If you’ve ever done a group ride you know how hard that is, but we fell right into place. With a mad dash of showers, Herbalife recovery shakes, fig bars, and chips and salsa we were all lounging with our legs up and Marc Pro devices working overtime by 4PM. Then began another round of massages, our TT master and Master chef Justin Rossi cooking up the best tri-tip ever cooked, Vinnie the mechanic working tirelessly and selflessly in the garage on our bikes, Ronnie massaging and taking care of bottles with the same humility as our team-wrench and friend, and us the riders learning about each other through jokes and jabs and the kind of banter that builds trust and admiration for the racing to come.
This second day was arguably never-ending or at least I wish it could have been. The most important factor had to be the sponsorship meetings we had around dinner and into the late hours as we faded into a deeper rest on night two. We heard from the sponsors and sponsors representatives directly. They were there before us presenting the hopes and expectations of our relationship. We heard from the racing legend Ben Jacques-Maynes who is working for our clothing sponsor Jakroo, a company redefining fast, reliable, and web-based kit ordering. We heard from Ben Ragains of Nature’s Bakery how the 4th generation family bakery has evolved into our tastiest sponsor and anytime snack. Justin Swett of Giant Bicycles gave us the low-down on all our equipment, reinforcing the idea that our helmets, shoes, and bikes are phenomenal results of an industry leader in research, development, and dedication to the sport of cycling. He even gave us homework. John Heiss from Herbalife video-conferenced us in what was more of a, “Hey, we love you. No, no, we love you!” type of conversation with a founder just as excited and as talented of an athlete as we strive to be. Gary Reinl showed us the ins and outs on how to use our Marc Pro devices more effectively and efficiently, allowing us to compete longer and more often than anyone not using the device because of our ability to recover. The greatest part was knowing that even using the device poorly still provided a benefit. That’s how good the Marc Pro device and all are other sponsors are. For those who hadn’t already passed out from exhaustion the remaining teammates were quick to follow at the conclusion of these meetings.
Camp Day 3
I’ve already over-stayed my opening blog-post-welcome so I’ll keep this as short as a criterium. Which just so happens to be what Day 3 was all about. We rode to a nearby industrial park to finish off camp with thrills, drills, and skills criterium practice. You’d think this would be the easiest day of camp but we had our sprinter’s launching over and over, breakaway riders sending flyers, and chase groups chasing non-stop for a couple hours. Much longer than your typical criterium. If the first two days showed that we’d be an unstoppable stage race team then the final day had us wondering if we were in fact, going to be the most legit criterium squad in Northern California. Dare I say the Nation?
With one last test and commitment to teamwork we all worked together to leave our cycling chateau as we found it. Now we’d just have to return to the reality that we are weekend warriors and Monday mourners. Allowed to chase the cycling dream through enumerable support, but forced to return to work Monday morning. This is the fate for most of us throughout our cycling careers, if we can be allowed to call them that. For that we are damn lucky and we love the challenge to create our success through healthy active lifestyles. We cherish all that comes with our opportunity to race as a family of riders, staff, and sponsors. We race as a team.
We are stacked and I can’t reiterate how exciting that is without sounding like a broken record. We have sprinters leading out sprinters, leading out sprinters. We have climbers leading out climbers, leading out climbers. We have every type of rider in between and everyone mixing it up just as much because we are a squad that is well-rounded, well-supported, and well…. We are ready to be the most impressive team in USA Cycling for 2016.