I just spent a few days with the Competitive Cyclist Pro Cycling Team in Tucson, Arizona and I have to say that I am as excited as ever to follow the progress of this team and its riders. I looked at each of the guys both on and off of the bike trying to imagine what may lie ahead of them. Who and how many of these guys are going to rise through sport and become names among seasoned professionals.
I got to ride with the team on Day 5 of the training camp on a brand new Pinarello Dogma2. We were headed to the summit of Kitt Mountain, which is a 20km climb that averages 8%, and there would be 10kms of racing before we tackled the climb. The foreigners raced the riders from the USA and this was my first opportunity to see the riders start to perform. I was just strong enough to stay at the back as the tactics played out in front of my eyes. I liked sitting in the slipstream with all the horsepower in front of me. In the end the foreigners won this well planned exercise and I survived for the next ‘opening up’ of the legs.
At the base of Kitt Mountain the cars stopped to pick up unwanted clothing and replenish the riders with fuel. I had an idea of what was about to unfold and I wanted to see a bit of the leg stretching first-hand. I took the relatively out-of-shape x-pro seat at the back of the group as we started to climb. The verbal talking stopped, the body language picked up and my engine started sputtering. I was relying on muscle memory and I wanted to hang in there until I saw some action. Between mile 5 and 6 there was a bit of shuffling between the riders and just as the CC Team split in two I pulled the plug. The temperature was turned up and I watched as the two groups distanced themselves. Before I lost sight of them the front group was single file with approximately 5 miles to go. I couldn’t help but think that I used to be that strong. Years and years of training and racing really do make a difference and what I discovered is that the Competitive Cyclist Team is looking very good.
After taking in the view from Kitt Peak I headed down the mountain. I gradually picked up speed on the descent and with each sharp turn I gained confidence with the Dogma2. I started thinking to myself that this Pinarello is the nicest bike I have ever ridden. The faster I negotiated a turn the more I was impressed with how it handled. After descending 12 miles that averaged 8% I told myself that this was the sharpest blade I’ve ever cut with; the bike was amazing.
For the next two days I sat in on interviews, hung in the living room and followed the riders from the Team car. Between riding with the Team and talking with the guys I started to develop a real interest in their season. The day after camp, six of the riders flew down to Uruguay to race the Rutas de Ameirca (http://www.federacionciclistauruguaya.com.uy/). I did this race in 1995 and have fond memories of helping my team win. The race is 6 stages long, with mostly flat to rolling hills, and the Team should have pleasant weather. It’s a perfect race at the beginning of the season for riders from the Northern hemisphere. I’m going to be following the results of this race and every race that Competitive Cyclist does. This year, as last year, the Team is focused on the NRC Calendar ( http://www.usacycling.org/nrc).
My first impression and assessment is that what I saw in Tucson last week was professionalism through and through. Everybody involved from the riders to the staff, the sponsors, journalists and everybody in between came together in what I see as a fantastic opportunity for cycling. I think that we are going to see a lot of exciting racing from these guys.
I want to thank Gord Fraser, the guys from On the Rivet management (http://www.ontherivetmanagement.com/) and everybody from Competitive Cyclist hosting me at camp this year.
Pictures of Day 5 and Kit Peak can be found here: http://proteam.competitivecyclist.com/photo-gallery/2012-team-camp-tucson-az-day-5/
Follow the team on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.254669574545247.74701.149253171753555&type=3#!/ONTHERIVETLLC
This post on the team site: http://proteam.competitivecyclist.com/team-blog/day-5-climbing-mt-kitt/
Photo credits: Tommy Chandler