First off--HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I had a great time at my aunt and uncle's house just 40 miles from Princeton (yes, I rode there) and ate enough stuffing and apple pie to kill a small donkey.
The best part of the past week was definitely Tuesday when I flew down to Charlotte, North Carolina to meet my new teammates and do a ropes course. After my flight was canceled the night before, and I was scrambling to prevent an overnight in Newark, an earlier flight was so delayed that I ended up getting a spot on it and got into Charlotte 30 minutes ahead of schedule!
I woke up early Tuesday morning and met the guys at breakfast before packing into the team van and some vehicles and going to the ropes course at the U.S. National Whitewater Center (with a quick stop at FourBucks). We were immediately thrown in to challenging situations, both mentally and physically, not to mention the fact that the 14 of us didn't know each others' names! I could not believe how well we did on the obstacles, and the team's progress was evident as the morning became afternoon.
Initially, we didn't have strong leadership, and everyone was either goofing around or trying to lead by talking louder. After a couple tasks were completed, and our performance as a team was discussed, we realized who the natural team leaders were and began to develop our strategies before attacking the obstacle--brilliant idea, I know! Overall, it was an excellent way to learn who everyone is, what they are like in demanding situations, and just get a feel for the group dynamics.
After an excellent lunch at the Whitewater Center's restaurant, we all stacked out spots in the conference room for the next 5 hours and discussed everything a team can possibly discuss: anti-doping, sponsorship (Dedicated Athlete's Jon Gamble gave an excellent nutrition discussion), rider expectations, lessons learned in 2007, team's roll in the sport of cycling, mission statement development, contract details, and so on. The team is composed of a manager (Erik Saunders), a director (Pat Raines), three road captains (Adam Myerson, Daniel Ramsey, and Jon Hamblen), and the developing riders (9 of us from 19 years old to 25 years old). The road captains are not necessary the designated "winners" but rather they are the experienced leaders who will direct call the shots on the road and also help us along throughout the season by divulging their wealth of knowledge.
It is an excellent team of guys and an excellent program. Its goals are to develop us into top professional riders and role models in the community, which is exactly what I am looking for. I think next summer will be like an internship, just like this summer with Ball, and I will learn a lot and see how I feel about going down the road to becoming a top professional cyclist.
Wish me luck!