Monday, May 19, 2008

U23 Camp went off with a bang!

I just got back last night after a great weekend of testing, riding, and talking with other under-23 cyclists at the Time Pro Cycling U23 camp. It was a great time for all involved: we learned a lot (the 3 Ps: Performance, Personal motivation, and Professionalism), rode a lot (Conconi test, three outdoor time trials, and a mass-start hillclimb up Pilot Knob!), and chilled a lot (excellent dinner at the Magic Mushroom with Jamie Bennette, another dinner with all the guys at Biaggi's Italian restaurant).

I had a ridiculous night/day of travel on Friday with a 6:15AM flight, meaning a 3:30AM taxi/train/shuttle to the airport. Then Erik and the guys picked me up in the big green van and we were off to Per4mance Training for a fun Conconi ramp test. The guys were super motivated and I hear that we pulled off some excellent numbers, but Erik and Pat wanted everyone to be friends, not competitors, so the numbers were kept secret. After some excellent Italian, we all shacked up with the Hawthorne Inn, a quaint hotel in Winston-Salem with EXCELLENT staff and a great breakfast buffet!

Going further with the them of "keeping us on our toes," Erik had us out in the parking lot the next morning at 7AM for an unknown ride. The roads are AMAZING in Winston, and I am psyched to be living with Jamie this summer and will have some excellent training. We headed out for an hour before pulling off into a parking lot and being told the plan: a time trial of 3-5 miles, straight on a rolling course, with a finish line wherever Erik decided to stop the Durango! I set the benchmark, which was probably not a shining effort after just getting back on the bike Wednesday with a broken collarbone, but I raced it nonetheless. The TT took just over 7 minutes, then we rode back to the same parking lot for another, longer one. Then we rode back again for yet ANOTHER, final TT that would be the same as the first.

This protocol was done in an effort to see how consistent people were, how they fatigued, how familiarity with the course affected their rides, etc. Pretty interesting, as I cut 15 seconds off my first time. I know I was super tired, and the more tired I get the longer it takes me to "open up" to race pace efforts, so I guess it is what I expected. Then we all rode back to the hotel for some lunch and then a lot of time in the conference room in the afternoon.

My roommate Will, a mountain-biker-turned-roadie from Lees-Mecrae, is a very gregarious guy and was always keeping me in good spirits throughout lunch and basically keeping a smile on my face at all times. We had some nice pitas and headed up to the conference room where Pat and Erik talked at length about what it takes to race for a living, what riders should look for in a team, what teams expect from their riders, etc. We also heard from John Gamble, the owner and founder of Dedicated Athlete, best known for their super product Ep-No!. He told us about nutrition and refueling both on the bike and off. Then I wrapped things up with a little speech about how I have been able to go to school full time and also improve as a cyclist and get onto Time Pro Cycling. I hope it wasn't a snoozer! I think some of the guys got a bit out of it, because I definitely talked one-on-one with quite a few of them afterwards and I am giving out my email and cell to them all for future questions.

After a quick nap we all went to the Magic Mushroom for an excellent pizza dinner, and Jamie Bennette, our team's main sponsor and behind-the-scenes man, sat at my table and talked to us a lot about what things were like back in the day. It is pretty cool to hear about how they raced back then, sleeping in cars at the race and couch surfing, racing just to eat, etc. I have great respect for them and it really gives me a good perspective when things get tough.

Sunday's 7AM ride was again unknown, but we were accompanied by John and Jay, a supporter of the team and the owner of a sick local bike shop, respectively. They led us on some beautiful roads out to Pilot Knob where we had a mass-start hillclimb! Ouch--but not too bad for me since I went up solo 7 minutes ahead of the pack to get times! I definitely needed that, as the legs were TOASTED--thanks, Pat! The top finishers were quite impressive and unexpected, and it really gave us some good information along with Saturday's time trial results and Friday's Conconi test. The climb is pretty sweet, with an inconsistent pitch and beautiful forest surrounding it--I was in the 27 most of the time (broken collarbone=NO PULLING ON THE BARS!) and it takes 12-15 minutes to climb depending on pace (and abilities!).

Sunday was followed by a great talk with Ronny "the Rocket". He was around in Davis Phinney's days, from '72 to the mid-80's, but he still races and is basically an amazingly experienced, talented, super-fast racer. He won literally hundreds of races, 12-15 a season, at the highest levels, and it was very cool to hear about him and absorb his advice: stick with it, Stick With It, STICK WITH IT! The Rocket also told us how to make connections and how incredibly important it is to build a solid reputation, thank your sponsors and promoters and fans, and be a professional no matter what. Then Pat and Erik talked more about racing tactics and we even ran through hypothetical race situations. Those guys have so many years of racing experience that you can't help but learn from them, which is one of the main reasons I joined Time Pro Cycling, and I know the guys got a lot out of that talk. Then Erik finished things off by giving us a talk about doping and making choices, as well as his own experiences in Europe, before making an open offer to help each and every rider at the camp in the next year with racing, getting to races, making connections, getting experience, etc.

All in all, it was an excellent camp and I had a blast--the guys really impressed me, and it is super encouraging to me personally to know that I can give advice and act as somewhat of a role model to other riders. It really motivates me and keeps me honest and professional when things are tough.

Now I just have to get through my last final this Thursday and I am home free!!! Next big race: June 3rd, the Commerce Bank Lehigh Valley Classic!

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