January 30, 2006 – On Saturday afternoon, a big bus full of riders in black Nike leisure wear pulled out of the hotel parking lot, on its way airport, to drop all the guys off heading back to Europe. Training camp was over for the team. The rest of us, the four North Americans, spent an extra night in California as we flew out the following morning to our homes where we will train for a few more weeks before the Tour of California at the end of February.
The training camp went well-the consensus amongst the riders and the staff was that it was perhaps the best camp we have done with a lot of quality work on the bike, great weather and a good ambiance within the squad. The new riders joined into the fold well and everybody seems ready and fit enough to begin racing at a high level.
Friday, the last official day of team training, we rode for six hours, from Solvang to Ojai, over two mountain-passes and much of one of the Tour of California stages routes. It was a great ride and we all finished the day with tired legs from over two hours of climbing and suntans from the warm air and clear skies along the coast. In the evening we met with our sponsors, Bob Roll presented the team (and kept everybody laughing), and after a good meal everybody retired to the bar for a few drinks. The weekend in Ojai is one we all looked forward to after having spent two weeks in the same hotel in Solvang, eating the same food and training hard each day. In Ojai, we were able to relax a little, chat with all the people that support us throughout the season, but that we rarely get to see, and then wake up and enjoy a relaxed ride with them.
Sean Yates (one of our team directors and one of the best domestiques in the history of the sport) rode with us several times at camp and he is fit – skinnier than when he raced as a pro, and as eager as a junior starting out on a bike. He often trained with the team in the mountains and was impressively strong. During the sponsor ride, where we were having fun and racing each other, he pulled through and yelled, “Just like the old days!” In the group were Jim Ochowicz, Lance and George, three people he spent a lot of time with in the early nineties on Motorola.
In the last two weeks we went from being a bunch of well-trained cyclists to a team ready to race. Another season is underway and our goals remained the same as in previous seasons – to win a Grand Tour or two, to win a Classic, to finish at the top of the ProTour rankings and to perform well in US races. They are lofty goals, but ones that are attainable with the athletes the Discovery Channel has assembled for 2006.