January 25, 2006 – We are now officially into the season with our first team camp well under way. In the first week we did several four to six hour rides with some tough climbing in the mountains around Santa Barbara, CA. We are staying outside of Santa Barbara in a small Danish theme town called Solvang. Solvang is a tourist attraction for drivers cruising up or down Highway 101 between LA and San Francisco, and is in the middle of some great wine country, made famous in the 2005 movie Sideways. In fact, many of the vineyards we ride by, and restaurants we eat at, were featured in the film.
The team this year has not changed much from last year. We have a few new additions: Jurgen Van Goolen, a Belgian all-rounder, Vladimir Gusev a Classics and time trial specialist, Egoi Martinez, an ox that can climb, and Trent Lowe, a young mountain biking phenomenon that is making a transition to the road.
Each day we split into two groups, one leaving about fifteen minutes before the second. The first group to take off in the morning is the Classics group, which I am riding in, with all the riders getting ready for the early races; the second group is full of the younger guys and riders that will need to be in shape later in the year. On the whole both groups go about the same speed and the main reason we split up is so that we manage to get in enough work and we simply are not sitting in the wheels for hours on end without really pushing on the pedals.
Matt White is back with the team again this season and it’s nice to have him around. He’s a great teammate, one of the best in the peloton, as he is not only willing to pull at the front of the peloton for hours on end, but he is also quite humorous and keeps everybody in good spirits even in the toughest of moments. Whitey spent the last two seasons with Cofidis, alongside Stuart O’Grady. He was instrumental in several of Stuey’s victories and was often on the front pulling in the final kilometers of the Tour de France stages. He will likely be working hard for George in the Classics and Paolo Savoldelli in the Giro d’Italia.
In the second week of camp we’ll have a team presentation in Beverly Hills. We’ll be staying at the Beverly Hills Hilton so we will all feel like high rollers for an evening before heading back to Solvang for a few more days of hard training. The camp wraps up in Ojai with a ‘s ponsors’ weekend where we spend an evening with the team’s sponsors and then ride with them the next morning.