In sharp contrast to the recent team launch event in snowy Minneapolis, the 30-strong Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies teams landed in sunny southern California yesterday to commence 11 days of training and team building in Ventura County.
It is the fifth year Performance Director Jonas Carney’s team has holed up near Oxnard’s quiet Silver Strand beach, less than 50 yards from a panoramic ocean view. Carney has always considered it an ideal enviroment for early season training and team building.
“We have come to the Ventura county area to train every year except one since our team was founded in 2007,” said Carney. “Great weather, great roads, and an extremely relaxed enviroment off-the-bike means everyone can get to know eachother and kick back a bit between some really strenuous rides.”
Rachael Heal, Performance Director for the new 12-person women’s team, agrees with Carney’s opinion on the region.
“In over a decade as a pro rider and director, I haven’t had the pleasure of holding a camp in the Ventura area,” said Heal. “We are close to a lot of great rides and we literally watch the sun rise and set over the ocean from our team house. This is a fantastic way for our new team to kick off the 2012 season.”
It is also the first training excursion into the region for many of Heal’s new athletes, and after a day in the sun, Anna Barensfeld was left impressed.
The view from the women’s team house is nothing short of incredible.
“Riding in Ventura is really cool because we got to experience such a wide variety of scenery,” said Barensfeld. “We saw so much today; densely wooded areas, rocky deserts, palm trees and the ocean. We saw it all on one training ride and get to experience it all week, so the team is happy and extremely motivated.”
Kristen Sanders also appreciates the West Coast vibes. “It is quienesssential California,” Sanders added. “I feel like I am in an MTV reality show. If only I had some Uggs.”
Building a Better Camp
Carney, Heal and new Performance Manger Eric Wohlberg plan to offer up a more structured approach to team training camp in 2012. During the first week, riders will log close to 600 miles across a wide variety of terrain.
Week two will see intensity ramp up – with Carney planning a time trial “scrimmage” of sorts to test their athlete’s ability on their Orbea Ordu time trial machines.
“The importance of a solid time trial cannot be understated in the pro peloton,” said Carney. “We want our riders to recfocus on the discipline for the 2012 season. Our calendar is packed with stage racing, and a good time trial is crucial to obtaining results in these races.”
Other highlights from camp include:
– Several visits to the the steep canyon roads around Malibu, including the especially tough team favorites Yerba Buena Drive and Deer Creek Road.
– A trek to Santa Barbara via Highway 101, culminating with a full-gas ascent of Gibraltar Road, climbing nearly 3000 feet in seven miles at a 7.7 average grade.
– A V.I.P. Group Ride featuring all thirty athletes on the pristine Pacific Coast Highway.
Also planned – a day of sprint themed competitions that will see both men’s and women’s teams breaking into groups to hone their lead-outs. A revitalized sprinting core on the men’s side will see new signee Ken Hansen and a healthy Mike Friedman rejoining team captain and veteran leadout Alex Candelario at the front of the train.
“I have never been more motivated heading into a season,” said Friedman. “2011 was a tough year for me – my injury made things difficult and I never felt 100 percent. After a successful surgery this summer, I expect big things in 2012.”
Camp will conclude as it did in 2011 – with a tiki-torch lit beach barbecue, drawing together the team’s athletes, staff, partners, family and friends for a night of relaxation after what it sure to be a productive week for the new teams.