Nostalgia and Pride

Those of you that have been reading for a hot minute may remember my brief but life-altering stint with the Metro Volkswagen Elite team out of Dallas. We had a 10 day training camp during which I redefined “physical limits,” and I met some very talented riders who shared my drive to rule the bike world. I only made it to a couple of races for the team, where I worked outside myself as a domestique before having the cycling equivalent to a nervous breakdown.
The team manager, Nathan, wasn’t the easiest person to deal with. When I’d first met him at the Tour of Arkansas, he had his hand in a cast… because he’d gotten mad and punched the metal team trailer, denting it and breaking his hand (you may also remember his punching through the back window of a Suburban during team camp). Anger management issues aside, he knew his shit when it came to race tactics, and, he’s one of the only people who has ever genuinely believed in my ability to ride a bike at a lever higher than what I’d even expect of myself. Not that any of my other friends/family doesn’t think I’m good, it’s just that their expectations don’t exceed my own, but his were, “you have the potential to be better than you think you can be.”

I still channel that expectation on a regular basis when I’m out training alone.

The riders I met while on the Metro team have generally scattered across the U.S. since the team exodus during the remainder of the 2009-2010 seasons. Though not all of them still bike race, through various social media outlets, I’ve watched them all be successful in whatever it is they’re doing. I’m not going to go through all of them and their achievements (that sort of post would take all day), but here’s the latest:


Christian Helmig wins Luxembourg National Cyclocross Championship


It’s not an uncommon occurrence for any of my former teammates to win a national title or make it onto a pro team roster. Some have abandoned the pro ranks and gone on to do other things with a similar drive for success- everything from art to rock climbing to baby making. I’ve felt proud of them all at one point or another.

Training Camp: Day 9

The final day of camp, we went back to the previously rained-out Mad Duck group ride. The instructions were to “just ride,” and, if we wanted to, we could put some of our previously-rehearsed race tactics to the test. We set out at an easy Saturday pace that accelerated as we neared the Robson Ranch loop that we’d practiced on earlier in the week. I was hanging out in the back talking to one of the Metro Volkswagen club members, and ended up getting dropped with Shannon, Whitney, and a few of the other riders in the group. We probably would have just cruised in, but Nathan “motivated” us to try and catch up with/lead out our sprinters by implementing a fast rotation between the three of us. We didn’t catch the group, but we did turn ourselves inside out for about half an hour. It was one of those efforts where I suprised myself at how hard I was able to ride for an extended time period. I have to admit, with Nathan’s help, we did rock pretty damn hard. Luckily, we took a short cut and waited for the group to catch up to us before cruising back to the hotel. It was a good ride to wrap up a week of hard training!

Later on that evening, we had our team dinner and then went out for video games & laser tag! (click on a thumbnail to see the full-sized photo).

Training Camp: Day 8

Today we piled in the van (and my car) and rode to Plano to a crit practice loop (apparently L*nce Armstrong used to ride the same pavement!)

Crit practice was tough. We did 10 laps at a time ending with a 4 lap leadout. I got yelled at for not having my inside foot up, but managed to fix myself pretty quickly. The first set of 10 laps wasn’t bad, but the second time we went through it, I was gassed by the time it came for my leadout lap. My heart rate was pegged in the upper 190’s for most of the lap, and by the time I pulled off, I couldn’t see straight.

Tomorrow, we are riding in the Mad Duck group ride (hopefully we won’t have any weather or traffic related issues). It should be a good wrap-up to camp. Team presentation is tomorrow night as well. Well be doffing the spandex for dress clothes, so it’ll be a good photo opportunity!

Training Camp Goes to Talahina: Days 5,6, and 7

The daily updates had to take a hiatus while we were at the Hickory Ridge Campgrounds in the Oklahoma Ouachitas.

Gonzo takes a nap on the trip north.
Crazy road-trip action!
Nathan has trailer parking skills
The team trailer arrives at the campsite

When we arrived Tuesday afternoon, we ate a quick lunch then suited up for an “easy” ride. Which, for the most part, it wasn’t bad other than cruising up a 3 mile climb (the guys actually had to practice a rotation/leadout on that one) before turning around and heading back. Along the way, we did a little more paceline work and wrapped it up with a hectic leadout/sprint against the guys on the road leading to the campground. After a shower & some dinner, we gathered around the campfire for a little team bonding time.

Whitney, Nathan, Casey, and Cory
Sinead, Nathan, Natalie, and Corey
Evan (aka Cory Feldman)
Evan (a.k.a. Corey Feldman)
Corey, playing w/fire
Corey (playing with fire)

Wednesday was one of the hardest training days I’ve ever experienced. We rolled out to the same 3 mile climb that we’d gone to the day before, but this time, for an individual TT effort (timed by Nathan). Once everone topped the hill, we went back down into a valley, where the guys split off, and we started a fast-paced rotation. My radio died, and I had no idea what was happening, so I just kept following everyone. After what seemed like forever (but was probably around 20 miles), we reached a set of three small climbs. On the first climb, I managed to get dropped about halfway up. Apparently, Nathan was screaming at me over the radio until I caught back to the group and he found out that I hadn’t heard a single word he’d said! Somehow I managed the other two climbs without incident. Once we re-grouped at a ranger station, we received instructio for our next TT effort- the 8-mile “radio tower” climb. After the previous efforts, this seemed like a tall order, but somehow we all pulled it off. Afterward, we rolled back into camp- just over 100 miles for the day! New Year’s Eve was not too festive… I think we were all passed out by 9:30 or so!

Today (Thursday) was reletively easier. The guys had to ride from camp while we got a van ride to the town of Talahina to roll out to the same radio tower climb that we’d been to the day before. This time, it was our turn to practice a rotation/leadout for the climbers. I felt pretty good considering the previous day’s effort, and was able to hold a nice tempo before pulling off about halfway up the first part of the climb. We finished the remaining climb and were told to continue back to the town across the “byway” which is a series of 12 ~1k climbs. Those things were STEEP!
Once we were back in town, we piled back into the van while the guys motorpaced behind us part of the way back to the campgrounds. It was pretty fun to watch out the rear window of the van:

All in all, it was a good time. Hard work, but a good time. Tomorrow, we’ll be working on crit skills. It’s going to be another tough day for sure!

Training Camp: Day 4

So I figured since I’ve got a little downtime, I’d go ahead & post today’s report early. We’d normally be in team meetings right now, but the massuse from Living Well Dallas is here, and we’re getting some 1-on-1 massage time throughout the afternoon.

Today was another gorgeous day. The wind was nearly non-existent and the temps were in the 60’s. We rolled out to the Robinson Ranch loop again. This time, we worked on a paceline with 30 second rotations. I found them easier than the fast rotation that we were doing yesterday. More importantly, we worked on leadouts again- this time from a bit further away from the “finish line.” This time, we nailed them… I got moved further back in the leadout train on each lap, and felt better as we went. It was a great training day.

As soon as Casey gets finished with her massage, we’re heading to the store to get some extra Diet Coke for the 3 day trip to Oklahoma. I’m looking forward to the change of scenery. I had no idea that drivers could get more hateful than the ones in Memphis, but Dallas has proved me wrong!

Training Camp: Day 3

First off, the weather was absolutely gorgeous today! It was in the 50’s, and the wind was a liesurely 10 or so mph. We left the hotel and rode out to an area known as the Robinson Ranch Loop to work on how to ride an effective paceline. When we first started, we were all over the road, but by the time we got to lap 3, we actually looked like we knew what we were doing (though we did get yelled at over the radio for letting the pace fall below 25mph going up the looong, windy hill at the end of the loop).

We also tried a leadout on a couple of laps, but bobbled both times (the last time being mostly my fault for starting to leadout too fast and breaking the train apart).

Once we got back to the hotel, we cleaned up & had lunch. Afterward, the nutritionist from Living Well Dallas came to talk to us. She had a lot of helpful advice about how to choose the right food for before/during/after our rides. We finished off the day with a delicious dinner at one of the Metro Volkswagen club member’s house.

I’m pretty tired now. I think that everyone else is watching a movie in one of the other rooms, but I might be anti-social and veg out in front of my own TV in my PJs so I can just pull the covers over my head when I start to nod off…

Day 2 Continued, Road Rage Abounds!

The weather cleared up & we headed out for some wind/paceline work. However, we got about 45 minutes into the ride when a guy in a suburban passed us, laid on his horn, and started yelling. It was obnoxious, and nothing more would have come of it… until he cut us off and slammed on his brakes, nearly causing a bike-car collision with the riders in the front of the group.

This didn’t sit well with Nathan, who is pretty protective of his riders (especially the younger ones who happened to be up front at the time). On the second or thirdbraking/swerving manuver that the guy made, Nathan rode up next to the car and yelled at the guy to stop. At the same time, he smacked the back window… I think the general idea was to just make some noise, but apparently, suburban rear windows are pretty weak, because it broke into tiny pieces! The guy sped up the road, but then I think he realized that his window was broken, pulled over, got out, and walked to the rear of his vehichle.

At this point, I’d sat up… we’re in Texas… the stereotypical Texan drives a large vehicle and carries equally large guns. My instincts led me to stay out of shotgun range and slightly behind the team car while Nathan and the man “discussed” what just happend. At some point, we rode off, but then after about 10 miles, we turned around and went back to the scene of the incident to talk to the police, who wanted to hear from the endangered riders who’d been up front at the time of the vehicular assult. Eventually hands were shaken and no charges were filed, and everyone went on their way.

Some camera phone images:

Standing around talking to the five-0
Standing around talking to the five-0
Suburan windows are weak sauce
Suburban windows are weak sauce

So, we didn’t get to the training plan of the day, though I don’t mind much, because I’m not used to the insane winds here. I spent most of the ride looking like I’d never been in a paceline before. It was good practice for me, and hopefully by the end of the week, I’ll take on 40mph gusts like they’re old business.

Training Camp: Day 2

Normally we’d be out riding right now, but the weather is not cooperating. When we left the hotel to go to meet the Mad Duck Cyclery group ride, it was cloudy, windy, and about 70 degrees. During the course of the 5 minutes from hotel to shop, the temp dropped about 10 degrees, the wind picked up, and it started to sprinkle. We left the shop, and it immediately started to pour. I was sitting on the back of the group cursing both the cold rain that was getting blown into my ears and the somewhat aero wheels that I’ve got on my bike.

I mentally prepared myself for the 3hours of hell that I was facing, but then the group turned back towards the hotel…

Since Nathan didn’t want us to get sick the first day of camp, he’s delayed our ride until after lunch. Woohoo!

“Reality Show” Training Camp: Day #1

After a windy drive from Memphis, I arrived in Grapevine, TX around 4:30. I met up with a few of my teammates & we went to an Italian place near by for dinner. Afterward, it was back to the hotel for the first team meeting.

Nathan, the team manager, cut to the chase and let us know that in the grand scheme of things, our team is not much different from a pro team, and he expected us to act and ride accordingly. Camp is going to be a little bit like “tryouts” for the 2009 season- our performance this week will have a large impact on who goes where next season. Also, during this week, if anyone doesn’t perform as expected, it could mean an early end to his or her contract. He expects a lot from us, and I think it’s pretty awesome, because it’s going to insure that noone is there who shouldn’t be.

After the meeting, Some of us hung around in the conference room to work on our bikes- I had to swap out my worn rear tire for a new/old stock of Ryan’s, and others were assembling their bikes out of the flight cases. We discussed how the earlier lecture reminded us of some sort of reality TV show where people get eliminated after a series of challenges (hence the title of this post). Then Coryn got excited and rode ashley’s bike around the conference room…