MINNEAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Once again, the powers that be smiled upon Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies as they completed a nearly rain-free block of training in Ventura County early this week to prepare for the 2012 racing season. Aside from daily, high-intensity training rides that reached distances more than 120 miles, the week was filled with extra-curricular activities for the forty-strong men and women athletes and staff.
“’Camp Champ’ is a term we use to designate someone who really stands out at camp”
Time trial testing and consulting from HED aerodynamics expert Dino Edin, a VIP-centered group ride along the Pacific Coast Highway, and team meetings with World Bicycle Relief, Acura, Compex, Mavic, CLIF Bar, and other partners were rounded out by a tiki torch-lit beach barbecue at the end of the week.
The thirty men and women riders and dozen staff that comprise the 2012 team will head back to their respective homes to continue preparation before the season begins in earnest at the MERCO Cycling Classic in Merced, California, on March 1.
The usual excitement that sets into the small Silver Strand Beach neighborhood upon the arrival of the team was again palpable. Residents along the quiet beach front walked by the team’s set-up each morning, slightly baffled by the 30 foot trailer, fleet of sticker-wrapped Acura TSX wagons, and the large group of orange and black clad cyclists all packed into one narrow driveway. It is the program’s fifth season on Silver Strand, and locals would stop to chat before the group embarked on training rides often exceeding six hours.
With a new title sponsorship by Optum, an expanded roster, and a brand new look in 2012, Performance Director Jonas Carney wanted this year’s training camp to be about new beginnings.
“As our fifth year training in Ventura County, it was important to make sure things weren’t getting stale for our athletes. Our new Performance Manager Eric Wohlberg, General Manager Jacob Erker and I worked hard to maximize our time. This meant a well-thought out block of training with a wider variety of terrain and longer, tougher rides.”
New roster addition Ken Hanson described the transition to his new program as “seamless”.
“It is truly an honor to be teammates with some of the best in the sport. I already feel like part of the family, and we get along great on and off the bike,” Hanson said. “We will have so many chances in 2012 to race as a team and win as a team, and with such great directorship in Jonas Carney and Eric Wohlberg, I am confident we are headed for big things.”
For Performance Director Rachael Heal and many of her 12 athletes, it was the first training experience in Ventura County.
“We have veterans on this team who are riding at the highest level of the sport, as well as riders having their first experience on a pro roster,” said Heal. “I couldn’t have dreamed up a better setting to bring everything together and start molding the team.”
The pristine roads and casual vibe left veteran Carmen Small impressed.
“We have such a diverse group of ladies, and the staff is wonderful,” said Small. “We got to ride gorgeous roads every day and see dolphins swimming from our bedroom windows. This stuff all adds up to create an atmosphere where we bond as a team, train hard, and have fun. This team provides one of the most professional environments I have seen as a racer.”
An entire day was set aside for time trial testing, on a course pre-selected by Carney and Wohlberg. The course ran roughly 20 kilometers along the challenging and scenic Guiberson Road. Chris “Dino” Edin, aerodynamics guru at HED Cycling, accompanied Carney for observation. Each run was filmed for further analysis.
“In a stage race, a good time trial can make or break being on the top step of the podium, no question about it,” said Edin. “My job is to make sure these riders are as aerodynamic as possible on their TT bikes. Having a day of analysis like this can give a team an edge. Making slight adjustments to someone’s body and head position can be decisive in an event that often comes down to hundredths of seconds.”
The full men’s and women’s rosters conducted a VIP training ride along the Pacific Coast Highway, which saw around fifty of the team’s partners and supporters joining a sea of black and orange on a 20-mile loop through Malibu. The ride segued into a relaxing night on the beach for teams, staff, and partners. Coming the night before the final day of training, Wohlberg ensured that the timing of the party was intentional.
“Last year we had a fun barbecue after all the training was complete. This meant the riders could cut loose a bit, pack up, and be ready to roll in the morning. This year we did things a bit differently and hit them with one last big challenge after a night of relaxation. This helps set a mentality of focus and hard work for the rest of the year.”
That final challenge consisted of a run up Santa Barbara’s windy, rocky Gibraltar Road, a run that would crown “Camp Champ”.
“‘Camp Champ’ is a term we use to designate someone who really stands out at camp,” said Carney. “It is pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but after such a controlled block of training, it’s fun to designate a day where the guys can throw it down. We wanted to let the guys off the leash a bit, and the infamous Gibraltar Road is the biggest climb in the region, and we hadn’t done it all week. It was a natural choice.”
The pace was high on the climb, with Mike Creed, Tom Zirbel, and neo-pro Sebastian Salas outpacing the rest of the team near the apex. After surviving numerous attacks from the 200 lb. Zirbel, Salas and Creed duked it out over the final 1000 meters. Salas, a new addition and first year pro, flexed some of his muscle as the newest and youngest pure climber on the roster.
Jesse Anthony, entering his third year on the team, was impressed with the depth added from an infusion of young talent.
“I noticed a much deeper roster developing at this year’s camp,” said Anthony. “You can pick any combination of 8 riders on this team at random and you would have a solid squad for any race in North America. That says a lot for the ability of the guys Jonas has recruited this year.”
The men’s and women’s programs will return to sunny Southern California for the first race of the year, the MERCO Cycling Classic in Merced on March 1.
For more information on the team, please visit www.optumprocycling.com. To arrange interviews with the riders, including Olympic hopefuls, please contact Sam Wiebe at (612) 333-6616 . Optum Pro Cycling is managed by Circuit Global Sports Management; for more information, please visitwww.circuitsport.com.
For Optum Pro Cycling
Sam Wiebe, 612-333-6616
Paul Omodt 612-455-1732
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