Team Camps and other Time Killers

News & Results

12/20/2011| 0 comments
by Neil Browne

Team Camps and other Time Killers

The off-season is over and pros are back training as well as doing other activities.

The off-season is over and pros are back training as well as doing other activities.

The off-season is officially over. Riders are back training either at home or in some camp under the watch of a retired drill sargent. As usual, teams have subjected themselves to all sorts of team camp shenanigans from being led blind through the forest to exploring the local sewer systems. Yeah, good times indeed.

However, not all time is being spent training. For Belgium's Philippe Gilbert he's spent the past couple of months collecting trophies. Recently the classics superstar won the Velo d'Or - a very prestigious award given by the French magazine Velo. But in addition to the "Golden Bike" trophy he was named Belgian athlete of the year. No surprise there. Gilbert posted 24 wins and started his streak in February at the Volta ao Algarve. From there he continued winning in some of the most prestigious races: Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallonne, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and a stage in the Tour de France. So this begs the question: can he do it again in 2012 with the BMC squad?

The term "super team" has become synonymous with BMC as well as Team Sky. I'm not going to get into a whole big money/benefactor argument because at this point that ship has sailed. Über rich fan boys are going to sponsor what they like and in this case it's cycling with a few fortunate teams able to benefit from this arrangement.

But since we brought up BMC Racing Team, some of those riders are keeping busy before they ship off to races. Taylor Phinney and new recruit Tejay Van Garderen have started blogging. Unlike their counterparts who also write about their training, they have taken a different tack - they are offering advice. To quote from the site, "We thoroughly entertain ourselves with our own problems and our own opinions, now just imagine adding OTHER people's relationship - sex life - biking issues/questions?"

I know what you're thinking, "How could two guys who are barely out of their teenage years offer advice?" I think you're missing the point. No offense to either of them, but I'm not going to follow their advice, for the aforementioned reason. However, I think it will be an interesting time suck for me between deadlines and I've added them to my list of sites. It also beats the hell out of trying to decipher Ivan Basso's tweets. I'm just hoping they have the energy to continue to dispense advice on crucial topics as how to deal with a zombie apocalypse.

Also showing some activity off the bike is another BMC rider, Manuel Quinziato. That guy has hit Twitter with full force to the point of asking, "Tell me if I'm tweeting too much! Actually after training I haven't much to do!" Let me pitch an idea to his younger BMC teammates - get Quinziato involved in the site. I'm going to use a stereotype, but as an Italian I'm sure Quinziato has plenty of love advice. At least that's what I've heard about them.

Gilbert hasn't been the only rider winning awards. Mark Cavendish scored some hardware from the Queen of England - the "services to British cycling" medal. For those not familiar, it's star shaped and garish enough that it would go with any of Elton John's outfit. The Queen of England presents the MBE (I think that's an acronym for More Bling of Elton's) to Olympic medalists, however the Isle of Mann rider earned his by becoming the road world champion. And let's face it, there was a lot of moaning from other countries on why they didn't score the victory (I'm looking at you Italy). But no other nation did such a great job leading out their rider and was so single-mindedly focused than the British.

While no awards have been given out yet, I fully expect that the new Andy and Frank Schleck movie, "The Road Uphill" to get the nod at the upcoming Luxembourg independent film festival or whatever they have over there. This movie is a documentary that follows the Leopard-Trek brothers as they contest the 2011 Tour de France.

The film's producer told Cyclingnews that it's an, "intimate cinematic portrait of two brothers and a team who are under pressure to live up to the expectations of their country." The always funny @Dwuori on twitter said he had heard that the movie starts off fast, but ends slow. I'm hoping that Cavendish includes this into his rotation of DVDs instead of "The Human Centipede" which he subjected his teammates to recently. Mark, don't you know that movie was banned from England for a reason?! And you just won the MBE from the Queen too! In Cavendish's defense perhaps he thought it was a movie demonstrating the perfect leadout.

Anyways, the trailer looks interesting and I for one will try and score a copy. But I guess I need a copy that plays in American DVD players. Well forget that idea - I guess I'll check out why Cav watched "The Human Centipede."

Finally, I have to comment on the team training camps that are in full swing. As you know Saxo Bank's Bjarne Riis has made survival-style training camps en vogue and every year it seems like each team has to out-do the other. QuickStep did a blindfolded march in the forest. That's not too impressive, but I bet they're thinking that the chance of doing some season ending damage to their riders while walking through the Belgium wilderness is the smarter choice. Wimpier, but smarter.

But leave it to Riis to step it up a notch. He threw his best general classification rider out of an airplane! Sure Alberto Contador was strapped to an experienced skydiver, but come on! Having your Golden Calf leap from a plane to build loyalty? How about he close his eyes and fall backwards, trusting that a teammate will catch him? At worse if Contador gets dropped he gets a knot on his head.

Sure skydiving is impressive, but all joking aside, it's fairly safe. The exercise that really impressed me was at the Accent.Jobs - Verandas Willems team camp. Other than the usual medical check-ups the management dropped their riders off for an evening stroll in the Belgian sewers. Again, I'm not sure how this builds team bonding. The only thing this drill builds is an increased chance for someone contracting hepatitis C.

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