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As I mentioned in my last entry, I started 2013 by DRIVING MY CAR FROM GEORGIA TO CALIFORNIA. AGAIN.
When I finally made it to Santa Rosa for Bissell training camp, I was tired of living out of a suitcase and was looking forward to unpacking for good at my base for the season in Big Bear, Calif. The team usually finishes training camp off with the Merco Classic, a four-day stage race in northern California, but they can’t start the whole roster, so a few guys always head home.
Predicting that I’d be sick of traveling by then, I volunteered to skip it, but a crash at training camp took Paddy Bevin off of the start list (don’t worry, he’s fine, and he’ll be winning Redlands stages soon enough). Since I drove to camp, I was the only guy who wouldn’t need a flight rescheduled to get to Merco, so I had to delay unpacking my bags for another few days.
Paddy won two stages at Merco last year, as well as every jersey, so I had some big shoes to fill. I managed to fill a shoe and a half, I suppose, by taking the first stage and the GC win. Nobody complained, but I’ll work on my sprint for next time.
Merco was my first race with the team. What I learned is that I don’t have to worry about anything, or even think at all. Once I was in yellow, I was basically a big, dumb animal. Director Omer Kem laid out a plan, Frank Pipp and Chris Baldwin told the guys how to execute on the bikes, and all I had to do was sit there and look pretty. Our team had the others outnumbered, and it got downright boring for me.
Just to make things interesting, I called a pee stop halfway through the final stage so that every classless rider could attack, and my teammates could get a little workout dragging me back to the front of the group. Actually, that wasn’t the point of the pee stop at all, and YOU’LL ALL PAY FOR THAT DISRESPECT, EVERY TIME THE COURSE GOES UPHILL THIS YEAR.
Ahem. Sorry about that. A new team takes getting used to off the bike as well. For example, every night, Bissell eats Thai food. I don’t know how that started, but I like it. Also, on some teams, getting even little things like spare tubes from the team to take home can be like pulling teeth. Bissell’s sponsors take good care of us, though. All I had to do was ask, and I had a bag of Vredestein tires and tubes, Chamois Butt’r, GoSoap, Optygen’s new HP supplements, and the full range of First Endurance products, so I can train and recover with the same stuff I use at races.
When I’m on the road, I bring a teapot and brew sweet tea every night, so I won’t get homesick for Athens, Ga. Jason and Emily, the team soigneurs, even picked up some tea bags for me at the grocery store (Emily is from Georgia, so she understands, and she gets a glass when I show up for my massage).
If I’m not sure what I can ask for, all I have to remember is the “Baldwin Rule.” Chris Baldwin is a team captain. He’s known for being very particular about his training, food, equipment, and everything else, and he’s optimized the ratio of race results to pain in the ass. If I want my bar tape freshened up more often than Chris, I just have to train harder than he does.
I don’t know what Chris has been up to, but I’ve been training about as hard as I can here in Big Bear. My former teammate Shawn Milne came up to keep me company, and we’ve been hitting the climbs hard and getting our blood all nice and fancy with the altitude. When a blizzard hit a couple weeks ago, we threw the snow chains on my car and drove down to San Diego for the weekend, scouting out the first two stages of the Amgen Tour of California. Thanks to a navigational error, I rode back to the house up a 4,000-foot dirt/sand/rock climb, barely fit for mountain bikes. It’s okay, though. I’ve got a Pinarello, and it soaks those bumps right up!
California is the big goal, but that doesn’t mean I’m neglecting the early season domestic stuff. I reacquainted myself with the time trial and circuit race courses in San Dimas over the weekend, and the Redlands time trial course is in Big Bear, so I’ve ridden it a few (349,578,092,384,092) times. I’ll know it like the back of my hand by the time the race starts, which may or may not overcome the fact that I’m no specialist in the TTs. Of course, I’m really hoping for another Giordana wind vest, so most importantly, I need to beat Baldwin.