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Iconic scenery, atypical weather: Inside DNA Pro Cycling’s Arizona team training camp and Valley of the Sun stage race

“We race in it so we have to train in it," said team rider Daphne Karagianis

The DNA Pro Cycling team has just wrapped up an 11-day pre-season training camp in Phoenix, Arizona. Expecting a warm welcome in one of the hottest climates in the country in the Sonoran Desert, they were instead met with rain, wind, and cold weather. The harsh conditions bode well for DNA’s early-season racing block next month in northern France and Belgium.

“Camp was a great success,” said team director Catherine Fegan-Kim. “It was a great opportunity for the squad to bond, learn each other’s strengths, goals and trust each other’s wheels. We had some character-building weather where the riders proved their will to ride in tough conditions.”

In between wet weather and focused training, the squad participated in the Valley of the Sun stage race. The event has long been part of USA Cycling’s Junior Development series and is a favorite among domestic pro teams as a way to stretch their legs after returning from the off-season.

The race went well for the UCI Women’s Continental squad: DNA Pro Cycling took a close second in the road race with Colombian national road champion Diana Peñuela behind Marlies Mejias (Virginia’s Blue Ridge Twenty24) and a win in the criterium with new addition, Olivia Cummins.

“We developed a lot of cohesion, practiced tactics and tested strategies,” Fegan-Kim added. “VOS had four UCI women’s continental teams competing, so this was a great way to start building for this season.”

Young sprinting talent Sarah Van Dam and Olivia Cummins are strong U23 additions after Canadian Maggie Coles-Lyster departed to race full-time in Europe this season. Cummins won the sprint classification at the Redlands Bicycles Classic last season, and Van Dam has numerous track accolades to her palmarès, including first in the Individual Pursuit at the 2022 Canadian Track National Championships.

Other notable additions include Shayna Powless, Holly Breck, Harriet Owen, and Rachel Langdon.

“Coming into team camp, I was nervous and excited to meet and ride with everyone,” Cummins said. “After the first couple days of training, I already felt welcomed and super comfortable. I was definitely nervous when I was named the designated sprinter for the VOS crit day.

“Being the youngest rider and my first year on the team, I was worried about not performing and letting my teammates down. But, they showed so much trust and belief in me and my abilities, I was so glad to have been able to bring it home in the end.”

Leading the charge for the team in 2023 are Peñuela and Mexican national time trial champion, Anet Barrera.

“It was so cold training in the rain, after expecting warm weather,” Barrera said after spending much of the off-season training at home in Mexico. “But I think it was a great opportunity for our teammates to bond. The new girls are so strong; I look forward to racing alongside them and the season ahead.”

First on DNA’s race calendar will be a European racing block in Belgium and France before returning for a block in North America that includes many of the American Criterium Cup events, as well as domestic stage races including Tour of the Gila and the Joe Martin Stage Race.

The team also plans to return to the Vuelta a Colombia and Tour Cycliste Feminin International de L’Ardeche.