By Bryan Jew, VeloNews Senior Writer
When the Mercury camp kicked off in Woodland Hills, California, last Monday, there were some big changes from years past. One big change was the move from team director John Wordin’s old house in West Hills to his spacious new digs. No longer does Wordin’s dining room serve as the team’s office, and gone are the days of the huge semi-trailer parked outside of his house, with mechanics laboring away in his garage.
Team mechanics did most of the work in building the new garage-warehouse, and the concrete around the facility was poured just days before the start of training camp last week, but everything is up and running now.
For the mechanics, the 1500-square-foot building provides ample storage and work space. That came in handy this week as the 26 professional men, five amateurs, and the nine-woman AutoTrader.com team all were based out of the new facilities.
With every rider bringing their own bike to camp, and then needing to get set up on their new rig for the season, it made for a lot of work for the six mechanics. “We had 50-plus bikes on the floor at any one time,” said head mechanic John Sessa, who along with the other mechanics put in a string of 12-hour days to build up bikes for 40 riders.
Meanwhile, the ever-growing staff has its offices in a converted garage of about 800 square feet, apart from Wordin’s new two-story home. “I needed that separation between my private life and my professional life,” he said.
Aside from the new facilities, the biggest change is just the much bigger numbers, and the infusion of some European blood into the professional men’s squad. Euros like Peter Van Petegem, Geert Van Bondt, Wim Vansevenant, Leon Van Bon and Niklas Axelsson, and directeurs sportifs Alain Gallopin and Johan Lammerts have added some international flavor to the mix, but Wordin said that won’t change the character of the team.
“It’s a good group of guys,” said Wordin. “We’ve added guys from all different programs … Française des Jeux, Farm Frites, Rabobank … and mixed them in with all the Americans and chaotic Australians and John Wordin guys … it’s the same feel.”
While the men continue through Wednesday, the AutoTrader.com women’s team broke camp on Friday, with confidence running high for the upcoming season. Along with new-look jerseys comes a new look team, with additions including Susy Pryde – reunited with team director Mike Neel – Sarah Ulmer, Karen Dunne, Kim Smith and Annie Gariepy.
“Every rider on the team is a rider who I’ve always wanted to race with,” said team co-captain Julie Young. “Susy, Sarah, Annie … I have such great respect for everyone.”
Look for more coverage of the Mercury and AutoTrader.com camps in next month’s issue of VeloNews.