By Andrew Hood
Slipstream-Chipotle’s victory in Saturday’s team time trial began weeks ago.
The building blocks of the team’s historic victory that put Christian Vande Velde as the first American in the pink jersey in 20 years started with the team’s meticulous planning and execution.
Just days after the Ardennes classics, the team gathered in its European base in Girona, Spain, to work on the time trial rotations and technique.
Sport directors Matt White and Johnny Weltz found similar roads to mimic the course and the team spent five days perfecting everything for Saturday’s big ride.
“We’ve been working and preparing for this time trial for more than a week,” said team captain David Millar. “Everything went perfectly. We just had to deliver on the day because everything else was prepared well in advance. It’s something that this team does very well.”
In Girona, the team underwent two full days of team time trial training, one day of road training, a rest day and then another day of riding behind scooters to increase the leg speed to replicate the stage.
The team got its first peek at the course on Saturday morning. They rode slowly over the sometimes narrow, bumpy course to visualize the route and then disappeared into the team bus for the final team meeting.
The team discussed trying to select one specific rider to lead the team across the line, but sport director White squashed the notion and insisted that the team ride to win.
When the riders stepped out of the team bus, the team’s trainer Dr. Allen Lim timed it perfectly and riders came out in waves. Last out were Millar, Vande Velde and Dave Zabriskie.
A half dozen ventilation fans were set up to push away exhaust and create a stream of fresh air to move into the area where the riders were doing their warm-ups. Lim said that the VO2-max can be decreased by 2 to 3 percent by the carbon monoxide coming from the idling team buses.
Then Lim pulled out his secret weapon: white vests filled with ice that riders donned to keep their core temperature low and allow the legs to warm up without overcooking their body temperature.
“We warmed up with ice vests, which are not fun to warm up with,” Vande Velde said. “Whether or not that was the finishing touch, that just shows that we’ve done everything in our power to do our best today.”
Slipstream’s pink jersey was in the details.