I am in the other endurance capital of North America: Agoura Hills, California. I’ll bet you didn’t know that about Agoura Hills. I am writing this because America’s other other endurance capital, Boulder, has a wifi in every restaurant in town. Not so the San Fernando Valley. Its restaurants are largely wirelessless.
So instead of wading through emails promising to shrink my mortgage and grow my esteem, I’m suffering from restless leg syndrome which has spread to the rest of my body. I’m in a bad restaurant with slow service, therefore I type.
I just got out of the Team CSC press conference. Not many of us were there covering it giving me, in theory, a lot of time with the riders. But the 30 or so team members seemed pretty restless also, so I got out of there and let them escape as well.
I hung with Jens Voigt (pictured) a bit because it is my judgment that if you were going to hang with anyone on this team, this is the guy. Other cyclists have homes on the Cote d’Azur, or the Amalfi Coast, or oceanic Spain. Jens wants to win that World Cup race in Hamburg because it’s somewhat close to his hometown in the windswept flats facing the Baltic Sea. But he doesn't live there anymore. Jens lives in Berlin. Berliners think London and New York are the two places worth getting on a plane for, otherwise, no need to leave.
With Jens it’s about honor and passion. He doesn’t want to do a triathlon. But he likes to run. “I run with passion — I do everything with passion.” He’s no good at running, he says, and that’s because he runs with passion. We all know he cycles with passion. But few good runners do it off of passion. Good runners do it off making themselves quiet and economical. Paula Radcliffe runs with passion. Not too many of those.
I arrived at this press conference early so that I could ride for two hours in the same Santa Monica Mountains these CSC boys have been riding for the past two weeks. As I was heading out four of the younger B-Teamers were taking off as well, on their Soloist Carbons. Their Bell Sweeps they left up on the hotel room. They finished two hours later, just as I finished my ride wearing my own Bell Sweep. I badly wanted to ask in the press conference, What is it you know that the rest of us don’t? You got some new stats on crashing with and without helmets? Do Danes have stronger chins — you take a better punch from the asphalt?
Or is it that you know how to fall and not hurt your heads? Which I didn’t ask because Nikki Sörenson fell badly on my favorite of this area’s climbs — Yerba Buena — and required significant surgery. I held my tongue. Still, if for no other reason than you are hosted by a country that considers it very bad form not to wear helmets while riding…
Bjarne Riis (pictured, with Fabian Cancellara at his elbow) said this was the best Winter camp his team had ever had. Better than Solvang? Yes. Better than the South of France and Mallorca and all of that? Yes, the best. Very good climbs. And the weather. No shit. Seventy-five and eighty degrees every day in late Jan and early Feb. This is one righteous example of a payoff of Global Warming Red Staters talk about over in the Lavender Room.
So I was talking to the CSC guy, and I don’t mean the team guy, I mean a guy from CSC, the company, who thinks a derailleur is that thing that makes a train go off its tracks. He says that the new president of this company with 92,000 employees says, "We’re an IT company. Where’s the IT in this deal? Please don’t tell me it’s just our name on a jersey?" So they develop a way to track the riders at the race. They launch it at Tour of California last year, and we at home see where the riders are all the time using a Google Map interface. And the U.S. Army Brass — cycling enthusiasts all — says, "That’s neat, can you also tell us where our tanks and our people and stuff are?" And pipeline makers ask, "Can you tell us where our workers are?" And mining companies ask, "Can you track our miners?"
He says CSC made its money back on the IT sponsorship of the Tour of California in six months. But last year they did it with cell phone technology. This year the transponders will use GPS technology. I love it when sponsorships pay off. Hey, doesn’t Ironman Hawaii have about 50 bike miles where the race goes quiet because of dead cell area?
The riders’ TT bikes, yes, I asked about this. Keep in mind we’ve got on the dais at this press conference the World time trial champ, the Danish TT champ, the Norwegian TT champ. Here’s the funny thing: Not one of them can tell me much about his bike set up. How many centimeters of armrest drop? What’s your saddle height? Nada. So how do you know where to put the aerobars and stuff? They set the bikes up, we ride ‘em. Few of them know what a morphological exception is. They’ve got only the faintest idea of the TT bike set-up rules. But, they’ve got great positions, so chalk one up for imposed positions. No, "How does this feel to you?" More like, This is the way you’re going to ride your TT bike — alternatively, there’s the door.
As far as I can tell, this blissful ignorance of the tools of the timed racing trade is par for the course in pro cycling. I’ve yet to find a team whose riders are students of the rules, the equipment, the position. At least with CSC somebody is in charge and understands it. But then you contrast that with Graeme Obree.
Stuart O’Grady was asked about his typical day at the camp. Well, we get up about 7:30 or 8:00, eat breakfast, they tell us what’s on for today. “Wait!” I say. “You mean they tell you the workout only right before you’re going to do it? You don’t know any sooner than the day of?” Correcto. That’s the way it works here. That’s the nice thing about an enclave — especially a well funded one. You don’t have to worry about a thing. Not your bike position. Not your workout. No cooking dinner. No doing dishes. Just ride your arse off.
Such is life in Agoura Hills which, if I’m not mistaken, is the ancestral home of Deena Kastor. I got an email just this morning by ex pro cyclist Brian Walton, of Cadence Cycling in Philly, in which he mentioned a cycling descending camp in a couple of weeks out of this same hotel the CSC team is staying at. Wow. Agoura Hills. Who knew?