Get a bunch of large athletic men together, put them in a competitive environment and you got yourself a testosterone fueled freight train. That train, consisting of the men’s speed group of the US Ski Team, recently ravaged the roads of Napa, California on bikes, riding between 60 and 100 miles day, sleeping on the beach and eating an incredible amount of food.
“It was a chance to kind of shed the winter coat and get working so that we can train harder and have more power when it gets closer to race time,” said Marco Sullivan. “In five days we covered 400 miles on road bikes, camping on the coast on the beach every night. It was simple living for sure” Get up, put the shorts on and start riding. Ride all day, stop for lunch, get into camp at night and set up tents and each as much as we could.”
Speed coach Tommy Eckfeldt was the trip organizer said the “Tour d’Cali” originated as a way to drive the conditioning program in the preparation period and to simply travel it was tacked on to the end of an on-snow camp at Mammoth.
“It was great fun once we were able to start riding as a group. The last day heading into Napa from the coast they averaged around 28 to 30 mph. These are back roads with a 50mph speed limit. Cars were having trouble passing us on the downhills.”
Eckfeldt said the narrow roads necessitated a lot of single file riding, but outside from the expected flat tires and a broken derailleur, there weren’t many problems. “We were pretty well prepared for the minor stuff,” he said, and they simply sought out a bike shop when they ran into more complex problems.
They ran into one day of poor weather and had the opportunity to cool down (recovery) in the ocean. “You couldn’t have asked for a better situation,” he said.
“The whole idea was great,” said Andrew Weibrecht. “It gave us something to focus on and train for, and then the actual trip was really good, basically hammering Napa and up and down the coast. There were no stragglers. It definitely schooled the competitive vibe in a good way. It was a great way to really kick off the summer training, shocking the system like that.”
Weibrecht said the bulk of his riding before this trip had been shorter rides, ones, he said, he had been able to complete essentially using his quad muscles. The longer rides of the Tour d’ Cali meant using a whole new set of muscles. “I pulled in ways I never pulled before,” he said. “It was cool to know you can do something like that, meet a challenge like that.”
“We put together some decent rides,” said Eckfeldt. “camped at national park sites, set up tents, had bonfires and made good time.”
About the only thing that slowed the train up was a work zone woman holding a stop sign.
“Yeah we were on a 101mile leg, coming down a hill and it turned into a construction lane,” said Eckfeldt. We waited about 20 minutes and we had been averaging 27mph up to that point.”
Eckfeldt said Steven Nyman was at the front of the pack more often than not. “An incredible motor and horsepower,” adding that Weibrecht spent plenty of time among the leaders and that Travis Ganong was right up there as well.
“It was hard work for sure,” said Sullivan, “but having all the guys there made a team bonding thing as well. Nyman was our workhorse, he was at the head of the pack a lot, but we got into some good biking strategy, taking turns at the lead. We thought we were pretty cool.”
The bonfire sessions, after dinner, didn’t usually last very long.
“We camped pretty much on the cliffs,” said Weibrecht, “rode up the coast, looped through the Redwoods. We were definitely blitzed by the end of the day. About 8pm guys started nodding off. The biggest obstacle was falling asleep when it was totally sunny.”
With a couple of chase vehicles, conditioning personnel and a nutritionist on hand, the team had little to worry about but keeping the train running over the rolling hills of Napa. – Hank McKee
Photos by Steven Nyman