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Vaughn's Excellent Adventure: T-Mobile Training Camp Part 1
 
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 12/17/2002
Vaughn's Excellent Adventure: T-Mobile Training Camp Part 1
 

T-Mobile Training Camp - Tucson, Arizona
21 - 24 November 2002

Introduction

Some days you just have to thank the cycling gods for sending a tailwind your way or giving you that extra bit of energy to complete a course. It wasn't my birthday and it wasn't Christmas, but even old road dogs get lucky sometimes. So I was pretty excited when I got the invitation to go to the T-Mobile Fall Camp.

I mean, bikes, beautiful pro womens riders, desert and warm weather...did I mention the good looking women pro riders?

Dotsie Cowden

Photo courtesy of Westward Look Resort
So I was off to Tucson, Arizona, to meet the "other" Telekom team - the American pro women's team sponsored by T-Mobile USA, a subsidiary of the same Deutsche Telekom that supports Telekom Div I mens team -  who are always a factor in the European racing circuit.

T-Mobile Team is an extension of USA Cycling's vision to create a long term project establishing the support and environment for American women cyclists to excel at international elite competitions. The accent is on development and to provide the best support through coaching, training and sports science; and to gain exposure and experience at international world class competitions. It is a bold new strategy in which commercial sponsors, USA cycling and a grant from the USA Olympic committee have the purpose of bringing home the gold.

The sole title sponsor, T-Mobile USA Inc., is a member of the T-Mobile International Group, the mobile telecommunications subsidiary of Deutsche Telecom (NYSE: DT), leading global provider of wireless voice and data services. Using the latest digital technology, T-Mobile operates a nationwide highspeed wireless data network and has the largest and fastest growing network Of "Wi-Fi" wireless broadband which can be accessed at at over 2000 "Hot Spots" such as Starbucks, Borders, and selected airlines lounges.

The digital wireless revolution has arrived and T-Mobile is in the fore front of delivery of the latest technology which will make it possible use all the features of the internet through live wireless technology. If you're interested in finding more about their services you can go to T-Mobile. Or you could do as Daily Peloton team member Jaime Nichols did after the announcement of the T-Mobile team, and switch your cell phone service to a company that supports cycling.

You may have noticed the TV commercials with Catherine Zeta Jones advertising the T-Mobile message internationally: "Get More from Life." Honestly, who better than a pro women's cycling team to promote such a positive message?

The 2003 team includes last year's members Amber Neben, Dotsie Cowden, Kim Anderson, Katrina Berger, Mari Holden, Dede Demet Barry. Joining the squad are Kristin Armstrong, Kimberly Bruckner, Stacey Peters, and 'le enfant terrible' of the team, Sarah Hammer. More on the ladies' palmares in a minute.

The Training Camp

Thursday

Photo courtesy of Westward Look Resort
The camp was held at the Westward Look Resort nestled in the Sonoran Desert foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, which rise to 9000 feet to the north of the resort.

Tucson, known for its warm and sunny winters, is a perfect place for cyclists to train and ride during that season. This weekend in November was also the Tour of Tucson, a 108 mile open race to raise money for charity, taking place with over 6000 riders! Tucson is a cycling town!

Due to a late flight, I arrived late at the Westward Look, so before hitting the sack I arranged for a wake up call for the morning carb buffet and the morning ride.

Friday

Five hours of sleep, six cups of coffee, breakfast and off on a seventy mile group ride to the Desert Museum in the hills outside of Tucson. Over breakfast I met Jim Miller, T-Mobile's Directeur Sportif. A retired pro rider and founder of Peak to Peak Training Systems, Jim is very happy with the assembled team and is looking forward to a winning season. He is especially excited by his new team members, who will be great additions to his already strong team, filling out the disciplines essential for the international races they will be competing in.  In Jim's words, "The girls are so willing to work hard, to win it is a pleasure to coach them." This year's schedule includes early spring races in Europe and the Tour de Feminine (see schedule below).

Herwig Reus, Sports Manager of T-Mobile, mentioned his plans to see that the team is supported at the highest level so they can succeed. Coming from Team Telekom, Herwig is no stranger to the needs and demands of a successful pro team.

Herwig Reus. Photo by Jeff Tse

Carb loading done, I went down to the bike area and handed over my antique Campy pedals (circa 1961) with Christophe Clips and leather straps to the T-Mobile Mechanic Mike Pitts who said, "Geez you almost never see these any more!" Mike quickly set me up on a Cannondale Caad 7. Clipping in, someone asked me what brand my leather shoes were.

I am certain they are Italian but long ago the name disappeared somewhere along the road. Antiquity aside, I mounted the bike to do a few rounds in the parking lot to warm up - I kept reaching for the shift levers on the down tube only to find nothing... I realise it will take a conscious effort to remember to use the Shimano shifters built into the brake handles.

We assemble in the parking lot, fifty riders dressed in the new, good looking pink and black T-Mobile kit. We are strong, fearless and ahem, dressed in pink. The ride will split in two groups. The pros and the brave will lead off. I say brave because I have seen some of these ladies race; keeping up with them on an "easy ride" will be anything but easy - these girls can fly.

Photo by Jeff Tse. Click for larger image

The second group, the "humble, take it easy riders" or more correctly, the "laughing group," will follow. I of course miss the start and charge off the hill chasing the second group. Oops, I follow the rider in front of me and make a left when we should have gone right! Thank God it's downhill. We chase to catch on to the end of the Pink Train as it speeds over the rolling terrain of North Tucson, heading west toward the local mountains.

Photo Courtesy of T-Mobile

A year off the bike due to a freeway rear-ender and back treatments hasn't helped my conditioning. It feels good to be on the bike again; my legs feel strong as we leave the city limits. Gradually the pace builds, I am riding and chatting with Scott Montgomery of Cannondale. A small rise ahead and Scott announces he is going up front. He effortlessly passes rider after rider and disappears over the rise. That boy can ride! My legs still feel good... a hill looms, a left turn - hey! Not a hill - a mountain. My good legs and the excitement of being on the bike soon meet head-on with my aerobic threshold, or should I say lack thereof. Gasp, I am off the seat, I am swaying like a pro rider bonking on the Tourmalet but the hill ahead is nothing, a pimple in the foothills of the Alps... my lungs feel like someone used a heat gun to dry them out.

I pull off the road to catch my breath as I watch the blur of the riders, a pink cloud, steadily disappear in the distance. My attention is drawn to what appears to be a large white cloud with wheels crunching on the roadside gravel. An angel appears out of the mist and asks, "Are you ok?"

"Oh sure," I gasp, "give me a minute and I'll be just fine." I focus, and have the pleasure of meeting one of the soigneurs of the team, Michelle Jacques. I wonder if pro riders consider their soigneurs as guardian angels?

Reason eventually wins over my desire to ride on, and I climb in the team van which temporarily functions as the broom wagon... I remember the words of spoken by Clint Eastwood in one of the Dirty Harry movies, " A man has to know his limits." For the moment I believe I have found mine, so I wisely join Michelle in the team van. Michelle is looking forward to the new season, and the pre-season testing and training with the team in the USA Cycling training center. The care and help she gave me proves that T-Mobile is in good hands. Thanks, Michelle.

Photo by Jeff Tse. Click for larger image

We ride along until we catch the team riding together on the long uphill approach to the museum Michelle cranks up the radio for the riders they all smile and cheer. They are all riding uphill in the saddle and in spite of thirty some miles seem as fresh as at the start of the ride. At the museum we split again into two groups the Team will finish the ride with another thousand feet of climbing and the 35 mile return. The remainder of riders a mix of Media and Sponsor Representatives take the bus back to the Westward Look for a pasta buffet and a rest.

That afternoon I chat with Stacey Peters as she finishes her training ride. The chat revolves around how women's racing differs in the USA and Europe. Stacey's viewpoint is that the women's teams in Europe have had a higher level of support so that the riders can devote all their attention to training and racing. Stacey makes the point that if there were more women's teams in North America like Saturn, RONA and now T-Mobile, where the women could devote themselves to training and racing full time, it would translate into victories on the international scene. This is, after all, the European model.

I heartily agree with Stacey's assessment -  the talent is here and T-Mobile raises the bar for pro women's racing in the USA. It is going to be an exciting season this year.

That afternoon I sat and watched as equipment was distributed to the ladies as they bantered amongst themselves. I could see that they would be a cohesive unit in races as they enjoyed each other's company and were in high spirits. Each is looking forward to getting home and resuming training. I ran into Dede Barry and asked how Michael Barry (USPS) is doing after his accident in the Vuelta. Dede said Michael is fine and recovering well, which is great to hear. We will enjoy following both the Barrys' adventures this year.

I went to the pasta buffet and met Bob Stapleton, Vice Chairman of T-Mobile Corp. Bob is one of the founders of Voice Stream, which merged with Telekom to form the international T-Mobile. An active rider and fan himself, he was instrumental in the creation of the new team. He acquitted himself well on the day's ride, finishing with the main group on the ride to the museum.

Bob Stapleton and Zap Espinoza of
Mountain Bike Magazine

Bob was demonstrating some of the new devices available through T-Mobile. The "Pocket PC" has features that allow you to surf the net (to the Daily Peloton, of course), send and receive emails, has an organizer for your calendar, contacts, task list and files and functions as a phone with or without a hands-free headset.

The most popular device was the new "T-Mobile Sidekick" which is a wireless, all-in-one device that combines a full featured mobile phone with a variety of data communication applications including a web browser, keyboard, e-mail, instant messaging, personal management features, 500 phone numbers, games and a digital camera accessory. The camera accessory is able to take a digital photo and send it via email. Imagine the possiblilities!

We kidded the riders that they could take it to the races and send us digital photos of the race in progress or photo themselves as they crossed the finish line. This item was so popular that it had to be pried from the hands of those who had the use of one during the camp.

Of interest, the media invitations included all of the major cycling press but also included Sue Berliner of Sweat magazine, Sal Ruibal of USA Today, Glamour Senior Editor Lauren Naverson, Michelle Basta Boubion of Her's Magazine, Kirsten Begg, a freelancer who writes for Procycling Magazine. [We originally said Kirsten wrote for Muscle & Fitness but that was incorrect.] I personally can't wait to see a Fashion Spread in Glamour, or Her's magazine showing the attractive ladies of T-Mobile decked out in the latest fashions on and off the bike. It's time for the women's pro racing to get the attention it deserves; it shows the forward thinking of the T-Mobile management and USA Cycling to include them. So a "heads up" to all to watch the magazine racks for the ladies - attention like this could spur more people to join us all on the roads and single track as cycling continues to grow spurred by the successes of American riders on the European circuit, especially Lance Armstrong and US Postal team in the Tour de France. Coverage in major international magazines can only help the exposure of the Sport and increase the ranks of riders and fans alike around the world.  If we're lucky that will include many more women at the races in the future; already women's cycling has experienced its largest growth in the past year.


Standing L-R: Dotsie, Katrina, Stacey
On bikes L-R: Amber, Kristin

The Sponsors/Partners presentation

T-Mobile's Herwig Reus opened the meeting with a smile, and stated that in keeping with the highest level of support they wanted for the team, each of the equipment sponsors were chosen to provide world class equipment to the team.

Cannondale: The team will be riding the Caad 7, an improved and lighter frame over last years model. Team Mobile will ride the same bike that 7Up/Nutrafig uses on the USA Pro Circuit and that Saeco will ride, featuring double-butted proprietary Optimo tubing, wishbone seat stays, machined head tube and bottom bracket, and lightweight Hollowgram crankset. Since 1997 Saeco using Cannondale bikes can boast 23 Giro stage wins, two Italian championships and numerous other road races in Europe. I think we can be assured the team will be happy with the Caad 7 bike and add more victories to the Cannondale tally.

Kristin's bike. Photo by Jeff Tse. Click for larger image

Time will provide the full Carbon Fork for the bike to complete the frame. Developed and tested with Cannondale.

Shimano will provide the drive train components and brakes. The full line of Dura-Ace has been chosen. T-Mobile will be one of five pro teams that Shimano will be receiving feedback from on their equipment this year, with an eye to the future for improvements.

Mavic will provide wheels, the Kyserium SSC SL which uses Zicral spokes, interspoke milling to reduce the weight of the wheel by 40 grams, Mavics lightest and fastest wheels.

SRM Power Measurement technology will be used in each of the team members training to assess their progress in training cycles. This is the first time that SRM has sponsored a Pro Team. SRM (Schoberer Rad Messtechnik ) started in 1986 their goal has been to develop the best tools for training. The SRM component makes your bike an ergometer to measure wattage and output; its great advantage is that it creates an objective standard of measure of power and progress in training.

Trialtir/Biemme/Limar, an Italian company, will provide competition clothing and helmets. Trialtir is the distributor of both Biemme Clothing and Limar Helmets made in Italia.

Fi'zi:k will provide the saddles which will be the newer models specifically designed for women riders. The saddles are designed in the USA and handmade in Italy.

Cat Eye, the bicycle electronics company, will provide the the heart rate monitors, on board computers and lighting systems for the team.

Clif Bar, one of the most well known and leading energy bar manufacturers, will supply the girls with enery bars including the Luna bars made specifically for the nutritional needs of women in mind. Personally, the Luna bars are one of my favorite energy bars, especially the key lime bar... and no jokes out there, eh?

Upon completion of the presentations we are bussed to McMahon's Steak house for dinner. My dinner companions at the table are: Jim Miller, T-Mobile D.S., the lovely ladies Deborah Engen (communications Director of USA Cycling), Sue Berliner (Publisher of Arizona's Sweat Magazine) and Glamor Magazine editor Lauren Naverson, as well as Chris Clinton (Mavic Wheels) and Adrian Montgomery (Cannondale Dir. Promotions). Hot topics are the expansion of womens pro racing, a redesign of the USA Cycling website and tomorrow's Tour de Tucson.

Jim Miller comments on the difference in coaching women and men teams. To illustrate his point he tells of his first experience with his team, coming upon them when they took a "natural break" in a race in Belgium. Jim explains that unlike the men, who are likely to break off singly and take the "break," women approach it differently. They tend to stop in groups when the need arises, toss their bikes to the road and run into the bushes. The first time this happened, he came upon bikes scattered on the road - an immediate shock ran through him that a disastrous crash had occurred... the anticipation of injury...

Jumping out of the team car, he ran to the bikes, only to realise that the girls were on a "natural break" when he saw a few heads popping out of the bushes alongside the road. Covering his eyes he hurriedly returned to the car, a bit embarrassed by his discovery. I knew what Jim meant as I had come across the same scene earlier that day following the training ride. Typical of my experience with the members of the cycling community, each of my companions had a great sense of humor and we all had a great time over dinner.

Back to my room at 11pm with a 5 o'clock wake up call for the Tour de Tucson tomorrow.

To be continued...

 
Related Articles
An Interview of Scott Montgomery: Cannondale
Vaughn's Excellent Adventure: T-Mobile Training Camp Part 2

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