The Specialized Lululemon team heading South from Carlsbad, CA | © VeloDramatic
Carlsbad sits on the shore of the Pacific 30 miles North of San Diego and a stones throw from the sprawling marine base at Camp Pendleton. The requisite coastal confluence of hotels, condos, surf shops, galleries, and restaurants isn't much to look at but then the real inspiration is West out over the Pacific to where the sun bids a crimson farewell each evening.
I've been here for a week photographing the new Specialized Lululemon womens team which survived the puzzling demise of the greater HTC mission. I've been getting to know a wonderful group of riders from the experienced Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, who hopes to add an Olympic Gold in this her final year of competition, to the wide-eyed enthusiasm of novice pro Loren Rowney.
The Specialized Lululemon team cresting a Carlsbad roller | © VeloDramatic
A few of the girls are fighting colds as they enter the second half of a spirited two-week camp. Those who are healthy completed back to back 160 and 200 km days, building that all-important training base and forging the bonds of friendship and trust that will see them through a long 2012 campaign.
There's a lot to like in the mix of talent and personality on this team. Evelyn Stevens, the reigning U.S. TT champ and dynamo meshes well with the irrepressible Ally Stacher (who may have the longest legs on the planet). Former world TT champ Amber Neben projects a calm professionalism alongside the fun-loving, ready-to-cause-havoc-and-live-to-blog-about-it Chloe Hosking. My fellow Canadian and Olympic heroine Clara Hughes is an inspired addition by team director Kristy Scrymgeour. Clara's instinct for winning and making things happen can't help but improve the team. Expect the unexpected and Clara to drop the hammer more than once this season especially if the racing lacks panache.
Chloe, Lisa and Trixi never pass up a chance to race | © VeloDramatic
The German contingent of IYT and Charlotte Becker is bolstered with the addition of compatriots Trixi Worrack and Lisa Brennauer. Charlotte (Lotta), a former German National Road champ will be policing the peloton before returning to her job as a German police officer when her cycling is complete (and riding her beloved horses again). It doesn't take much coaxing to bring out a mischievous smile in Trixi (who can eat like a wood chipper after a long ride) or an explosive laugh from doe-eyed Lisa Brennaeur. Just ask them to take part in a foot race on the beach and have Chloe leave the blocks early (and purposely I might add).
British sprinter Katie Colclough has one of the best game faces I've ever seen. A porcelain beauty stare that hides the slightest hint of suffering or pain. She blasted down the road side-by-side with Ina all the while looking like she was sitting for a portrait. I've got a feeling we will see some good road results coming from this track star.
Yesterday I watched Ellen Van Dijk spend 15 minutes adjusting her bars a total of 1mm. Ellen likes precision... after completing today's 200 km she blasted three circuits around the hotel parking lot to ensure she logged an exact 6 hrs 30 minutes on the bike. She clicked her Garmin and smiled, mission accomplished. Emilia Fahlin may look like a swan, but the National Champions stripes tell a harder story of power and speed. Make no doubt, under the helmet, behind the shades and the glinting diamond studs she's thinking about laying a beating on you
And then there's Ina. As they say "She's worth the price of admission". Dubbed the "worst boy in the neighborhood" as a kid, Ina's the irresistible force on the team, always ready with a great story, a cutting remark and the best comeback lines. When she laughs she throws her head back and lets loose a volley of sound which invariably sets everyone else on the team off. While they're joining in, Ina's already got the next line cued up... and so it goes. At dinner Clara sits across the table enjoying it all and says repeatedly "Oh, Ina!"
While the team is stellar I've been generally unimpressed with the roads down here. Too much traffic. With the exception of Sleeping Indian Road we've found little pavement I'd ever choose to ride (assuming this back ever lets me do some real riding again, yes it's still bad). Tomorrow, weather permitting, we're hoping to shoot a stretch of quiet road that Aaron Vogel and Dave Christensen scouted today. Fingers crossed it will likely be my last day with the girls before heading home to San Jose. I hope our paths cross again this season; it's been a lot of fun.