Back in the Professional Saddle Again

Carlsbad, California

I can’t believe I’m back at ‘camp’. For anyone who reads my posts, you’ll assume I’m out in the desert with Peter sleeping under a blanket of stars, or on some crazy bike tour bush camping. Those things are certainly my cup of camping tea and this is definitely not that kind of camp. The camp I’m at is one foreign and all but forgotten in my camping radar. I’m at ‘team camp’ for a pro cycling team. Specifically, I’m here in Carlsbad, California at the Specialized-lululemon Team camp.

This is the first time in a decade I’ve been in this environment. I have to admit I was nervous before spanning the continent for six hours from Montreal a few days ago. The cycling team camp thing was high on my list of ‘I won’t have to do that again!’ after I quit being a pro cyclist back in 2002. Yes, this was right up there with the grueling low walks in speed skating. Although the latter I will NEVER do again. But the former, well, here I am and I’m actually loving it.

Coastal California could not be more of a contrast to the winter I left behind in Quebec. An all-women’s cycling team could not contrast that of a mixed team, men and women, either. Memories stored in my bank of team camp experiences are those of a big, massive group of athletes. However good the intentions, the men were definitely the focus and the women, though cared about, were along for the ride so to say. We benefitted from the men’s popularity in the sport but it was never all about the girls.

Until here. Until now.

We are here with the structure and much of the staff of the powerhouse HTC-Highroad machine that stopped turning last season. That well-oiled machine is still rolling along with us. But now, it’s all about the girls. The energy here is something unique. It is a distinctly feminine vibe that gels so well with lululemon and the devotion of Specialized to making sure the women’s world of cycling is well fueled and continues to develop under their leadership and support. In fact, every single person and company involved is truly excited about this team. We had a presentation from Ian at Hed. wheels last night that doubled as a stand-up comedy set. Joking aside, he explained just how thrilled the company was to build with care the team wheels, how they believe in us and feel a part of our success.

Yes, the excitement is something sponsors bring to projects. This is not unusual. The energy is different here, though. It’s hard to put my finger on the pulse of what it is, and all I can really say is it’s something magical. This is a labor of love and it’s felt in every single interaction with those supporting us, not to mention those intimately involved in running the team.

Everyone believes that women’s cycling is going to a whole new level. They believe that we, the thirteen athletes assembled here, from most corners of the globe, are going to take it there. The vision of lululemon of fostering good energy in giving back, the truly humanist approach they have with every element of the company makes you not only want to think outside of the box, it shows how ridiculous it is not to.

And the team….the girls….I had this feeling on Monday when, at a coffee stop during a coastal ride with a few of my new teammates, I had this thought. I looked over at Ina Teutenburg and Ellen Van Dijk and thought ‘I can’t believe I’m racing with these girls!!‘

Yes, even after all these years, someone like me can feel like a kid again. A kid, riding her bike, being a part of something special that has all the potential in the world. That I get to be a part of making these dreams and potential into the reality of success makes me giddy.

This the just the beginning. I cannot wait to see where we go. More importantly, I cannot wait to see how we do what we do. That is where the magic lies.

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