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Bayern Rundfahrt
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Tales from the Peloton, February 7, 2006

Onward to victory

Based in Downingtown, PA, Victory Brewing women's professional team is part of an American phenomenon - links their to main sponsor run deep and the team becomes a part of the company's culture and appeal. And that isn't such a bad thing when your sponsor is a niche brewing company - nice! Recently the team trained around Asheville, North Carolina, where there was plenty of team bonding on and off the bike, plus some sampling of the sponsor's product - here is that training camp in the riders' words.

Day 2 - January 27, 2006

By Katharine Carroll

The Victory Brewing team
Photo ©: Anthony Gongora
(Click for larger image)

This morning we were up bright and early to knock out the rider portraits. We hiked in the cold to a remote location to stand in front of the perfect fir tree. When I say we hiked to a remote location, I meant we actually walked 50 yards from our warm cars in the Food Lion parking lot. At the risk of having Oprah yell at me for an embellished memoir, I wanted to clarify that slight exaggeration of the truth. Our wonderful photographer Tony did his best to make us look our best (endless job) as we smiled in all our favorite Victory Brewing outfits. We hurried home from the photo shoot to get ready for our team ride.

Today's ride was scheduled to be 3-3.5 hrs with a chance to "open up" our legs. Within minutes of leaving the house we were climbing up Town Mountain. enjoying an ever-improving view of Asheville as out talkative group made its way up. After stopping to meet a local paper's photographer and adding a couple layers of clothing, we began a fun, fast descent down the Blue Ridge Parkway. As we were flying down the chilly descent, I realized I've never worn that many matching layers in my entire cycling career. If you had seen our blue Victory train flying down the road, you'd agree we looked so pro.

After exiting the parkway, we divided our group of 11 into two and began doing some echelon work on the rolling pavement of Hwy. 70. After about 10 minutes of this, I began wondering what that strange burning sensation in my legs was. The off/early season can be fairly deceiving. After doing hours and hours of rides in warm, sunny weather and having so much fun on the bike cruising around to get a solid aerobic base, it is easy to think that this whole bike racing thing is a piece of cake. There's nothing like a solid 20-25 minute effort followed very closely by a 15 minute climb to remind you that training and racing at the level which we all strive for is far from easy. After that quick reintroduction to Mr. Reality, I am proud to report that Mr. Fun is still around and serving as the main motivation for this whole team.

Inside the team trailer
Photo ©: Anthony Gongora
(Click for larger image)

We made it home and shortly after our arrival 30 lbs. of chips, burritos and salsa were delivered for our quick consumption. Nic Sims, one of Specialized's finest, has been on hand here at camp to help us get our Ruby Pro's and some of the other Specialized equipment set up. He gave us a quick run down of how to properly pack and unpack our bikes to save hours of preventable headaches this summer as we bounce all over the country with our bikes in tow.

This evening some of the women cyclists in Asheville joined us at the main house of the Victory Brewing compound to sample some of the beer and mingle. I feel more confident as a Victory Brewing rider now that I have actually tried the beer. Not that I have ever been too picky about my brews, but the Golden Monkey was the perfect way to cap off another hard day at the office.

Day 3 - January 28, 2006

By Kate Sherwin

A few adjustments
Photo ©: Anthony Gongora
(Click for larger image)

After a unanimous vote last night, we pushed today's 4.5-hour ride to start at 10 am. I'm now part of the laptop club which had yet another meeting this morning over breakfast. After rolling about for an hour and a half, we hit the first climb of the day on Route 151 up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It took about 35 minutes of serious climbing to ascend to the gates. The Parkway is a beautiful highway that runs from Front Royal, VA to Cherokee, NC through the Shenandoah National Park. But what would a scenic tour down The Parkway be without a 30-second dark tunnel and a run-in with a Park Ranger. Mike, our director with an eye on everything, knew to pull over before the Ranger used his megaphone. We were told to ride single file until the end of The Parkway. The second hill of the day started out gradual and ended with a steep switchback which cracked a few of us. After that we regrouped and headed straight home for lasagne and 'Sex in the City'.

Mike has slowly been introducing the new girls to our team talks. Yesterday's lasted almost two hours and covered topics like "What it means to be a Professional Athlete", "Dodge ball on the Mellowdrome", "If you don't label your clothes, they belong to Mike", and "Rules of the Van". Joe from Cane Creek hosted a dinner party complete with Victory's Dark Lager and a special edition Prima Pils. After dinner there was a Bluegrass pickup with toe tapping and singing. We got a chance to catch up with some old friends and make some new ones - it definitely helped us forget the tough ride earlier.

Quote of the Day:

Chrissy: "Are these glasses too big for me?"
Catharine: "Not at all, they make your head look skinny."

Shout outs: I'd like to give a shout out to my Mom and Dad, my sister Corinne and her husband Doug, my niece Caitlin and nephew Collin, my sister Amy and her dog Doc and everyone in Austin!

Day 4 - January 29, 2006

By Kirsten Robbins

The riders relax
Photo ©: Anthony Gongora
(Click for larger image)

Amplify the positive energy with big hair, team lead-outs, and a mariachi band!

Well, here we are getting ready for our second meeting of the day. Although we packed many fun things into our schedule it was not nearly as exhausting as yesterday.

Our day started with an early morning photo shoot at the Grove Park Inn. You don't even want to know how much it costs to spend a night in this palace. Mike is at full schmooze capacity and even had the owner of the hotel clear an area around the grand fireplace for our pictures. By the way, evidently BIG HAIR is hot. So for all you ladies out there who are fixing your hair in the morning the keys are curling irons and spray! Oh and don't forget the extra application of lip-gloss.extra glossy.

After our first team meeting of the day, which rounded two hours, we headed out to the "Mellowdrome" for a bout of team sprints, lead outs, and fun drills. It was The Shirts (A.K.A. the Blobs, read Chrissy Ruiter's website diary to find out why they chose this name) against The Skins. The teams were picked by the sprinters Yoisten and Lyons in the playground style we all remember.

The Shirts: Yoisten, Franges, Ruiter, Sherwin, and Ross
The Skins: Lyons, Bowles, Carroll, Hobson, and me.

Time to work it
Photo ©: Anthony Gongora
(Click for larger image)

Our drills were set up like a points race, two places deep. It is sufficient to say both teams were more AMPED than I have seen yet at the training camp. The Shirts took the lead from the beginning and The Skins resorted to dirty tactics and laughter to try to gain from our losses. As Ross perfectly worded, "we definitely bonded".

Once we were showered up and changed we headed to the famous El Chapala's, a Mexican restaurant that never goes unnoticed in Asheville. Seated and eating our favourite Mexican meals we enjoyed good stories, laughter, and the music of the Mariachi bands.

To simplify the experience today: I am happier than I have ever been riding my bike with the 2006 Victory Brewing Team. We fit perfectly together each with or own special quality. My ribs hurt from laughing so hard and yes, we definitely bonded today.

Day 5 - January 30, 2006

By Laura Bowles

Another day, another mountain
Photo ©: Anthony Gongora
(Click for larger image)

It was a great and beautiful day in lovely Asheville, North Carolina that started at the crack of dawn. Well, 9am...the ride ended up being a four and a half hour ride through the mountains of Asheville all the way north to a little, sweet town called Hot Springs, where yes, there are actually real hot springs. Hmm...why we didn't stop to sit in them and soak was beyond me. I guess I was the only one that packed my bathing suit.

The ride started in a thick blanket of heavy fog. We all had anticipated a day in the 60's so some of us dressed a little too light and shivered for about an hour until the sun came out. It was quite disturbing to see how much Tara was shaking, yet funny at the same time. The ride consisted of six climbs so needless to say today was definitely the day for the climbers of the bunch - Kirsten, Leigh, Lauren and Chrissy were flying up the climbs. Those of us stuck behind shared in some laughs...Laura Yoisten had her smarty-pants on with a great joke. "What kind of shoes do detectives wears?".Punch line."Sneakers!" I didn't say it was a good joke. Also, it was brought to my attention that I looked like I was wearing cowboy boots riding today, which obviously I was not - they were my winter booties with knee warmers. Well, add in short legs. I'm starting a new fashion statement.

As for the ride; we successfully ran great echelons and worked wonderfully as a team in-between and actually even during the some of the climbs. Today's objective for the ride was to crack all of us but we held strong and rode very well, with the help of those wonderful Honey Stinger products. Especially the brand new protein bars, which are wonderful I might add!

After the ride we headed to get some great Greek food where for the first time this week we lacked live cultural music and dance moves. Oh well, we still had great food and figured out Chrissy really enjoys pepperoncinis and the Canadians enjoyed some southern sweet tea. Although the day wasn't complete without a trip to Old Europe in down town where you can get coffee and the most amazing desserts. I believe that's all for now, so thank you for reading - but one more thing before I depart. Shout out of the day from the Victory women's team goes to Tom Boonen!

Day 6, The Final Day - January 31, 2006

By Leigh Hobson

A quick parade
Photo ©: Anthony Gongora
(Click for larger image)

Today marked the last day of a VERY full week. Full of training, laughing, eating, bonding, and of course Sex and the City.

We started the morning with a visit from our local Honey Stinger rep Travis McDowell. He gave us the ins and outs about the product we were consuming in mass quantities this week - a variety of "all natural" bars and gels made with honey rather than refined sugars. Team favourites (or favorites for you American spelling sticklers) are the Peanut Butter protein bars and Ginsting gels.

As Mike and Jamie did double duty loading the van with our road bikes and prepping our time trial bikes for a test ride, we got ready for another trip to the Mellowdrome. Once there we spent about 45 minutes tweaking - "can you raise my saddle just a touch Mike...no, actually lower it...and my bars...can you tilt them down...perfect". The chill in the air and the fatigue in the legs made the decision to shorten the ride today much easier. That afternoon we decompressed with non-stop episodes of Sex and the City and then got ready for a fun-filled night at Barley's Pub and Pizzeria.

It was a great night! The pizza was plentiful and the Victory beer was strong! (Some more wisely chose the Hop Devil at 6.7% over the Golden Monkey at 9.5% alcohol). As the Bluegrass band took a break between sets, we shuffled into a storage closet to change into our kits before heading on stage for an introduction to the team.

Quote of the evening:

Hanging together
Photo ©: Anthony Gongora
(Click for larger image)

"How many Victory riders can you fit into a closet"?

As the night went on, we signed posters, chatted with local bike enthusiasts, drank beer, watched Joe (aka Tom...sorry Joe) use salt and pepper shakers to detail sprinting maneuvers with Laura Yoistein, and listen to Jen eloquently describe how she was launched from a Tandem bicycle in her driveway!

Once home, most of us went to bed...others finished off the evening with a chin-up contest - congratulations to Brenda and Kat!

It was a tremendous week! Many thanks to Mike and Lauren for opening up their home to ten women! And thank you also to Nic, Jamie, Tony, and Joe for all their support throughout the camp. Victory Brewing is off to a great start!


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Anthony Gongora

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