The 2014 season has started and cycling teams are assembling for their annual training camps. Typically teams head to warmer climes, searching for perfect training weather to log hundreds of miles in preparation of the long racing schedule in front of them. Team Twenty16 professional cycling team is no different.
Nestled against the hills of Ventura, the Twenty16 team encamped for three weeks of training at a spacious house with a specular view overlooking the valley. However, with a beautiful hillside view comes the challenge of the return ride to base camp – a steep, over 25% gradient ascent. This short, but very steep climb, was the cherry on top of every training ride and left everyone looking for that lower gear ratio.
Not every member of the Twenty16 team was at camp. New member Sarah Hammer was busy winning another world championship jersey in the omnium at the UCI Track Worlds in Cali, Colombia. Also not at the initial camp was two-time gold medal Olympian and two-time time trial world champion (these are just a few of her results, which also include multiple national championships) Kristin Armstrong. Now retired from competitive racing, Armstrong’s knowledge in cycling is enormous and she has taken the managerial role of High Performance Director on the Twenty16 squad.
However, most of the team was in attendance, including general manager Nicola Cranmer and Mari Holden. Holden is now a permanent addition to the management team as Sports Director, a title that includes coaching, directing, logistics, and a shoulder to lean on.
In classic team training camp style the days were filled with steady rides on their new team Felt FC road bikes. The occasional position tweak or twist of the barrel adjuster was taken care of by respected bike mechanic Vince Gee who has had stints on some of the biggest World Tour teams in the peloton.
What was obvious when you spend time with the team is the camaraderie of the members. For some of these young ladies this was their first experience riding for a pro team or being a part of a squad that included someone they idolized and were now riding as their teammate. Twenty16 was gelling like they had been together for several seasons, rather than the few short weeks.
For many of the riders the season is long enough not to burn all their matches in the early season. Instead riders pick a few important races and build their fitness to a peak. The following week the Twenty16 team was competing in an early season race, the Tour de Murrieta, a three-day omnium in southwestern Riverside County.
As part of the training camp, Twenty16 held a pre-race reconnaissance just outside the town of Murrieta for the riders racing in the 3-stage event. Driving down to help the team was High Performance Director Kristen Armstrong. Armstrong was checking in with the team to evaluate their time trial positions and make any necessary adjustments. The first stage was a 4.1 mile race against the clock, which included a one-mile climb on an unpaved road. A simple mistake in a short time trial could easily put a rider out of the overall contention, so having the details dialed to perfection is the difference between winning and losing.
However, the day before the riders would roll out of the starting ramp, the Murrieta squad would take in a easy ride with a couple of hard short efforts to “open up” the legs in preparation of the next day’s time trial. With their smooth pedal stroke and efficient position on their Felt FC bikes, it was easy to tell that these ladies were professional cyclists. The team was ready and so were the Felt bikes.
Armstrong’s years of experience paid off as Twenty16, aboard their Felt DA time trial bikes, dominated the opening time trial with Amber Gaffney in fourth, Kristin McGrath in third, Allie Dragoo in second, and Jessica Cerra stopping the watch with the fastest time of the day, taking the leader’s jersey.
In stage 2 the results continued. At the downtown criterium Mary Elizabeth Maroon finished in third and Lex Albrecht behind her in fourth. As a result of her fourth place, Albrecht moved into the leader’s jersey.
The final day was the circuit race and Albreht easily defended her lead by winning the final stage, locking up the overall win.
“We had a very productive few weeks. I’m proud of the progression from their first ride together at Valley of the Sun to a huge team effort at Tour de Murrieta.” said Sports Director, Mari Holden.
With the 2014 season barely underway Twenty16 is already proving they are the team to watch.