Rêve Grand Tour 2012 Mini-Camp: Portland, Oregon
For four months now I’ve been working on this project with Michael Robertson. He’s done the heavy lifting logistically, contacting and negotiating with sponsors, lining up flights, hotels and transfers, and sending emails to us at all hours of the nights with reminders, thoughts and information.
Up until Friday, most of the team knew one another only as CC line on emails and a written voice. Am I traveling to France with electrons? Will I climb mountain passes with these email addresses?
Let’s make this thing real.
We came together last Friday morning at a photo studio in downtown Portland to meet our sponsors, meet our bikes, try on clothing and gear, take photographs, record video interviews and – well – to put some faces with email addresses.
Here’s what happened:
CAPO clothing kicked things off by delivering an inconceivable amount of kit and clothing. Jerseys, bibs, vests, warmers, jackets: the works. Co-founder Gary Vasconi and Regional Sales Manager Nate Shaw flew in for the morning to take us through the line and talk about the technology. Vasconi is animated and passionate: a proud Italian-American with the charm to prove it. We liked him immediately. We tried on product and ran around the photo studio glowing.
Eric Richter from Giro followed with a fit and info session on our helmets, shoes and gloves, ultimately earning the nickname “The Helmet Whisperer” for his uncanny ability to look at our heads and determine our correct sizes. (We were all a full size smaller than what we’d previously assumed.) We walked away with two ultra-lightweight Aeon helmets and a pair each of Giro’s women’s-specific Factress road shoes.
New gear went straight into our Alpinestars XL Excursion Rollers. And if there were concerns about how we would get all of our gear to and from France, they were dismissed when we stuffed Kate into one of the bags to test its capacity.
Amid the fray of shoe fittings and impromptu fashion shows, we chatted with Lyriel Jordan, the Sr. Global Product Manager for Women's Bicycles at Cannondale. She was on-hand to oversee the build and delivery of our sweet, sweet SuperSix training bikes. SRAM’s Alex Wassman tuned up sleds and dialed in our SRAM Red componentry (including sweet Quarq cranks and ZIPP wheels - zoom!) while Rick Wilks and crew from FSA jumped in to assist with the builds.
Sometime in the late afternoon, I found rider Kate Powlison sitting on the studio floor in between piles of packaging material and boxes. She was in full kit, wearing her Aeon helmet and Factress shoes. She looked dazed. “It’s like bicycle Christmas on steroids.” she said.
We worked late into the evening and then rallied for a team dinner at a charming little restaurant owned by a local cycling enthusiast called Justa Pasta. Most of our sponsors had already flown out but we got to spend more time with Lyriel learning about the Supersix before heading back to the photo studio to clean up. By the time we were done, we’d been at it for 14 hours and we were cashed.
Saturday was more of the same: an early morning of tweaks and setup, a bicycle-shakedown training ride into the west hills, and a late night of more tweaks and adjustments. I tried hard to be graceful as I groaned and grunted my way up the steep grade of 53rd during our ride, but I’d been sick for the better part of a week and Robertson’s 17-foot-long camera lens never lies: it was ugly. Here was our first test: how to ride with half a Heidi? You learn a lot about teammates when you are forced to ask for help.
While we floated over farm roads in short sleeves on a mercifully sunny Portland day, we began to get to know each other: my salted-potato ride fuel obsession was revealed, Maria del Pilar Vazquez’s strong and steady Randoneé spirit started to come through, Kate Powlison’s inner daredevil made an appearance as she railed her SuperSix through the sharp left hook of a bomber descent, Kym Fant shared her incredible laugh (I swear it gives me 5 extra watts), Jennifer Cree giggled and indulged me in sandwich and coffee stop daydreams, Susan Peithman led the charge with strong legs and clear directions.
Later on the way home, Maria would observe out loud, “It’s amazing that we all come from such different backgrounds and places and yet we get along so well. It just works.”
She’s dead on.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: fit bodies and fast legs alone will not get us to Paris. The group must be all in. Committed to the goal, committed to each other and committed to the process, whatever good or bad may come from it.
This weekend, we made this thing real.
Sponsors rallied around us and we rallied around each other. We shared meals and made Tofurkey pizza jokes. We organized, coordinated, texted, called and emailed each other to finalize plans. We changed plans. We changed plans again. We adapted and stayed flexible. We stayed calm. We stayed committed.
This is happening now. This is real.
And I’ve got goosebumps.
Next up for this column: we’ll meet the individual team members and talk to them about the project.