Hi, I’m Joe V. The V is for Vadeboncoeur, but no one ever really calls me that (except my business card). That card also calls me the Global Director of Product Development, Marketing and Creative Design for Trek Bicycle. Yep, I am sometimes not really sure what all that means either. I do know that I dig bikes, oatmeal, motorcycles, burritos, the weird things I see along the way, my family and my job. I get to travel the world helping make great bikes, so it’s a pretty great gig.
A Day Spent In The Candy Store!
Eickenberg, Paterberg, Taaienberg, Kwarmont, Koppenberg, Molenberg. OMG, riding in Belgium in April is Heaven...Heaven.
The climbs of East Flanders are tough. They can be impossibly steep and sometime with the absurdity of cobbles thrown in. You will need your smallest gear and it hurts. Your legs scream at you to stop, but do not be tempted. If you do stop, you will never get going. You also cannot stand up, as you bike tire cannot retain traction if you do. So you push a way to big gear and your speed goes down to impossibly slow. You will just not believe how much faster Fabian and Tom can do this climb.
If you have not yet been there yet, you need to go. Get a map, get a bike, get some friends and head out in Flanders. You can follow signs from one of the many races that use these roads. Ride 50 or 60 or 70 miles and you will find you are now in the galactic center of cycling. You will see hundreds of other cyclists along the way. Buckaroo Banzai would approve, because there you are.
We started our day at the restaurant on the Kwaremont, and traced along 105 kilometers of the 2013 E3 route. If ever there was a road to ride segment that the Inner Ring could write about, it is here.
On a beautiful spring day, riding in this part of Belgium is certainly the equivalent of a pilgrimage to Mecca for a cyclist. It is great fun seeing other large groups of cyclists tackling the same hills and routes that you are. All of you experiencing the same elation.
And, there is the lovely squeek of the tires over the road.
This Sunday is going to be an epic day. I have never actually seen Flanders in person. It is my absolute favorite bike race, yet I have always watched it on the internet and never in person. It is the grand daddy of all the races out there, and I will finally get to see it in person. I cannot wait.
Shazbot nanu nanu!
Just what is in that bag? Holy cow it is BIG!
Yep, I am bringing it all. I am heading to Belgium, you know. The land of frites and good beer and cobbled climbs and crosswinds and winding roads and everything good about cycling. I plan to eat frites every day, ride my bike a ton, try not to fall down on the cobbles, drink a lot of good Belgian beer and cheer my head off for the race on Sunday.
I will need a lot of gear for that. As I was packing I thought, "Holy Cow that is a lot of gear." I stood back and took it all in, and sure enough I can verify - that is a lot of gear. I do have a bag big enough to swallow it all up - it even has my name on it (dork).
Without further adieu, her it is, the whole list.
Oakley Racing Jacket glasses – prescription lenses
Shimano Dura Ace pedals
Bontrager Profila Race windshell gloves
Bontrager RL Fusion Gell Foam full finger gloves
2 Bontrager windvests
2 Bontrager long sleeve jerseys
2 Bontrager arm warmers
2 Bontrager knee warmers
1 Bontrager winter bootie
1 Bontrager spring bootie
1 Bontrager RXL winter fitting shoe - I have more than one shoe, and this is the medium last so that I can fit extra socks if I need to.
3 Bontrager RXL short sleeve Jersey
3 Bontrager RXL bib shorts
1 Bontrager RL winter bib short
1 Bontrager hooded base layer
1 Bontrager B3 base layer
1 Bontrager B2 base layer
2 Bontrager B1 base layer
Bontrager Neck gaiter
Bontrager Waterproof Breathable packable jacket - it will not rain
Bontrager Lightweight Packable windjacket - it will rain
Trek Factory racing rain jacket - The surest way to have it race on Flanders race day is to not bring a rain jacket.
Magic sleep aid (This is my combination of Melatonin, Magnesium and Zinc). Works magic for Jetlag induced insomnia.
Various Honey Stinger
Skratch Labs drink mix
Trek Factory Racing wash bag - Don't know if I will do laundry or not, but even if not it is a good bag for the dirty gear.
Gore tex hat for under the helmet
Starbucks Via coffee
Raffa Paris Roubaix challenge cycling cap
TFR Bontrager hooded base layer - if it is cold on race day
Raffa Chamois crème
Bontrager Velocis helmet
Helly Hanson helmet under layer
2 pair levis 514 jeans
2 Prana long sleeve shirts
1 North Face pullover sweater
1 TFR Patagonia hoodie
1 Leather Belt IMBA.com belt buckle
5 pair Bontrager Profila cycling socks (5” minimum – non of those silly short socks)
2 pair of Bontrager Profila compression socks
Nike work out trainers
Work out shorts and shirt
6 pair of underwear
Ok I know you are laughing now. I am laughing as well.
#5days till race day!
"Man, those bikes are goofy."
I am not sure if that was my exact words or not, but it pretty much sums up how I referred to FatBikes two years ago. I had good reason. They are goofy, afterall. If you said that everyone in Belgium grows up with one and that is what makes them all great cobbles riders or cyclocross riders, of course I would have to have one - just because. Afterall, short of burritos (Texas), coffee (Italy and Handlebar Coffee in Santa Barbara), #Joetmeal (my kitchen) and Pearl Jam (Seattle) - all the other really excellent things in life come from Belgium (beer, frites, cyclocross racing, Classics, beer, Atomium, chocolate, Eddy Merckx, beer, etc...)
Getting back to FatBikes, they are just goofy. Big. Pigish. Bouncy. Slow. All of those adjectives can be applied. I mean, look at the size of the tires! They are so large. If you think 29'er tires look large, take a look over here, it's like they have their own zip code or something. Holy cow. Makes me think of this movie clip.
That always cracks me up. There are about 5 different versions of that clip on YouTube. Do yourself a laughfest and watch all of them. Great stuff.
But back to this Fatness thing. They really are goofy. Turns out though, they are a riot. Holy cow, they are fun. You will find yourself bouncing along on a tiny bit of trail with an absolute ear to ear grin on your face.
What's amazing to me is how the cycling world has taken to the things. This was a thing that only Surly was doing a few years ago. Now, every self respecting bicycle company has one. Some are great, some are not. But the point is that there are just a ton of choices now. Once you have one, you learn a lot about what they will and will not do.
Here is my summary of what's required for snow riding:
- You need a trail. Contrary to what the bike looks like it will do, you cannot just ride the thing anywhere. If it is going to be singletrack, it will need to have been packed down by snowshoes or other riders at a minimum. The best trails are the trails that are being prepped specifically for Fat Bikes. Groomed just like ski trails are groomed, only with something not much wider than a normal ribbon of singletrack would be.
- Falling is not that big of a deal. Rest assured you will fall, you are riding along on frozen water afterall. You will be riding along, your front wheel will veer over into the soft snow and poof, into the powder you plop. But, you are falling into snow. Generally, you just create a mangled snow angel.
- They are bouncy and you go slow. I think there are probably people that can make these things go fast, I am just not one of them. Seems like a whole bunch of work. But, you will not mind going slow. In fact, you will finally find yourself enjoying the woods and the silence of being in the woods when covered in snow. It is fun to ride along following deer hoof prints from the night before.
- Dogs love snow bikes. Dogs like to sniff around and eat dead stuff in the woods. Normally, on a summer mountain bike ride they miss out. It is just an all out chase and run for them. In the winter, they can sniff and eat dead stuff all ride, because you are not dropping them.
It appears to me, that here in the upper midwest the concept of Fatbiking is growing like crazy. There are race series developing, many new trails that have sprouted up, lots of blogs and people talking about things, cool movies, a new national championship (Ned Overend who won his first MTB race about 62 years ago won - geez). Take a look at a few of those things here. And get out on your Fat.
Check out Hansi Johnson's blog site. Hansi is the upper midwest IMBA rep, and a FatBike fan. Also a great photographer.
Wisconsin race series (although I am still not sold on racing one of these things). www.wisfatbikeracing.com/
At Wisconsin Fat Bike, you can find links for trails and other info.
This film is about as inspiring as you will find about Fat Bike riding. Watch it all the way to the end, and you will get the inspiration about the whole thing. (Almost makes it so that winter could be something looked forward to.)
Going for a ride.
Today is March 1. That is a significant date for a lot of reasons.
1. Winter sucks, and somewhere along there in March the beginnings of the end of Winter will happen. A day of 45 degree weather when the snow will clear off the roads, birds return from their southern homes, you can get out for a road ride, a trail will clear within driving distance that we can go and ride a mountain bike etc... You get the picture - Winter, I am breaking up with you. TIme that I start to see other seasons.
2. More importantly, the REAL professional bike racing season starts. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad , KBK, Ghent-Wevelgem, E3 etc... This is what bike racing is all about. This is where hard men like Roger De Vlaeminck, Eddie Merckx, Freddy Maertens, Johan Museeuw, Eddy Planckaert, Jan Raas et al. became heroes.
There absolutely will not be pictures of riders with cute baby kangaroos. I mean, I like kangaroos and koala bears as much as the rest of you, but seriously. No offence to my Aussie friends, that is not bike racing. Riding around in shorts and jersey working on your tan lines in January is not bike racing. Real bike racing should contain a constant risk of hypothermia for riders and fans, brutal cobbles, crazy steep climbs probably littered with those same absurd cobbles, mad spectators, an abundance of roadside purveyors of the only beer that actually counts, glorious frites with mayonaise, horrendous crosswinds on roads and in towns with names that I cannot say. (I mean, If you are not from Belgium what is Flemish anyway?)
This is where it really begins. This is where bicycle racing is real. This is where it all starts for all of us. This is where the men are tough and women are tough also. (They have no choice) I recognize that it’s a big world out there and bike racing happens other places in the world. But, in the end there is only one Belgium. Belgium is the galactic center of cycling afterall. Cycling is somehow in the water here. I think babies are shown how to shave their legs in the hospital, handed a cycling cap and a training program and sent out the door with a learner bike.
The rest of the cycling season could go away forever, and Belgium would not actually change at all. Hordes of crazy fans would still turn out to see their countrymen smash cyclocross races, semi-classics, the classics etc... Those races would just keep on marching. It is a glorious place.
So if you are like me, get the laptop out and figure out all the wonderful places you can stream the races (do yourself a favor and follow one of the Flemish sources, it really does complete the experience), run down to your local beer haunt and clean them out of Leffe or Trappist Ale, learn to make frites, and enjoy. Imagine you are in Oudenaarde, and remember that screaming is well accepted. Listen closely, you can probably hear me.
Zoom Zoom - like the Mazda commercial says. (That is said mazz-duh, if you are Canadian. Just wanted to make sure that any Canadians out there got the reference.) This of course has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of this post. Just-sayin.
So last week we launched to the world the new team. If you have been following along, you know this is something that we have been working on for some time. If not, just know that we have. Seriously, we have. If you need proof of that, give this a read.
The TDU starts next week, as does San Luis. We are racing at both, and just like that the season gets started. After all the work and planning, we are finally racing. It has been a lot of work. I never knew how much work it was. The riders riding in a race is only just a small portion of what has to happen to operate a cycling team.
I am really proud of the list of things we have done in the past months.
Signed 28 rides.
Hired 40 staff people.
Acquired all of the vehicles necessary to run a cycling team. 14 cars, 2 buses, 2 trucks, 2 sprinters. The all have to have a design done, and get them wrapped and outfitted with radios and bike racks etc...
When you start a team, there is an initial amount of equipment necessary that is staggering. Hundreds of bikes need to be designed, built, painted, assembled shipped all over the world. The clothing designed and sourced, each rider has to be fit individually. New gear had to be designed in some cases.
We built a new team website, which if you have not yet seen it you should check it out. We are proud of it. www.trekfactoryracing.com.
We launched a new concept with a Team Fan Club. This might be the most important thing that we do with the team. (I know a team races bikes, but after that the most important thing is the fans.) A team only survives if it cultivates a group of fans. We think you do that by being part of the culture of the sport. By being fans of the sport ourselves. After all, if we did not love racing there really wouldn't be much of a point in doing this. We are building a team that is all about honoring the sport and showing up to race hard. We hope people see that. But don't just take my word for it, join the fan club here. For now it is free and you can always opt out if you don't feel it later.
While we are doing all of that, there are training camps, UCI paperwork, and cultivating relationships with sponsors, cultivating relationships with national cycling federations and on and on. It has been a few months at Trek where people have been just full gas 24/7.
But we are here. We have a team and we have launched it. I like to say, "We are an international team, owned by a US company, licensed in the USA, based in Belgium, with a roster of 17 different nationalities, that launched in France, and when you take away our 2 oldest riders - we might be the youngest average age team in the World Tour."
So I have collected a bunch of videos about the launch. The 1st one is one I put together. The rest I found on the web.
On to the races!
The next one was done by a fan. They must have taken our intro video, and pulled the music and some of the visual from there. They did an amazing job of it.
The next one is from Shimano. Shimano is a co-sponsor of the team and they will have alot of content all year long about the team on their site. Be sure to check that out.
The next one is some of the story of developing the riders and the equipement for the riders. This one is from our video studio and shows alot of the effort behind the team and why Trek is doing the team.
The last 2 here came from a fun little blog site called Father and Son tour.
A person has to have goals. Like, drink more water, or ride your bike more or try not to curse. I have tried to tell people that goals are important. Without goals, what are you...dead! One day, when I reach the end of the internet, maybe I won't have any goals. Mostly people just glaze over when I talk with them about goals. Hmmm, maybe it is just me...
It will be odd, and require a red hand letting the gas off and adding 2 numbers together while taking a shower ski racing while on the way to work eating an orange. But, in soccer they have goals - so does hockey. For crying out loud, that means the Canadians have goals. If the Canadians can do it (the happiest friendliest people in the world), I am certain I can...I mean for real, they have more winter than the rest of us and they're still happy. It's due to this that I will have goals every year from here sideways. Given how cold it is outside later, we will take some time with this.
Last year I published my goals. They were exhaustive, and I was exhausted. I have always had goals, just never linked them to this blogsite. I have always wanted to see the Grand Canyon, and I have never done that, either. I have spent a lot of time in Belgium though.
So without further hesitation and build up, here they are. A pile of really well considered goals. Um, sort of well considered. If not well considered, they are at least spelled right, as I ran them through the spell checker.
1. Go to Hawaii Ironman. I have never been, and Hanna's boyfriend qualified. Seems like the perfect time to go.
2. See Pearl Jam. Duh. I am not even going to explain this one.
3. Ride Flanders citizen race. The best road bike race of the year. If you can only go and see one race, make it this one. The course is incredible, the Belgian crowd is incredible. Riding it the day before the pro race is an unforgettable experience.
4. Visit my father in North Carolina.
5. Visit my mother and have her come to Wisconsin.
6. Make a decision on our property in Hayward.
7. Ride Whole Enchilada. Duh. Check it.
8. Make a decision on our house. Keep or sell it.
9. Ride Whistler. Duh. Check it again.
10. Do a MTB trip with Lloyd. Here is the link to the last trip I did with Lloyd. Read it, and you will know why I cannot wait to do it again with him.
11. Learn to take tight switchback turns on my Slash. If you read the story on the previous entry, you know what I am talking about.
12. Wave at all cyclists that I see.
13. Drink more water. I should be drinking 116oz per day. Typical goals entry.
14. Trim the number of bikes in my garage to:
2 MTB (Fuel EX 29, Slash 27.5)
1 Road bike (Flanders Domane)
1 Fat Bike
1 Cyclocross Bike
1 Jump/Pump track bike - Really, does a person need more than that? Some people would say yes (normally I'd be one of them), but I am going to do my best to pull it down to those.
15. Do a road bike trip. I do like riding my road bike, and more importantly it is what Liz really really likes.
16. Master small and medium double jumps on my slopestyle bike
17. Learn to wheelie on both my favorite mountain bike and my motorcycle. I have said before that this is a genetic skill. I am going to take the year and learn to wheelie, or at least just about kill myself trying. By the end of the year, I will either wheelie or it will be a lost cause.
18. Take Liz and girls to NYC Liz has been all over the world, but not to NYC.
19. Change my bikes to tubeless. It is 2014, it is time to move into 2010. Now that I can do all my bikes, I am going to go there full time.
20. Ride Copper Harbor
21. Ride 3 MTB Enduro races
22. Ride a race with Noah
23. Ride a race with Russel
24. Make the Gravity MTB project in Wisconsin a reality.
25. Drink more beer. (Belgian of course)
26. Do at least 8 CX races.
27. Win a CX race.
28. Read 3 personal books.
29. Read 3 professional books.
30. Get more involved with my community. Give time, get involved with a local cause directly.
31. Find a good charity that we can align with.
32. Fix my garage floor
33. Preseason training camp in Feb/March – St. Joe or Georgia
34. Win a GNCC in my class. In 2011, I was 4th at Ironman GNCC, then 5th at the first Loretta’s and won the 2nd Loretta’s race. This past year I got a 6th at Ironman and then 5th at Loretta’s. Close, but not quite there.
35. Win WIXC old guy class. I have become a huge fan of the WIXC series. They are the best races in Wisconsin. I plan to do most if not all, and hope to win my class.
36. Learn to use the rear brake while using the throttle on my 250F. I am still struggling with this skill. I think it is imperative for me to get this skill if I have any hope of winning a GNCC race.
37. Master flat corners on my 250F.
38. Buy Aztalan membership and get better at jumping my 250F.
39. Get one of those really cool Bluetooth phone devices that allow you to walk along in the airport talking to yourself out loud. You look so cool while doing that.
40. Shop more out of the SkyMall Delta magazine. They are such wonderful gift giving sources.
41. Get a Bablefish installed.
42. Put together the plan to climb Kilimanjaro with Liz.
There are 8 more, but they are work specific, so I can't tell you those. You know the drill, if I tell you I would have to blah blah blah...
Right now it's snowing outside. December 31, in Wisconsin, it's snowing. Who'da thunk it? Snowing means I am not riding a bicycle or a motorcycle right now. I know that probably surprises you as well. Someday I am going to live somewhere that I can go out for a ride on December 31. (All you people on Facebook, stop taunting me.) Most people would say that I probably have to live somewhere other than Wisconsin to make that happen - I am not convinced yet.
(I just had to go outside and move cars and shovel, as we were starting to get to the point of no return on the driveway.)
Regardless of all of that, I am here to tell you that 2013 was a barnstormer of a year. It came, it went, it partied, now good riddance. Who wants to live in a year where 13 is the number? Doesn't that automatically make it unlucky? It feels good to have it in the rear view mirror. But, before we leave it behind, it is always good to look back (If for no other reason, than to know what I jacked up last year and try not to do it again...). It is also good to get an espresso while you are doing that. I really do hope there is pudding.
I had some goals, and I gotta admit that I did not do very well at hitting them. If you don't remember, here they are again. I hit about 50%, but that isn't a great score in life - unless of course you are a weatherman. Geez, what is up with that? They don't seem to have to do much better than 25%, and they are stars on TV. I know I've ranted about that in the past, but I do really think that is the case. When I come back as a full time cyclcocross racer, after I retire, I am going to be a weatherman.
Best of 2013
I have decided again that I'm going to change the rules to this game. I do own the game, so why can't I change them? Who makes that decision anyway? So, instead of just one thing being the best, I am go to say that multiple things can be the best. I know that breaks all the rules of logic, but there it is.
January - The first serious team conversations between Luca and I happened in January. Sure, we had talked about the team for a good 2 years before, but this is when it became reality. I am not going to rehash all of that, but you can refresh your memory on how it all came about here. We have definitely counted down those 41 days now, and a lot of great stuff has happened. But, it all comes back to January.
February - St. Joe ride camp. I really had a good time kicking off my motorcycle season with a training camp. The race teams all do it, why can't I? This was kinda my first effort at it. It really works. I am going to do a bigger one this year. I would encourage you to do a training camp for whatever your sport is. They are really great fun. Check a couple of notes on mine from last year, here and here.
March - Georgia GNCC. I surprised myself, and even after it being winter where I live, and the guys down south having racing under their belt already, I did ok. It was a good indicator of how my season was going to shape up.
March/April - Fabian's romp through the spring classics. Unless you were away on another planet, you certainly know about Fabian's dominance in the spring. It was finally the spring that wasn't just maybe but it was. It started way back in Strada Bianchi when he was so on top and went all the way through to Roubaix. I was lucky enough to be at Roubaix, and I am so glad that I did not miss that. Wait, if you were off planet, I might want your job.
April - Brown County Indiana MTB trip.
After some time in Wisco winter, you just cannot wait to get out and ride.
June - Ft. William World Cup race trip/seeing my Dad in London. Liz and I were going to our first WC DH race and we got a chance to meet my father while he was in London. We detoured there on our way, had dinner together and spent a fun day just knocking around maybe my favorite city in the world together.
Then we went on to Ft. William and chased Nessie around. It was super fun, check it here, I cannot wait to get to another one this year.
July - MTB riding in Hayward.
I posted up about 3 different stories about this trip, so it must have been really good. It was.
Sept - MTB riding in Switzerland/Italy with Lloyd
October - Getting hooked on cyclocross. I have to admit it, I am a cyclocross convert now. I thought it was a stupid sport just a couple of years ago. I mean, who would ride such the wrong bicycle on that terrain? I still think it is not the right bicycle for what we all love to follow, but that is exactly what makes it cool. It is the "IPA in a can" of cycling. It is just the best and the most honest and hardworking bike in all of cycling.
Also in October was the Pearl Jam concert in Charlottesville. This will probably be right up there on the top, in the end. It was Liz's first time at a PJ concert and she came away a fan. Didn't hurt that we did a killer MTB ride in Virginia as well. Check the story here to refresh. Lightning Bolt actually does rock.
November - New Trek Factory Racing World Tour Team coming together for the first time in Belgium.
December - Going to Singapore for the 1st time in my life. Singapore was cool, but what about the dancing?
Worst of 2013
Hanna's surgery. If you are a parent, you know how it feels when one of your kids gets sick. I can tell you that it does not change when they become adults. Hanna is fine, but for a while we were all pretty worried.
Not doing enough races in WIXC or D16 to win the overall series. I won a lot of races this past year, and I had way more good races than bad. But, I didn't do enough races in either series to win the overall. Too bad, right? I don't expect much sympathy there.
Liz busting up her knee on the way to France, so she couldn't ride. I'm not sure that she was going to ride much anyway, but we were heading to one of our favorite places in the world to be with some of our very best friends. Chatel is a beautiful place, but not much fun to be there with a bum knee. Louise helped nurse her back and now she is fine. Next year will be better for her there.
That is it really for bad. None of it is actually all that terrible. I mean so what, Liz is fine, Hanna is fine. That is my point really, I live a really charmed life. I am super grateful for that. I hope to be safe and healthy in 2014. I hope that all of you are as well.
2014 is going to be great fun.
This past week, I had the opportunity to go to a spot on the map I had not been to before. Well, I guess it is a bit more than a spot. In fact, I actually never had a map out so I can't say that there really was a spot on it the map. Who knows, I bet on some maps there are a lot of spots. Which isn't the same as saying that a map has chicken pox. I don't really know what all the other types of chicken served in Singapore are, but they at least have chicken on a stick. I didn't see any corndogs, and well...the world needs more corn dogs, listen to Kid President - it is number 18 on his list.
The weather in Singapore is pretty much a flatline. It never changes. The quote below is from Lonely Planet.
"To paraphrase Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam, Singapore is ‘HOT and WET. That’s nice if you’re with a lady, but ain’t no good if you’re in the jungle…’. Practically on the equator, Singapore’s temperature never drops below 20°C, usually climbing to 30°C during the day."
What is really interesting about Singapore is that it receives pretty much the same amount of rainfall every single month of the year. A graph of the rainfall is amazingly a perfectly flat line.
None of this has anything to do with a chicken dinner, but it is a nice meal afterall. Funny, I didn't see alot of dancing while I was there. I found that I needed to export some sweet dancing. You can find evidence of that in the final video.
Coming from a place in the world where we have wildly varying seasons, I am completely facinated with a place without any real difference in climate. Wow, just how would that work? When do you go out early to beat the heat? When do you ride the trainer because it is just too cold? I guess with all that rain, cyclocross season would always be with muddy races. Kind of interesting to think about eh?
We were invited to come to Singapore to visit with Shimano in that part of the world. They have factories in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. We visited all 3. They were amazing places, building the most hi tech components and hi quality components. The people there were all amazingly friendly. The food was really interesting. The jungle was always right there, being held back with weed wackers and landscape efforts.
Wikipedia says there are more than 137 languages spoken in Malaysia. I thought that was incredible. Then I looked up Malaysia languages in Wikipedia. Brace yourself...there are 700 languages spoken in Malaysia! Holy crap! 700 languages! You would think that no one could even talk to each other. Somehow it works though.
They eat some amazing things in that part of the world. I had a curry something or other that almost sent me to the hospital. Wow, was that hot. I could not actually talk for a few minutes after downing it. Ouch.
Singapore skyline from the water.
The plane landed in Brussels... Belgium – not in a bowl of Brussels sprouts. This is not a children’s story, although a pop-up book would be fun. I always like pop up books. They remind me of when my kids were little. They loved the Wheels On The Bus pop-up book. Every night we read that book… You would think they would get tired of the story – the same story every single night. Although, they never did get tired of the story. It was the proverbial story time where I could not skip a section, or they would absolutely notice. “Dad you skipped a page”, said with a pacifier in their mouth. I guess it was the song, which at this point is just quaint, not annoying like it was then. They were cute singing it though… I am not sure the dogs loved it.
No, this plane landed in Belgium (and yes it was a Tuesday). Unlike the normal trip to Belgium, where you get off the plane and immediately collect chocolate, beer, see the Atomium and take photos,eat frites, ride the Paterberg climb, or maybe just pick up some Mannequin Pis souvenirs… I think that is usually the ticket.
The occasion for this visit to Belgium was the team building camp for the new Trek Factory Racing Team. It was a camp to get all the riders acquainted with each other. An opportunity for them to start working with trainers and to build out their schedules for the year or at least the first part of the year. It was also an opportunity to fit riders in clothes, to fit their new shoes for them. It was a chance for Luca (the team director) to go over team policies and to spend time with the whole staff in one place.
I noted as I got off the plane that I have been to Belgium the last few years more than once per year. This is crazy. I lived in Belgium when I was 16 years old. I actually lived near Waterloo Belgium, and went to school in Waterloo. Now I live near Waterloo Wisconsin, and work in Waterloo. (Which is totally weird science or fate or a wrinkle in the space time continuum or something like that), Almost 25 years went by in my life that I did not go to Belgium. Now, I go there a couple of times per year. The weird science of it all has me a huge fan of Belgium.
As I got off the plane and started to make my way around the Brussels airport, I flashed back to the earliest memory I had of the conversations around starting our own team. “I do not know if the team will continue next year,” Luca (@L_Guercilena) said to me. We were standing outside the hotel in Calpe Spain, and although the sun was out, a cold January wind was blowing. The boys were getting ready to head out on a group training ride. The Classics group in one direction, presumably to do a more specific workout, and the Grand Tour/Stage race squad in a different direction. It was a new season. We were all hopeful. The bikes looked good, the riders were trim looking. Andy was joking with the group again. Jens was, well Jens. The sports directors shooed the riders off, and cars headed out after them. It was a beautiful sight.
I was thinking to myself how far we had come, how far I had come from the early years of being at Trek to...“I do not know what the current owners intend to do’” The coffee was good, and was making the winter wind a memory. I wished that I could get out for a ride as well, as no matter how cold the wind is in Spain in January it will not hold a candle to the cold wind in Wisconsin in January. "I really do not think that they will continue." I was having a hard time focusing on the conversation. I really wanted to go for a ride. But, I could tell that Luca wanted to talk.
“If we do not have an answer in June, I am telling the staff and riders to find jobs... I will not have them waiting around and passing up good jobs, only to find they do not have a job later.” Luca went on, “Why don’t we start a new team together… Trek could own the team and we could have a really great project together.” My first reaction was, maybe I should get another coffee (or a corn dog - ed.) I love you Luca, and I love the team, but I do not really want to own a team.
“You should own the team and Trek will sponsor it, ” I replied as I burned the inside of my mouth with coffee that we really hot.
Our conversation bounced around to the bike in development, the riders’ schedules, Andy’s hip, how motivated Fabian and the classics group are after last season and coming so close. Had it not been for Fabian’s accident, the story might have been so much different for the 2012 race season. But, the team ownership bug had been planted. It stayed there, buried down deep, so expertly placed there.
Some fun facts for your new Trek Factory Race Team:
1. The riders represent 17 different nationalities. That is really cool. The world is a small place these days. I know you realize that, but we want the team to stand for that. People are all people after all.
2. The average age of the riders on a World Tour Cycling team is 28.2 years old. Coincidentally, that is exactly the average rider age of our team. But, if you take just one of the old guys on the team out of the calculation (Jens Voigt), we are an average age of 27. That makes us one of the youngest teams.
3. A cycling team is a lot more than the riders though. A rider, on a bicycle, with a coordinated kit on represents a pile of preparation and work that is unimaginable to most people.The amount of structure around a team is amazing. Here are some of those items to consider.
4. Rider and staff total for the team is 60 people.
5. The team will race approximately 220 days in 2014. These begin in January and carry through all the way through October.
6. There is a full time logistics center in Europe for the team. The 60 people have to race all over the planet, sometimes at more than 1 place on a given race day.
6. The team has at least 15 cars.
7. The team has 2 buses in Europe, and uses others when outside of Europe.
8. The team has 2 large mechanic and equipment trucks
9. The team has multiple sprinter vans.
10. There is a full time cook for the team (@kimrokk)
11. The team will need 250 bikes during the year between race bikes, back-up bikes, and home bikes. 12. Each rider needs that assortment for classics bikes, standard road frames, TT bikes, etc… It is a lot.
11. There will be multiple sets of clothing, shoes, helmets etc… When you add all the seasonal items and home clothes and ever changing race clothes – that is a big number, more than 4000 items of clothing, shoes, helmets.
12. The number of sports and nutritional products is uncountable. Suffice it to say that it takes a loaded semi-trailer to deliver it all to the Service Course.
“We should start our own team.” Jordan (@TrekJordan - Trek technical representative with the RadioShack Leopard Trek team) dropped on me.
“What? Are you kidding? Why would I want to do that?” He went through his reasoning, and I mostly just looked at the fields next to the course as we were driving ahead of the bunch at Paris-Roubaix April 2013. Fabian (@F_Cancellara) was commandingly in the front group, and was making up for the accident the year before. He had already won E3 and the grandest classic of them all the Ronde. He was showing everyone that he is the King of the Classics. "We really should. It would be such a great project and can be a different team", as we listened to the radio reports on the race I tried to look completely uninterested in Jordan’s points. He went on, but I kinda tuned it out until I could not any longer.
“Are you crazy? We are a bicycle company, what do we know about running a race team?”Through the next 5 hours of leapfrogging the race field, we hashed out what we knew about running a race team During the race, the conversation went from me pointing out what we do not know, to us discussing how to solve what the challenges of what we do not know.
The first team team camp is more about getting logistics sorted for a lot of the back room runnings of a team, than it is dealing with racing just yet. There are new riders to be introduced, new staff to integrate, planning for the season, fitting of bikes, fitting of shoes and gear, passing out casual wear, measuring riders for jerseys and other riding gear, etc...
The Trek Factory Racing team building camp took place in a small rustic hotel in the Ardennes. We pulled the team together, built a nice environment, made sure that everyone knew we were serious and had aspirations. Luca made a speech to introduce all the riders and staff and laid out high level goals. I presented who Trek is to the riders and then what Trek's goals are around owning and running a team. The team then spent a few days together hiking around the woods, joking around with each other and becoming friends. All in the name of being able to rely on each other when the proverbial poop hits the fan in the spring time. Because, if you can chase each other around in the woods and help each other climb up a muddy cliff, you should be able to get through a muddy cobblestone race together and come out the other side on top. (Even if you are in a bunny suit in the Ardennes.)
"I want to sell Trek the Leopard team license." It had finally come out. Fabian had won Roubaix, and we were all celebrating a fantastic classics season. Riders had given all for the effort for the past few weeks, and we had come home the victors. It is nice to win and this was a very special win.
But, while the rest of the team was celebrating, I was meeting with the Leopard management listening to them tell me why they thought it would be great for Trek, great for the team and great for cycling. Of course, I had already convinced myself that they were right, but I played along with the conversation.
Over the next weeks and months, there were multiple trips back and forth to Luxembourg, and Italy and other places around Europe. There were frequent starts and stops to the negotiation. But in the end, they knew and I knew that it was the right thing to do.
So yes, now we are building a team. We are building a team of future stars. It is exciting, it is daunting and it will be really fun.
I am proud of the fact that a classics focused team had its first camp together out of the limelight in the belly of cycling. I am proud that we are already representing a hard working group that takes itself seriously, but not too seriously. I am proud that we are from a hardworking part of America and that we have put our roots down in a hardworking part of Europe.
“Luca, it’s Joe… Ok, we are on.” The date is June 1. “We do this only on a couple of conditions, that we must agree on:
1. You are the manager.
2. We do not get caught up on riders from just one part of the world. It has to be an international roster.
3. We want to be part of the future of cycling. Lets get a bunch of young riders and build a team for the future.”
“I really love all those things, but I want Trek to be in it for a long, long time. Not just a few years.” That was Luca’s biggest condition to go forward.
“I will meet you in Italy and we will get started.” I already had a plane ticket in my hand.
“I am already started,” was Luca’s response. And just like that, we were off to the races.
It has been a madcap few months, but I am proud to say that we have made a huge dent in what we need to do before the season starts. There are more camps for the staff and riders and more organization yet to come. We have a goal of starting this team off right. We have enjoyed our team affiliations over the years. They were not bad, just that Trek, Luca, the staff and the riders wanted so much more. I am convinced that we can build a team that all of us as fans can be proud of. I am convinced that a family feeling for a team can lead to a group that is highly functional together. I know that veterans on the team have a lot of great days left in them. They will race with heart and with professionalism always. The young guys will learn from the veterans and they all have the capacity to be stars someday.
I am confident that we will build a team that is different than other teams out there. I am confident that we have the staying power to be at this for many years into the future. I am confident that Luca knows how to manage a team and get the most out of it, and that Trek has the passion for racing that will allow Luca's positive management style and knowledge to be impactfull.
But don’t just take my word for it, join the fan club here. From that point of view, you can decide what you think of us. Let us prove it to you. See what we do, and how we represent cycling for all of you. I know it will be something you will be proud of. All of Trek will be doing our best to make certain of that.
In 41 days, we will get this show on the road. In 41 days, we will be making a big splash in the racing world. In 41 days, we launch Trek Factory Racing.
See you at the races.