If you have read this blog before, then you know that I am kind of a goon for racing. I kinda really like it. Racing is cool because it is unpredicatable. Racing is cool because the heroes that do it are not like you and me. Racing is cool because the people that do it are amazing athletes. Racing is cool because it reminds us that no matter how fast you are or how good you are at something, there is always someone faster or better at that same thing.
Here at Trek we race for all those reasons, but mostly we race because we are absolutely over the moon about racing and just how cool it is (I know that is a bit of a circular reference, but this is my blog not yours).
I have been really fortunate throughout my career because I have been given the opportunity to be very close to our racing efforts. I always wanted to be a racer, but was never even close to gifted enough on a bicycle to even be considered. I am a modest rider, but modest abilities will not get anybody anywhere close to being a professional. So, when I get to be part of a professional team, I feel really really privileged.
2014 was Trek's first season owning a World Tour license. That is a really big deal. We are racing at a level with the best teams in the world. We are participating in the Formula One of cycling. It makes me really proud to see the Trek Factory Racing team in a race whether we win or lose. Of course winning is really much better than not winning, but that is only a part of the story.
Let's take a look back at where we came from and what we accomplished in our first season.
1. First, launching a team is a huge effort. We purchased the license in September 2013, and had to immediately work with the UCI to get that it confirmed. We had to build a service course in Belgium to manage the team's vast equipment inventory and needs. We had to design a complete kit, car graphics, bus graphics etc... We had to build bikes and wheels and outfit the team. All the riders and staff had to be hired. And we did all of that in time to have our first team camp in November last season. It was a major undertaking, but we pulled it all together.
2. Our early season results were really phenominal. Right away, Julian Arredondo and Giacamo Nizzolo produced exciting results at the Tour of San Luis. We were on our way.
3. Our spring classics campaign was very succesful. The team helped Fabian Cancellara get to the podium at Milan - San Remo, Flanders, and Roubaix. Flanders of course was the top step. I am super proud of that, as I said that I wanted to win Flanders all the way back at Team camp in December and the team pulled that off.
4. At Fleche and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Julian Arredondo showed that he was a man for those races, and announced with a fantastic showing that he would be a factor in those in the future.
5. We were one of the most aggressive teams at the Giro d'Italia. Julian Arredondo took the mountain climbers jersey, Giacamo Nizzolo was present on the final of every single sprint stage. It was a hard race, and we were big players there.
6. We put Haimar Zubeldia into 8th place at the Tour de France this year. I am really proud of him - without losing so much time on the difficult stage on the cobbles, he had a real chance to be in the top 5.
7. Jens Voigt closed out his career with the team by taking the polka dot jersey at the Tour de France. In his trademark bold fashion, he rode to the most aggressive rider at his last two races in Utah and Colorado. Then he capped off his whole career by setting a new standard for the hour record on the track. His effort has reignited interest in the record by riders from all over the world.
All-in-all, we had an excellent first season. I am proud to be part of the team. I am proud of the organization there, and all the effort they have put in to being one of the best teams in the world.
But, we are not done and we are not satisfied with where we are. We have goals and hopes and expectations. I have hopes and expectations for sure.
We want to win more monuments. If that is Flanders and Roubaix again, good. But, we will not be stopping there. We will target all of them this year and will do our best to take a couple of them home.
We want to be one of the dominant teams in March and April. We have the horsepower, the ambition, and the drive to do that.
We want to contest for the red jersey at the Giro.
We want to be racing for the top 5 in the Tour de France.
We want to finish in the top half of the overall standings at the end of the season. That will mean that we will race a lot harder in all the other races we are participating in.
So 2015 begins.
We had some key riders retire this year.
Jens Voigt ended one of the great cycling careers of all time. Jens will remain part of the Trek family and part of the race team. Watch for more announcements on that in the press.
Danilo Hondo retired and we were proud to have him finish his career with the team.
Andy Schleck retired early due to a series of injuries that he just could not get past, and we were all sorry to see that happen. I wrote a recent blog entry about that, and I would be honored if you went back to read that here. I do not know exactly what the future holds for Andy, but I hope it can still be in the Trek family.
With those spaces, we have made some really exciting additions to the team. Bauke Mollema comes to us from Belkin. Bauke is a legitimate top 5 Tour threat. With the combination of him, Haimar Zubeldia, Frank Schleck and Julian Arredondo, we go the the Ardennes classics and the Tour de France as legitimate players.
Marco Colledan comes to us ready to help the sprint train that we will execute with Giacamo and Danny van Poppel.
Gert Steegmans was a big addition for us. Gert will further strengthen the cobbles team and then go on to be part of the sprint train we are building as well.
The team is currently at our big preseason camp in Calpe, Spain. There is a chaos of bike fitting and clothing fitting going on. There are team planning meetings and organization going on for two weeks. The directors meet to determine race schedules and goals. The riders meet with trainers to detail their race plans and training plans. There is baseline testing going on that includes physical testing and basic performance testing. This is the first time the riders ride together on new bikes.
The team goes out for 3-5 hours of training every day. While the team is out, the staff is going full gas to make everything ready behind the scenes. Clothing that has to be sorted out. Home bikes, race bikes,multiple shoe pairs requiring custom insoles that are fit to the rider and made by hand. Pictures of all the staff have to be made. Briefings for any new staff or riders. Sponsor presentations, etc... It is really busy, to say it bluntly. But, man is it exciting.
On Sunday night, sort of the opening night of camp. The team's General Manager, Luca Guercilena, and I made a presentation to the team. Mine was to explain how Trek and I view the team, and how we view the goals for the team. It is a pep talk and a laying out of expectations. I think it was good. But, Luca then stood up after me. He explained that each of the riders in the room was a hero. He explained that even he was in awe of what they can do on a bike. But, he told the riders that they could probably find inspiration in other sportsmen. With that, he showed a few videos from amazing sporting events over the years. His presentation really got the gang excited and showed them that they are capable of exceptional things. I know that I was inspired after hearing his speech.
January and the race season will be here soon enough. Watch out world, here we come.