There was no doubt I was super-excited to arrive in Belgium and meet the new riders and staff for 2014. I can’t shy away from the fact that I was also nervous about meeting the big superstar riders in the team, but I think that’s only natural. Everybody was very welcoming and friendly so this made the transition a lot more comfortable. I am already starting to feel like a part of the family.
All the new riders to the team (eight of us) arrived a day early to get to know each other, to get fitted for our new bikes and to get our shoes and custom innersoles for 2014. This was a nice way for us new riders to have a catch up and to get to know each other before the madness of 70 people (riders and staff) arrived the next day.
The activities began the next day and the riders and staff were all put into groups of eight, alternating between the different activities that were on offer. The idea was to enjoy these activities but also to push yourself, and push the boundaries of some of your fears.
There were plenty of activities spread over two full days: a high ropes course, paintball, go-karting (where I had a great battle with Andy Schleck, which was very funny) rock climbing (if you were scared of heights this one was tough!), flying fox, bike-athalon, hiking and a few other little team challenges.
These activities were super fun, and quiet challenging at times. If you were to miss an activity due to fear, you were sure to cop some banter so everyone was pushing the limits.
This camp did not involve any bike riding, but the games and activities and hike were quiet taxing and everybody was quite buggered by the final day.
This was a challenge everyone was dreading. We had a team dinner then we had to hike 12km back to our hotel, through Belgian forests in pitch darkness and rain that was so icy it felt like snow.
The five neo-pros of the team, including myself, were dressed up as rabbits which was quiet funny. The rabbits were to lead the way and direct everyone back to the house together, safe and sound ideally.
This was quite a challenge as there was a vast range of abilities and strengths and keeping 70 riders and staff in formation and together over a 12km (2-2.5 hour) walk wasn’t easy for us young neo-pros that were nervous enough about not getting lost in the woods. But everybody made it back in one piece so in hindsight it was a fun night.
Purpose of the team camp
The team camp was all about getting everybody together for a few days of fun before the season gets underway and the hard work begins. A lot of the riders and staff won’t see each other all year as they may follow different race programs.
For us new riders to the team it was important to put names to faces and create connections between staff and other riders. The team did a great job of organising the sleeping arrangements so each of the younger riders were in a room with an older more experienced guy, to share stories with.
I had the honour of rooming with Frank Schleck which was a nice chance for me hear some cool stories from past races. Frank is a super nice guy and it was a pleasure to be sharing a room with him.
Meeting Jens Voigt
Jens was exactly how I had imagined he would be — a funny laid-back easing-going guy (similar to an Aussie). The stories and general banter I heard from him were so so funny. On the last night I had the chance to sit with him at dinner, and after a few hours my jaw was sore from all the laughter.
I look forward to getting to my first race (Tour Down Under) with Jens and learning some of the craftiness on the road that has lead him to 18 years as a pro.
Goals for 2014
Next year is the first year for the new project (Trek Factory Racing), so the team is very ambitious which is great. Our roster allows the team to target so many different styles of races, and I think we can expect a very successful first year for the team!
From the Classics to the Grand Tours we have riders of all capabilities. It’s also a very young team, so for the young riders there is a nice plan that has been set out for each of us which will help us to progress and transition into the WorldTour.
I have a good idea of my race program for the first part of the season and I am very happy with it. I will start at the Tour Down Under in January then head over to Europe and begin racing in the lower level races (not WorldTour) to begin with. My program is structured for me to continually progress and my big target will be the Tour of Romandie where I will test myself against a high quality WorldTour field.
After being in Belgium for nearly a week I am very happy to be in Monaco where the weather is a lot nicer. I will be spending two weeks here preparing and training for our team training camp in December in Spain.
While I am here I will be trying to find a small apartment in the area where I can base myself for next year. The theory behind this is that I will be close to good friends who live in the area, there are great training bunches nearby and the quality of training is awesome.
Much of where I am now I owe to Simon Gerrans. Simon is a good friend of mine, and he’s had a big influence on me over the past few years. I think Simon is a great role model for many young riders — not only has he achieved such great success on the bike but he’s a very down-to-earth guy who is very approachable and always willing to help out and give advice where necessary. Thanks Simon!
Wish me luck for the season ahead!
Images in this post appear courtesy of the Trek Factory Racing Facebook page, except the feature image which was taken by Wade Wallace.