Following the big team training camp in South Africa, where the entire Riis Cycling/Team CSC organisation participated, the Danish team is leaving Europe again to fly to its first intensive training camp in California, which will last for two weeks from January 31.
"It is a unique couple of weeks, because the training is very systematic and incredibly tough," said Michael Blaudzun, now in his ninth season with the team. "A lot of the riders leave this camp totally worn out. It will be two grueling weeks, but at the same time it's nicer and more fun to train all of us together. I don't think that many teams train this way, where it's that intense and with the entire team all at once, like Bjarne [Riis] started doing when he took over. We've each had to stick to specific training programs ahead of the camp so that everyone is in shape and once we're out there on the roads there's always a bit of a competition going on - it's only natural, when we've all got a winning instinct I guess."
For Blaudzun and several other riders on the team, this way of training has come to be a habit, but of course this is not the case for the new riders. Argentinean sprinter Juan José Haedo has lived in California for a few years, while riding for American teams. But contrary to the geographical familiarity "JJ" is far from familiar with this particular method.
"I'm really looking forward to going back to California, but it's not exactly a picnic," he commented. "I've been told by some of the others that Team CSC training camps are extremely tough and that some riders actually fear them, so I'm a bit apprehensive myself now." Nevertheless, Haedo is looking forward to seeing his teammates again. "My first time with the team at the training camp in South Africa was a very positive experience, and when you've had a good time with people you look forward to hanging out with them again."
World Time Trial Champion Fabian Cancellara, in his second season with CSC, confirmed that the training methods were different from what was practiced within other squads. "This is a different way of training compared to what I've seen on other teams. We train together all of us for this period of time - never alone - and the way it works is, that all the stuff we learned in South Africa we put into practice here. It's a long camp, but even though it's tougher than our usual training it's still so much more fun and over that much quicker as well," explained Cancellara, who moreover will be missing his little baby girl.
"I had a daughter a couple of months back and it was really hard to be away from her for a week and a half, when we were in South Africa, so of course it'll be even harder this time, where I'm gone almost the whole of February. But I'll just have to work that much harder in order to distract myself," he concluded. The riders chosen to start the season at the Tour of California from February 18-25 will of course stay in the region after the camp.