The trio converged on the Oz Trails network, a web of almost 1,000 miles of paved, gravel and single track trails in Northwest Arkansas. The region is best known as Walmart's headquarters, but the cycling-enthusiast Walton heirs and the Walton Family Foundation have helped turn the area into one of the hottest off-road scenes in the USA. Fayetteville will host the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in 2022.
With its partnership with Rapha this season, EF Education First have embraced an 'alternative racing' calendar, with Lachlan Morton and Howes competing in the Dirty Kanza and Leadville 100, and Morton racing across Great Britain in the GBDuro. This week's camp saw EF riders take in road, mountain, and gravel rides.
The team's equipment partner Cannondale brought in some of their sponsored freeride and enduro riders to act as tour guides, with Ella Conolly, Josh Bryceland and Max Nerukar joining the roadies for the three-day camp.
"Mountain bikes, bonfires, new trails, and learning a few tricks from pro mountain bikers? That's my kind of team camp," Howes said in the press release. "I packed for this thing like I was packing for a camp vacation. Hatchet? Check. Mountain bike? Check. Binoculars? Check. Sense of humor? Check."
Owen, a multi-time cyclo-cross national champion, is familiar with the area and said "It's cool to come back with my teammates and enjoy what the area has to offer and come together with so many different riders and a truly amazing cycling community. It's a cool thing to be a part of, for sure."
Tejay van Garderen enjoyed the departure from the usual team camp script. "I've been going to team camps for like 10 years. It's usually the same thing — training ride, photoshoot, road bike, repeat. This is a new vibe for a rider like me, who's usually training for grand tours. I'm loving it — the trails and the feeling of riding a mountain bike, chasing around… it's a blast."
The team intends to keep dabbling in alternative cycling adventures in addition to its intensive WorldTour racing in 2020.