Jelly Belly p/b Kenda united at an eventful week-long training camp that included its traditional US Navy SEALs team bonding sessions last week in San Marcos, California. The 13-man roster learned the importance of the official naval special warfare motto, 'no man left behind,' relying on each other as they were forced into the cold waters off the Pacific Coast.
"I encourage most teams to try Navy SEALs training because it is great for team building," said directeur sportif Danny Van Haute. "They do a lot of exercises that carry over to the bike. They concentrate on being a team and communication. All the stuff they did at the camp they can do the same on the bike, thinking-wise. They were in the water a lot. It was a great experience and I encourage all teams to do it."
Van Haute has brought his team to the Navy SEALs base for the previous four training camps as a method of teaching his riders on-and off-bike communication skills. Ken Hanson is one of seven new additions to the team who recalled his first experience on the naval base.
"The Navy SEAL training was incredibly difficult," said Hanson. "It was a great team building exercise to develop communication verbally and non-verbally. I remember one specific drill where we had to synchronize sit ups on the sand as a team. The hard thing was the guy counting and shouting the timing for the drills was out of hearing range."
"I remember quickly establishing eye contact with Brad Huff in the middle of the group to coordinate the timing of my group," he said. "We had to do this while holding a heavy sand-filled tube on our chest for the sit ups. The three-hour session really bonded us as one unit which carried over to looking out for each other throughout camp."
The 2011 roster includes returning riders Bernard Van Ulden, Sean Mazich, Jeremy Powers, Brad Huff, Will Dickeson and Sergio Hernandez, along with new recruits Alastar Loutit, Nic Hamilton, Emerson Oronte, Carson Miller, Cameron Cogburn, Ken Hanson and Alex Hagman.
"Close to half of the team is new riders with a few young neo-pros with tremendous potential," Hanson said. "Personally I am very excited with the new team and great group of riders. We are all really close and the whole vibe of the program is very positive. The team camp was a great experience with a mix of team events, beautiful weather for training and we rode the Mount Baldy Amgen Tour of California stage."
Jelly Belly receives sixth Amgen Tour of California invite
Between sponsor visits, media training and naval base sessions, the riders were fortunate enough to make use of the warm temperatures and incorporated long rides that varied between four and six hours per day during the last five days of camp. One of the training days included a trip up Mount Baldy, the Amgen Tour of California's stage seven mountaintop finish.
"The climb starts on the same time trial course as the San Dimas Stage Race, up Glendora, and after 4.8 miles the route passes the town of Mount Baldy - that's where the climb starts to get really hard," Van Haute explained. "Going into Mount Baldy is not easy and the climb continues for a total of 26 miles. It is going to be a hard stage, epic."
"I've only seen pictures of the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana but this is an epic stage; nice scenery with great roads and no pot holes or sand," he added. "The last four miles or so will be the hardest.
"For my guys, realistically, I don't think any of my guys can climb with guys like Levi Leipheimer on that stage. On another stage yes, but that stage, no. We will be fighting to survive. It's a doozy. It's a Tour de France-level climb. I think the winner of the Amgen Tour of California will come out of that stage or he will have to do well on that climb."
Jelly Belly received its sixth consecutive invitation to the eight-day stage race held from May 15-22. The team will begin preparations for the event by starting its season at the UCI 2.2 Tour de Korea and UCI 2.2 Tour of Thailand, depending on invitations. It may also consider contesting the San Dimas Stage Race and Redlands Bicycle Classic.
"Jelly Belly has been in the sport for 12 years now and they do a lot for cycling," Van Haute said. "We are a fan-based team. We might not win the Amgen Tour of California but we do a lot of exciting things for the fans on the bike. Last year, five out of the eight stages I had a rider in the breakaway that made it exciting for the fans. Every day we go to race our bikes and we put on a show.
"We also do a lot of things off the bike because we are a fan-friendly team," he said. "We have a product that we can distribute to the fans, a half ounce Jelly Belly package and our riders are articulate, they know how to speak to the media and please promoters. We do this at every race, not just for the Amgen Tour of California."
The team will also focus on select events overseas on the UCI calendar in addition to National Racing Calendar (NRC) races.