Nathan O’Neill has welcomed Floyd Landis to the Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling Team as he makes his own return to professional bike racing.
O’Neill recently finished a two-year suspension for doping after testing positive for the appetite suppressant phenteramine at the Tour of Elk Grove in August 2007. He and Landis will join up with all their new teammates for a weeklong training camp from March 13-19 in Agoura Hills, California.
The Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling Team recently announced the signing of Landis. He returned to racing last year following his two-year suspension for elevated levels of synthetic testosterone at the 2006 Tour de France. He returned to racing last year with the OUCH presented by Maxxis team.
“I think the obvious thing is that he garners a lot of attention for the team and for the foundation,” O’Neill said. “I only see that as a good thing. I know Floyd is extremely excited to be a part of the program and to be getting back to the communities and the kids. That is something that is very positive for the younger generations. That’s the primary thing that I see Floyd is able to do for the team.”
O’Neill admitted that jumping back into the peloton after a two-year absence will not be an easy task. He hopes to learn from Landis’
experience last year.
“He has been through what I’m probably about to go through,” O’Neill said.“I will certainly try to speak with him about how he got through his first year back and hopefully I can learn from whatever mistakes he made and get through the racing as best I possibly can.”
O’Neill especially missed the team bonding experience during his absence from professional cycling. When asked how it felt to participate in a pre-season team launch and training camp, O’Neill said: “It’s really cool and hard to describe. You don’t realize what you’re missing until you don’t have it. To be back with a great organization, I’m starting to get some of the same feelings I had before so things are off to a great start.”
The purpose of the camp is to give the riders additional time to get to know one another before the official racing season starts at the San Dimas Stage Race and Redlands Bicycle Classic held over the last two weekends in March.
“The biggest challenge is to get to know everyone.” O’Neill said. “There are so many new faces and I’m starting to get though that. It seems like a really good bunch of guys. So far the team is really positive and everyone is on the same page. Everyone is super excited about what’s in front of us.”
O’Neill is an eight-time Australian National Time Trial Champion and considers his position on the team as a go-to guy for his extensive years of tactical experience. He says that he is ready to start racing in two weeks time but admitted that he will need a few race days in his legs before being considered the go-to guy for the overall classification in stage races.
“I never let myself stray too far or get too far out of shape,” O’Neill said. “Despite all the training, I’m under no delusion that I’m going to be at the top of the game straight away. I don’t feel any expectations from myself or the team. I’m going to be suffering initially. I don’t think any amount of training can prepare you especially when you’ve had a couple of years out of the sport.”
O’Neill will start racing at the San Dimas Stage Race and the Redlands Bicycle Classic immediately following the team training camp. He confirmed a race schedule that includes more than 50 events.
“I’m excited and a little nervous because it’s the first race of the season and accentuated by the fact that it’s been two years,” O’Neill
said. “I’m anxious to see where I fit into things. I’m prepared for a smashing. If I can be inflicting damage on other people rather than on me I’ll be pleasantly surprised.”