The Garmin-Barracuda development team - Team Chipotle - gathered in Wimberely, Texas for its pre-season training camp. Surrounded by the Texas Hill Country, Wimberely offers some great training opportunities and is an area team director Chann McRae knows well calling it his "home roads". Also the local weather calls for warm temperatures - an added plus.
In addition to the standard long training rides, the development team is going to take part in some tactical training, otherwise known as a paintball fight. "We are going to have some military personal out there and we'll be dividing the team and seeing who can lead the squad and protect the leaders," said McRae.
The camp has a full agenda including three days of testing. "We're conducting threshold testing - the same test that the Garmin guys will be doing," explains McRae.
In addition, there's the usual bike fittings and new equipment that needs to be dialed in for each of the riders.
When BigMat pulled out in the 11th hour as a title sponsor, the financial fallout was significant. However, according to McRae, the development team wasn't affected.
"Our program is actually stronger than last year. I was able to still go out and recruit the best talent for the team," said McRae. "It's really important that when I scout and recruit for the team they will be WouldTour caliber within two to three years. I had the green light from JV (team manager Jonathan Vaughters) to do that. and that's what I did."
In an email, Vaughters clarified the development team's financial position saying that the squad was operating on a slightly smaller budget as they couldn't pull any funds from the men's WorldTour team.
"But we're blessed as it (the development squad) has its own proprietary sponsors which fund 100 percent of the budget now," wrote Vaughters.
When asked about who is developing to make the jump to a WorldTour team McRae won't name names, but states that he has four to five guys in his development stable that can progress to the next level in their cycling career.
To ensure that the development riders are being properly groomed for a WorldTour program the squad's race calendar has been changed in comparison to other years.
"We selected a lot of races in Europe - a lot of 2.2 events like Tour of Romandie, Circuit des Ardennes and U-23 Paris-Roubaix - balanced with some here in the US, but we're not looking to be at any races that the WorldTour team is at."
The reason is to teach these young riders the craft of racing a bike.
"I might have a rider who is an awesome climber, but he's never going to be good at the Tour de France if he can't be in a good position. So how do you do that?" said McRae. "You put them in races in Belgium and France and they'll be riding in the gutter, which makes them really comfortable with positioning. Once they have that dialed in, they'll be flying. He's going to hit the climb in the optimal position. If he's a good climber, but starts in 90th position, it won't matter."
So with the development riders entering prestigious races does the team have potential winners or are they riding for experience?
"We're not holding back and will be contending wherever we go. We have 15 guys so some will be stronger earlier in the season, others later, and we'll go off that rotation."
With a heavy European campaign the development team has a home base in Toulouse, France.
"There's really good training and racing in France. We can also just cross the border and race in Spain or travel to Belgium."
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