I just got back from a great few weeks directing with Team SmartStop for the Tour of Utah and U.S. Pro Challenge (Colorado). For those of you that followed the race, you know the team put in a performance that far exceeded expectations. I had a blast working with the riders and staff, and thought it would be fun to share some of the experiences from the last few weeks:
1. Hotel accommodations can be super hit or miss. As the race moves from town to town some host cities are better prepared to handle the race than others. We started Tour of Utah staying in dormitories with vinyl covered mattresses. Pro Challenge probably has some of the best hotels of any race as most of the time we are staying in ski town condos.
2. Race provided food is just plain terrible. There is only so many days you can eat powdered eggs, overcooked pasta and dry chicken. Every once in the while a hotel will get it right, but that just creates false hope for the rest of the week. I talked my wife Faith into cooking for the team in CO which made a huge difference, but even some of the World Tour teams seemed to skip this option. (Here are some pro tips from Phil Gaimon on how to make the best of it.)
3. The caravan is noticeably more relaxed than in the smaller NRC races that make up most of the U.S. calendar. There is a mutual respect that everyone has a job to do, and the level of experience is much higher. That being said, I did still have to “reaffirm my presence” to a certain Euro team driver from time to time. I also managed to eat my sandwich every day without spilling any mustard on myself so there’s that.
4. The staff on this team is awesome and I would go into battle with any one of them again. (Might need to talk a few of them into coming over to GS CIAO next season!)
5. These guys punch way above their weight! This team was one of (if not the) smallest team in the race both in Utah and Colorado. However, you can’t tell by looking at the results sheet. I see a lot of parallels here to the culture we have on the GS CIAO squad.
6. The fans are awesome! (Even if they are always trying to get run over during the race.) It was great seeing so many friends out on course.