By: Erik Slack
This morning, I woke up two days after the IRT Racing Pro Cycling Team training camp ended, and it felt odd having breakfast by myself. Camp was such a highlight reel of laughter from start to finish, that my stomach still hurts.
With every new season, a director builds a team that they hope will gel together on and off the bike. Even on the first night, I could tell that this team was about more than riding bikes – but also building community with each other. Haldane Morris, the team General Manager, had reached out to me back in July to discuss the team and its goals. This was going to be a different program. Unique personalities, but no egos.
Our days started with a 6am wake up for breakfast at the diner or courtesy of our team “mom” soigneur Paige. Like all families, mom keeps the show running and on track! We were on our bikes by 8am sharp exploring the nearby hills and mountains. We averaged about 4-5 hours on the bike each day, covering about one hundred miles, with one long day topping out at 135 miles. Thirty-three hours on the bike in eight days meant that we all got to know each other, as well as our new Ritte Aces. The bikes were so amazing, that we didn’t have much to complain about pedaling up and flying down the Santa Monica Mountains. Post ride, our afternoons included massages, and hanging out at the beach with each other. We always did our rides as a team, which is unusual, but brought us together as a team without the jockeying for position that you usually see at training camp.
Pro-cyclists have a reputation for living a life that consists of only ride, eat, sleep and repeat; but at this camp, there was so much more. We had a team presentation/media day at Pedalers Fork in Calabasas, where I had the chance to meet many of our team sponsors. It was inspiring to see their enthusiasm about the program and support for what we are doing. I’d be crazy if I didn’t mention getting to enjoy some of the best coffee around, roasted locally by Ten Speed Coffee. The media day also included an easy spin with our sponsors, which gave us the chance to learn more about them. Thankfully, they went easy on us!
One of the goals of the IRT Racing Team this year is to raise awareness and funding for cancer research for the Children’s Hospital of LA. On our media day, one of their youth ambassadors, Nathan Hickey, came along for the ride. He is 13 and both a cyclist and a patient of the hospital, dealing with an auto immune disorder and using the bike a a part of his therapy. It was nothing short of inspiring. On one of the last days of camp, the whole team spent the day at the hospital. We took a tour of the research lab, and actually saw cancer under the microscope! It was difficult to visit the children who were fighting cancer. Yet, it reminded us that while we are out racing bikes, we could help the kids in the hospital. No race or tough workout I have can compare to the battle these kids face every day. That realization makes me appreciate what I have and motivates me to do my best.
The most hilarious day of camp was the photo shoot. Our photographer, Kristy Morrow, knew how to get the best out of us. She cranked up the music, and of course, we did our best to make each other laugh and goof off. In spite of our antics, Kristy got some great shots that made us look like serious bike racers. In just ten days, a group of nine riders and four staff who didn’t know each other formed a family. We’re going to travel around the world this season, and I can’t wait to see what adventures we get to tackle together.