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Chris Benchetler getting it good. photo - Peter Morning
Team Clif Bar Blog
Jul 22, 2009
Vande Velde, Millar, Danielson, Wiggins, and Lim—That’s a Wrap!


Aside from being in Girona and getting to interview and wander with some of Garmin-Slipstream’s finest, one of the trip highlights was shooting a group ride they put together on day three.

We met at ‘the stone bridge’ at 11am. Once again, not a single rider in site at 10:58, but by the time 11:01 hit, all 10 of the day’s riders were gathered and ready to roll. They are their own rolling magic trick.

Parked on the wrong side of the street, facing the wrong direction, and apparently lacking the ‘locals only’ permit we needed to be in that area in the first place—I stuck fairly close to our vehicle; bolting across the street for a quick snapshot here and there. Luckily, Girona Police are used to it, very cool, and understood what we were trying to do. Uniformed cycling teams tend to carry a bit of clout in that town, which we were thankful for. For all the close calls, we earned no tickets during our 4 days in Girona!

Like I said, RIGHT on the bumper.The next hour was a perfect blend of chaos, beauty and comedy. Chaos because we were leading the pack (as to film out the back), but had no idea where we were going.

The only way we got where we got was by phoning Allen Lim by cell (driving behind the riders) and heeding hand signals being slung at us by the riders themselves. Roundabouts didn’t help the situation, but we made it.

Within 15 minutes were in the Spanish countryside. Gorgeous. Wild flowers, winding roads, and killer vantages of the team screaming around the bends, all set against what was essentially the backside of the Pyrenees. Of course I was at ‘10 & 2’ the whole time, watching it all in the rear view, letting Eric know about potentially cool shots on the horizon, and warning him of dips or bends in the road. We even had the occasional Mack truck try to run us down, but we prevailed.

My knuckles were a bit white in knowing the well being of 10 top riders was momentarily in my hands; one miss tap of the breaks standing to turn things ugly, being that they were at times no less than 12-18 inches off our back bumper (literally riding underneath our hatchback door), doing 30-35MPH. In the end, everyone lived and we got some crazy footage—a day to remember.

An Entire Room of Clif!Later that afternoon we were invited to the Garmin-Slipstream Service Course; where everything ‘behind the scenes’ takes place: bikes and parts are housed, bikes are fine tuned to the mm, team trucks, cars, and sponsor goods are stored (including an entire room full of Clif Bar products!), etc. It was like visiting the Willy Wonka factory for cycling (minus the Oompa Loompas).

Christian Vande Velde—Having finished 5th in the ‘08 Tour de France, Christian, by all teammate reports, was the agreed upon rallying point for the ‘09 Tour. Simple (and very realistic) goal: ‘Get Christian on the podium in Paris.’ Not that there’s anything simple about that at all.

Christian is one of those most experienced riders on the team and has learned a ton from his years riding with and for the world’s best (US Postal and Team CSC). Now, it seemed it was his turn for the spotlight. When asked how he felt about that, and how he tends to handle pressure in general, he said he usually turns inward. Simply because (paraphrasing somewhat), ‘You’re the only one on that bike. There are days when you’re ultra present, you’re burning miles, you’re in a mindset to take it all in, you see all the people, you see families having picnics on the side of the road, you see it all.

But on other days you’re going hard the whole time, your head’s down, it’s just you and your bike...you don’t see the people, the crowds, you just see the road in front of you...and that’s where the small choices start to add up. Better nutrition here, a little more sleep there...things add up fast and in the end it makes all the difference.’ A difference he hopes will pay off for the team in the ‘09 Tour.

David Millar—Still wearing a makeshift sling from a collarbone break suffered during the final stage of Paris-Nice, Millar was on-track to be ready for this year’s Tour de France. In past years, Millar has won three stages of the Tour de France, two at Vuelta a Espana, and in 2007 he took both British national road champion and national time trial champion honors. Not bad. The only thing more amazing than his cycling achievements might be his ‘eating Shot Bloks while cycling’ achievements. In an interview with Allen Lim, it was revealed that in a single stage at last year’s Giro d’Italia, Millar downed no less than 20 bags of Margarita flavored Shot Bloks; roughly 4,000 calories worth of Shot Bloks! But hey, when in a race situation your body attaches to something it loves, we say go with it. Since then, David has stuck by his precious Margarita Shot Bloks, and they by him.

SmileTom Danielson—Tom D loves altitude. He splits time between Colorado and Girona and, among other things, holds the fastest ascent records for both Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, and for the Evans Hill Climb in Colorado (the highest paved road in North America). During our interview, it was interesting to hear Tom talk about what goes through your mind and body during an average stage race. ‘You’re aware of every line in the road, who’s in what position, where the road’s going, who’s coming up on you, what calories you’re eating and when, every muscle firing...,’ adding, ‘Being aware of all those things simultaneously...that’s what being a professional cyclists is all about.’ We concur. Unfortunately, Tom suffered a bad bout with Giardia (a parasitic infection) in April, which set his training behind a bit for Giro, and his vie for a spot on the ‘09 Tour de France squad. We hope all bad juju has been worked out and that 2010 is a healthier year for him.

Bradley Wiggins—As if three gold medals, two bronze, and one silver over three Olympic Games weren’t enough, ‘Wiggo’, as he is affectionately known, has decided to completely blow the doors off this year’s Tour de France. At the time of the interview in April, Wiggins, like others, was all about supporting Vande Velde for the podium placement, however the tables (and roles) have since turned...as ‘Wiggo’ currently sits in 3rd place in the Tour, just 1:37 behind 2nd place Lance Armstrong, and 1:46 behind phenom Alberto Contador. Allez, Wiggo, Allez!

Allen Lim Breaks It DownAllen Lim—What can be said about Allen Lim that the riders haven’t said over and over again. He’s the rock to which they adhere, thus allowing them to rock on course. By title, Allen is the team’s Physiologist, PhD. However, as reported by the team, he’s also their nutritionist (crafting many of their meal mixes from scratch), he helps handle bike issues and fine tuning, he motor paces them (by car and scooter), he’s the team psychologist, and just a good friend. Pretty much whatever they need, Allen makes it happen. Beyond that, he’s an amazing foodie; from wine to noodles no good food is wasted on him. Beyond this—the being accomplished and brilliant part (many a rider describing him as ‘the smartest guy they’ve ever met’)—he’s totally hilarious. Camera running or not, he can just go. I told him he should have his own show. I’d certainly watch it. When you love what you do, I guess it just pours out. And oh, does he ever love what he does.

So, that’s it. Our trip to Girona, and our time spent with the Garmin-Slipstream boys. These are officially the longest blog entires I’ve ever written. I tried to abridge...but there was simply too much.

HUGE and most humble thanks to the team for appeasing our cameras and timetables, and best wishes for a strong finish on Tour.

Cheers.

Want more? Roll on over to flickr.com and take a photo journey through Swanner’s visit to Girona with Team Garmin-Slipstream.



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Swanner
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