Preparation for the biggest races are a season-long affair. For the Amgen Tour of California, preparation for Rally UHC Cycling begins on January 1st. Every race, training ride and team camp builds towards California in May, and every rider in the team has the same thing in mind. Of the 16 names on the men’s roster, only seven will make the cut. The women’s roster gets cut from 14 to six. There’s never a guarantee, not for anyone.
Hours, days and weeks of winter miles, solo rides, interval training, race simulations go into getting a cyclist ready for a bike race, not to mention the diet, recovery and other off-the-bike activities that each rider must manage at home.
For Rally UHC Cycling rider, Emerson Oronte, balance is hugely important. He emphasizes the value of surrounding himself with people who not only support, but are willing to share, the sacrifice that comes with being a professional cyclist and the dedicated approach that it demands. Speaking the day before taking the start of the Tour of California, Emerson said, “we only have one chance to do this”, just one chance to make the most of the biggest race in North America.
How does a rider’s training and preparation change as a big race approaches?
Perhaps counter-intuitively, training actually gets easier in the leadup to a tough stage race. It can take some time for the body to adapt to the lower intensity, but most riders will do away with arduous distance in favor of short and deliberate training rides. The only time you’re not training full gas is in the days, or week, before a race. Evan Huffman summarizes that control is for training, while racing is all over the place.
It’s not just the riders who have to be ready to race. Everyone at Rally UHC Cycling, from sports directors to riders, mechanics and soigneurs, has a responsibility. It’s the mechanics’ job to ensure that each rider’s bike is dialed in to their own exacting standards, and for rider Kyle Murphy, their reliability is a huge boost. He knows he can head to the start line confident in the knowledge that his bike is perfectly set up.
This precision and trust are the same across the whole outfit. Janis Burns-Sparks is one of Rally UHC Cycling’s soigneurs, and her main role at the Tour of California will be to manage the riders’ food on and off the bike. It’s a job which goes way beyond packing musette bags with branded energy bars. The team car is her office by day and the hotel room is her kitchen. Janis travels around with spare rice cookers in the car, just in case, and makes it her duty to hunt down good ingredients and to be creative with the variety she provides to the riders. She plans at home, prepares in the hotel room and then packs the musettes that will power the racers.
A bike race is like an iceberg, the race itself is just the tiniest part, while so much more happens beneath the surface.