By Will Routley
As I check in from south of the border, the big news is the Amgen Tour of California. The competing teams have been announced and I'm off to the race. It's official!
This event is a huge deal in California, and is now the largest sporting event in the state. With an anticipated spectator turnout in excess of two million, a course that covers over 1,200 kilometres, and a field of 136 of the best riders on earth from 17 international teams, I'd have to agree that it is indeed a big deal. And, to add to the excitement, Lance Armstrong will be among the competitors, as will be many of the superstars we all know from the Tour de France.
Getting ready for a race of this calibre has been my focus for the last month. Back home in B.C., training was a little less straightforward than normal. Typically I would dress warm and hit the roads around the Fraser Valley, but with the snow we had this year a different approach was necessary. There was no way to train the volume I originally had planned, so instead my days regularly included a morning rollers spin in the basement, a trip to the gym in the afternoon, followed by an evening set of intervals back in the basement.
On more exciting days one could find me out on my dad's mountain bike in the snow. I did a lot of frigid hill repeats on the slippery road to Diamondhead Park above Squamish. Was it worth it? Well, maybe in the unlikely event of a snowstorm during the Tour of California at least one rider won't crash.
Training in California the last few weeks has been a dream. Yesterday's ride was a little chilly at about 13 degrees Celsius. Just to remind myself how lucky I was to be riding in a "chilly 13 degrees" I called home to B.C. and discovered more snow was flying as low as Vancouver, yet again. I guess that would explain the briskness here in Santa Cruz, California, my home away from home for the next few months.
While most of us are still in the midst of winter pursuits, I've already ploughed headfirst into the 2009 cycling season. On Jan. 10 my girlfriend Shani, also a competitive cyclist, and I made the drive South and we have been riding like demons every day since. I only had one week of training in Santa Cruz before I made the drive further south to the San Diego area. This was for the first training camp of the year with my new team, Jelly Belly Pro Cycling.
It was a busy few days we filled up with setting up our new GT bikes, meeting teammates and staff, photo shoots, dinners, meetings with sponsors, and eating Jelly Belly jelly beans. While there was a little riding speckled in there it's the public relations stuff that can really take it out of a guy. Speaking of the photo shoots, I was one of the lucky three to be chosen for the Sport Beans ad campaign, so look for my smiling face in sporting magazines practicing my future modelling career.
As I write this I'm also preparing for training camp number two with Jelly Belly. This time we will have fewer media obligations and focus more on last minute training before the Tour of California gets underway on Feb. 15. We'll be testing our legs with a few six-hour mountain days to the famous Mt. Palomar Observatory, as well as a couple of regional races in San Diego. The Tour of California might be an early race for a Canadian, but regardless of how it turns out, things are shaping up very nicely for a long successful season with my new team.
Will Routley was raised in Whistler and was the top junior mountain biker in Canada before he made the transition over to road. He rode with Team Symmetrics for three years before the team disbanded at the end of last season. He is recognized as one of the top young road riders in the country.