Team Exergy’s inaugural Training Camp is based just outside Ventura in Southern California. The team is staying (hosted) in a house located in a gated community on a exceptionally tall hill in the hills above the orchards below. The driveway is a half mile long and steep, as in an average of 15.7% with the worst section at 28%. At the beginning of every day the team rides down the hill to train, and at the end of every day the team rides back up the hill to get home. Every day.
The road is lined with various signs warning and alerting drivers to the many and various issues associated with it’s ridiculous and near otherworldly grade:
- General steepness
- Difficulty braking
- Difficulty stopping
- Loss of control
- Et cetera
That it’s the painful and anxiety-inducing finish to every ride, every day, is general knowledge and a common topic of conversation. Various techniques to avoid it, handle it or mitigate its cruelty are employed.
- Drafting, which is pointless at four miles an hour as we all know, but worth a try.
- Holding onto the window or something like the end of a roof rack. Anything.
- And, of course, tick-tacking.
“But nothing works because the hill is mean and stupid and longer and straighter than what generally makes sense.”
On the morning of the sixth day, the second to last day of camp, Tad (Exergy’s Director Sportif) calls for a Time Trial up the driveway. He explains that racing is not all about legs and riding. He says often it’s about work. And this, he says, is work.
Quinn, who is generally subdued, or at the very least reserved, appears to be getting himself pumped and amped and jazzed (he’s making loud Heavy Metal guitar noises with his mouth and walking around in short bursts of speed and purpose). Sam Johnson is hustling Slack to get ready. There is an energy this morning. Not race energy exactly, but definitely something beyond training. The driveway and greater garage area has an anxious or maybe focused quality to it.
The team gathers at the bottom of the hill, just inside the gate. Tad writes numbers onto eleven slips of paper and drops them into a hat. One by one, the riders reach into the hat and grab their place in the race. In the bushes next to the curb there is a clock. The race starts and the team goes off in thirty-second intervals for 0.49 miles and 400 feet. Carlos has the fastest time at 3:14, and Kai has the best power average at 527 watts (ranging from 425 to 650).