Weekend Reading: Pros vs. Joes at the Amgen Tour of California

Team CTS 2014 Tour of California

Who does this kind of thing? Who signs up to ride more than 730 miles in a week, including killer climbs like Mount Diablo and temperatures well over 100 degrees? As I sit in my hotel room after another day on the road with the incredible athletes who make up Team CTS, all I can tell you is that the athletes who do this kind of thing are badass, and I’m proud to roll out with them every day!

It’s been great to see how much support Team CTS has been getting out on the road. Now that we’ve been doing these Race Experiences at the Tour of California and USA Pro Challenge for a few years, race fans recognize our group as we go by. Even the pro teams have come to expect our presence in the finishing areas and dining rooms. Some of the pros have even come by to give our riders kudos on finishing stages they themselves found to be very tough.

There are some obvious differences between how Team CTS is riding the Tour of California and how the pros do it. It’s not that one group has it harder than the other, they’re just different. The speed and power in the pro peloton are a lot higher, no doubt. But that also means the pros are done a lot faster. Take Stage 5. It took Team CTS about 5:30 moving time to complete the 100-mile stage, and with roughly 4 stops that took the total elapsed time (all exposure to the heat) to over 6 hours. In contrast, Taylor Phinney won the stage in just under 4 hours. On Stage 3 that finished atop Mount Diablo, our riders were on their bikes for 7+ hours, where the winning time for the pros was just 5 hours.

All that extra time in the saddle adds up. It’s exposure to the heat, which means more time sweating and more need for fluid replacement. It also means earlier mornings in order to get a head start on the pro peloton. It’s nice to see some of the pros recognize the efforts of the regular Joes, and I think it helps our riders feel a bit more included in the race overall.

Of course age is also one of the big differences between the pros and Team CTS. With the exception of Jens Voigt, there’s no one in the pro race that’s as old as anyone on Team CTS. Our group ranges in age from 41 to 62, with an average age of 51. Many have kids older than Stage 5 winner Taylor Phinney, and one – Karen Wilkinson – actually has a son in the race! Jelly Belly rider Steve Fisher is Karen’s son and it’s been a great treat for her to ride the same stages he’s doing, share meals with him in the teams’ dining room, and swap stories about the days’ challenges.

What’s truly remarkable to me about the teams we bring together for these race experiences is how committed they are to getting to the finish line. The weather in California has been ridiculously hot. We’ve been handing bottles out left and right to riders we find on the road who have cracked just trying to ride one stage. Yet our team of 40- to 60-year-old amateur cyclists just keeps on rolling, day after day. Everyone has learned about hydration, nutrition, and pacing and – as typically happens – after a few days the group is working together like a fine-tuned machine. What these riders are doing would be impressive anytime, but to perform this well in these conditions is really remarkable. A big thanks to Osmo Nutrition and Pro Bar this week. Even with the extreme heat and long days, everyone is riding strong and neither cramping nor gastric distress have been a problem.

Personally, I need to give a shout-out to Tony at Main Street Cycles in Santa Maria, California. I had an electrical problem with my bike during Stages 4 and 5, and partway through Stage 5 it was clear it couldn’t be fixed. So our friends at MSC got me a loaner Trek Domane – on the fly, in the middle of the stage – so I could stay with the team and ride into Santa Barbara. Now that’s service!

I really hope there’s a CTS Bucket List Event in your future, or a similarly challenging and life-affirming athletic event. I think the message here is that you shouldn’t impose limitations on yourself based on your age, your current state of fitness, or even your current health. Identify your goal, work toward it, get help along the way, and you will achieve well beyond anyone’s expectations – especially yours.

Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach of CTS

Comments 7

  1. Next year add on board cooling to the bikes.
    You said it best in Cambria, “Thermoregulation is the next big thing in performance.”
    The key is creating a thermal gradient (drop) from the blood flowing through the skin and the surface temp of the skin.
    We’ve found a way to create a 15-25 degree drop over the head, face, ears and neck at the touch of a finger.
    On a long hot day everybody wants “A Cooler Way to Ride.” TM.

  2. Hi Chris I live in Durban South Africa and In August will be travelling to Ljubljana, Slovenia to compete in the UCI Amateur Road World Championships. I will be racing in the 65+ category in the TT and road race. I really enjoy reading your blogs especially about Amgen Race Experience which I would have loved to had done.
    I found the comments on nutrition very interesting and enlightening.

  3. Chris,
    We met a long time ago, when you led a ride for the volunteers for an MS charity ride in Santa Barbara, and we chatted at lunch, after the ride.
    I was sorry to have missed your talk at the champions’ dinner in Las Vegas for the Diabetes Ride, a couple of weeks ago. Although i qualified for the dinner, I didn’t get to Vegas until Friday. I heard one of the other attendees talking about it after the actual ride, and he said it was very inspiring and motivating.
    I did manage to get to the finish line for Stage 5 of the TdC and saw Taylor Phinney flash to victory.
    My widowed step daughter and her 3 boys moved to Colorado Springs several months ago, and we are going to visit them in mid-June. Hopefully we might be able to get re-acquainted then,
    Keep on sending these blogs, I enjoy reading them.
    Bob Zimels

  4. Pingback: Team Group Health » Blog Archive

  5. Chris , Very nice article you have written ,I now have a bucket list & Your race experience Is for sure Top on my list . Will keep training 5 & 6 days a week . Your Friend from Las Vegas ROBERT RAU

  6. Thanks for your posts and continuous support of cycling. Those of us who use to race and train and tour our butts off when we were young really appreciate your nudging us back to the saddle again. I don’t know that I could ever afford a CTS training program, but I can still ride the bike and enjoy the thrill of cycling.

  7. Wow what an experience id would love to do this or the usa pro someday my fitness has gone south this as result of some strange health issues keep me in the loop chris i need some mojo following you on strava now!!

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