Though most of the team riders have already been racing for a month or more, Hot Tubes has its annual official season kick-off at our Georgia training camp. My third and last Hot Tubes training camp was probably the best one yet, but before I could enjoy training camp, I had to endure the famous Tour of the Battenkill with its 20+ miles of dirt roads and steep climbs. Joining me at the race was teammate Stuart Wight. We enjoyed good weather and clear skies throughout the race, though unfortunately our category 2 field seemed determined not to make a race of it. The race rolled around the first 60 miles so slow that I had little difficulty catching up from a flat tire and later from a pee brake. Two riders who had rode off the front in the opening miles built up a huge lead. By the time I attacked on the final hard climbs with twenty miles to go they had a lead of over five minutes. Stuart flatted for the third time so I was on my own. I dutifully pedaled along as fast as I could until I reached the finish line about a minute behind the two leaders. Then I had to pack my stuff into Toby’s van to prepare for the 18 hour drive to Georgia. Stuey finally finished on his third wheel change and I ran over to the podium to collect my winnings, Pepsi, and chocolate milk. Then we were in the van and “heading south like Sherman” as Toby put it.
Two days later the team was assembled at the Muirs house in Tiger, Georgia. Our 2010 team consists of three returning riders, Lawson Craddock (Houston), Stuart Wight (New Brunswick), myself, and three new riders: Robin and Yannick Eckmann (originally from Germany, currently living in Boulder), and Austin Boswell (Bend, Oregon). The Muirs have the perfect location for our team camp; their beautiful house is on top of a mountain overlooking a lake in the middle of the north Georgia mountains. We fine tuned our positions on the new bikes and broke in the new equipment as we rode 3-4 hours a day on perfect training roads. One day Austin and I made a wrong turn and were separated from the group. We had already ran out of food and water a while ago, and we ended up riding an extra 30 miles while trying to find our way back to the house. After we had both bonked and realized that we were in a less than ideal (i.e. desperate) spot, we tried our luck hitchhiking. Several hours earlier, people kept on stopping to see if we were okay every time we had just stopped to get some food out of the van. Now, no one seemed interested in giving us a lift or directions. Mrs. Muir finally found us walking up the steep climb to the house. 95 miles had never felt so long before in my life. Meanwhile the rest of the team was down at the lake playing on the boat.
After recovering from this terrible experience, we were able to take part in Hot Tube’s various team building exercises, including an all day rafting trip on the Chattooga river, our annual bowling trip, sting pong (not for the faint of heart, see picture), a Dairy Queen run, and tubing on the lake behind a Toby trying to driving a very fast boat like Jeff Gordon. Between all of this we had time to climb some very big hills including the famous Brasstown Bald as well as celebrate Stuey’s birthday. On the weekend we were able to meet some of the team’s supporters at a cookout and go for a relaxed group ride. Then we dropped riders off at the Atlanta airport and Stuey and I began the equally long return journey (aka, we slept peacefully while Toby drove). I finally arrived home yesterday afternoon where I will be staying until Saturday when I will go back to Toby and Gabriella’s house after the Turtle Pond Circuit race. Assuming that pesky volcano minds its own business and cooperates, we’ll be flying out on Tuesday for Europe where I will be for the next six weeks. Then in short order after my return to the states will be Nationals, Fitchburg, Tour of Red River Gorge, and probably the Tour de l’Abitibi. I’m looking forward to it, as long as I don’t find myself hitchhiking up some desolate mountain road again.