We’ve just finished the second of three training camps, which have been highly productive.
Our first camp, based in the small village of Trescléoux in the Hautes-Alpes department, featured 20 hours of training and focused on team time trial work. If you don’t know what that is, it’s six or seven riders in tight linear formation — just a few inches between back and front wheels at 30 mph or more — for the fastest whole-team time. One of the Coupe de France races this year is a team trial, so our AG2R Citroen U23 team seeks to perfect this exacting discipline. I’ve never raced a road team time trial before, but I’ve done plenty of team pursuit work on the track, so everything felt pretty natural after a few exchanges. I got a few uncompromising reminders, though, such as the fact that it’s nearly impossible to get back on the wheel (or on the train, if you can picture that) if you leave too much of a gap, especially at 60 km/h. Our second camp went smoothly, except when two-thirds of the team, including me, crashed on a descent. We hit a patch of ice coming out of a tunnel, on what were otherwise completely dry roads, and couldn’t avoid going down. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries, and we finished the ride, safe and sound other than some road rash and shredded clothing.
After three days of recovery back in our home base of Chambéry, we went back south for our second camp in Salernes, in the Var department. Luckily, we were joined by Benoît Cosnefroy, a rider on AG2R Citroën professional team and an alumnus of the U23 development team. He has seriously impressive palmarès (bike-speak for roster of accomplishments), including podiums at La Flèche Wallone and Paris-Tours, and the 2017 U23 Road World Championship. Benoît has had a chronic knee injury the past few months, so our training program was perfect for his return to professional racing shape. It was an incredible opportunity to get advice from a world class professional, as well as to watch his technique and how he conducts himself.
Temperatures were perfect in southern France, with a few days in the low 70s: apologies to my Minnesota and Maine readers! We focused on individual time trial work this time around, including a flat 18km mock time trial run by the team. The idea of an individual time trial is to push all the way to your aerobic limit, without going past it and “cracking” or “blowing up.” Individual time trials are very technical, and involve a lot of pacing. My teammate Thomas Delphis, the current U23 French national time trial champion, blew everyone out of the water, finishing nearly a minute ahead of second place. Funnily enough, even though I’ve been racing for a long time, the only road time trial I’ve ever done was the Farm Dog time trial (MN cyclists reading this will remember the series) when I was eleven! My Dad confirms that this was the last time he went faster than me on a bike. This much faster 2021 time trial was run on open roads, so we had to stay alert and be careful, even though the course stuck to pretty quiet roads.
This most recent training camp was also our “media camp,” finally doing a team photo and headshots. Our team kit (again, for my non-bike readers: team uniform), made in Italy by Rosti, matches the AG2R Citroen World Tour team’s, save for the light blue band with “U23” in white letters. I’ll shortly be sending my jerseys off to get the Michaux logo printed on them, which will look great! The team is still working through all of the photos and video, as well as some GoPro footage which I helped out with, but here are a few photos that I received this morning.
From here, I have a few more easy days in Chambéry, then our third and final training camp in the village of Venasque (population 1,012), in the Vaucluse department. We’ll layer in some more intensity to prepare for racing, and more team time trial work too. From there, I’m hoping to get my first races in — perhaps late March — but races continue to be postponed and cancelled: I can’t be sure.
Until next time!