“You said there would be doughnuts and coffee.”
– *Zach McDonald*, Pier Park, Portland, Oregon, 2010
There were no doughnuts and there was no coffee. It was the late summer of 2010 and Team Rapha-FOCUS camp consisted of riders Chris Jones & Zach McDonald, plus Slate Olson from the North American office directing photographer Dan Sharp. It was just the four of them, two brand new bikes, a borrowed motorcycle for action shooting and still absolutely no doughnuts and/ or coffee.
Riders were turned loose in Pier Park, site of the earliest and most mythical CX races in Portland, to ride round and round in front of the camera. New kit was photographed and plans were discussed for the upcoming season. It felt like the sort of team you and some friends might put together but with really, really good-looking kit.
Two years later the Rapha-FOCUS team is larger not just in the number of riders but in the scope of their ambition. Two riders in 2010 became four in 2011 and now to 7 in 2012… There are more women on the team than men and more European riders than American. There are two reigning national champions and dozens of UCI podium placements. There are more bicycles per square foot of garage space at camp than can be imagined. There is an updated kit and new, exciting sponsors. Best of all, there is coffee.
And so, Team Rapha-FOCUS met in the high altitude of Dillon County Colorado in mid-August of 2012 to make introductions, test new equipment, and shoot photography of all that’s new. It was an affair, no doubt, with greater logistics than the “camp” of 2010 but the enthusiasm of the riders, the professionalism of the staff, and the excitement for the season gave the feeling of just hanging out with good friends. In no particular order, here are the moments that stood out.
– The original 2 became the next-original 4: Team Rapha-FOCUS has kept the riders it started with. Everyone was happy to see each other and there is a pronounced fondness and respect among riders and staff. Perhaps my favorite moment was watching Julie and Zach discussing ideal handlebar and lever position during bike set-up. Serious, heavy-duty stuff.
– Women: We began the camp with 3 women on the team. Returning rider Julie Krasniak of France, new team riders Gabby Day of the United Kingdom and Sabrina Schwiezer of Germany balanced the 3 returning American men on the squad. By the time we’d all reached the airport for the return trip home we’d signed Jasmine Achermann of Switzerland. These women are impressive racers and interesting people who are all working to make cycling more attainable for women around the world.
– Bike thieves strike: Mechanics strike back even harder. Three days prior to team camp and the rider fitting and photo shoots that go with it, over a dozen team frames were stolen. Namely, the custom national champion paint scheme frames for Jeremy and Zach. Unfazed, the crew at FOCUS and team mechanics were able to prepare bikes in time for the shoot. There was rumor of a secret stash “just in case” which is exactly what the best mechanics are known to do. We’re still looking for those missing frames but our riders are ready to race. Never a hint of panic from anyone. This is a cool crew.
– The new kit: The new team kit and the replica kit is a beautiful update to the original. Jeremy Powers had some input on the new design which is somewhat ironic in that he’ll never really wear it this season. The national champion kit that he and Zach McDonald wear is nicely done as well. Gotta had it to our British design team for creating such a nice USA kit.
– Euro/American: Restaurant reservations for 18? That’s the easy part. It’s getting 18 people to all agree on what they’ll be eating that’s difficult. But sometimes the universe points the way for you. In searching for a local spot for team dinners an internet search revealed Vinny’s Euro American Restaurant. With 3 American men and 3 European women* on the team, Vinny’s not only sat us right away but made every one of us full and happy by night’s end.
*This just in – we now have 4 European women on the team!
– Beautiful Colorado: Not much to say here that the photos from the camp aren’t saying 10,000 times better. The terrain is beautiful, the roads and trails are challenging, and the altitude is for real. Our condominium had three levels and three corresponding sets of stairs. Morning coffee saw some shortness of breath. Poor Gabby Day’s room was all the way at the bottom of the house, too…
– Chris Jones fishing stories: Chris Jones scouts fly fishing locations at upcoming race events with as much interest as the race course profiles. He’s an early riser, either to get some training in or to wet a line on a river. Chris had just a few days with us in between two major stage races but his team bike was joined in the garage along with waders and a rod & reel.
– Photo Shoot antics: Photographers want action shots and the riders were eager to produce. Bermed turns were found, sandy sections were revealed, run-ups to run and logs to be bounded over or bunny-hopped. The riders never complained. In fact, it’s the fun they can create for themselves with these elements in a long day of shooting. We ask them to do things over and over and over, all the while getting precariously close with cameras and equipment. They get close, no doubt scaring us, but never as close and scary as the battles they wage during a race. Still, there are times we think they might hit us…
– Ben from the MCC: That bit about coffee? Ben rolls a 30-foot Rapha Cycle Club with a full coffee shop on board. He’d just supported the Tour of Utah and was in Colorado for the upcoming USA Pro Cycling Challenge. In between he found time to make certain there would be coffee at camp. Ben is a cool cat, an all-day crusher on the bike, story teller, and the calming influence to any scene. It’s quite humorous how often he’s mistaken for an Australian here in the United States [he hails from North London].
And speaking of Brits being mistaken for Aussies, you can bet Gabby will suffer the same fate given this decal on her team bike.
– Lunch at Chipotle: As an American I can say that we are always intrigued by the team sponsor names of European squads. Who are they and what do they do? Often we are disappointed to learn that a sponsor’s area of business is mundane compared to the exploits of the team and the beauty of the team jersey. So it was with particular delight to host our German friends to lunch at Denver, Colorado-based Chipotle. Now, where did I put that 50-pound bag of Mapei tile-adhesive…