Manual for Speed was at the Tour of California and talked with various players in the workings of Team Exergy and Team Garmin-Barracuda (now Team Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda) at the end of the long, hot week—which peaked with 100+ F degree temperatures in Bakersfield. We spoke with Team Exergy Director Sportif Tad Hamilton and got his overall thoughts on the week. What follows is in his words.
It’s been ten days of hard work for everyone. For the most part we did a pretty great job, especially considering that we had to wing it a little bit. The day-to-day transfers complicate things so much. At a typical U.S. stage race like Gila or Cascade, you’re staying in the same place every night and you race out or around from that area before coming back afterwards. Here though, you have to move the whole show—not just the people but everything you’ll need for eight days of racing. Every night you’re in a new town that you’ve never been to, trying to find the right hotel and the parking, it’s a mess. It’s confusing and tiring. How do you make sure that everything needed at the finish line is there and everything needed at the hotel is there? That sort of thing. The motorhome was completely essential. You can’t have guys out in the sun for who-knows-how-long, and it’s a nicer way to travel too. Little stuff like the coffee maker and the bathroom make a big difference in the day-to-day. These races are so long and hard that they need a little extra comfort. It makes it way easier on the boys and since we have four staff sleeping in it we end up saving money over a couple of hotel rooms, thats for sure.
In the end I am proud. It was always gonna be tough. I brought two sprinters, Logan and Carlos, to this race looking at the one real sprint stage which of course was the last one. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it through. That was more about preparation and training for the coming races than it was about being here to help Freddie on Stage 8, though. Hopefully we got that out of it, hopefully those guys are in a better place to help out or find success in the near future, like Logan at U.S. PROs for Freddie or Carlos in Philly. You know, if it works out than those two spots were worth it. Leaving Noe out, a kid who’s finished Tour de Suisse and a lot of tough races, that probably hurts us at the end of the week.“If he's in that last group getting bottles for Freddie, Freddie might end up top 10 or 15. Who knows? He finished 25th on the week but if he has a few more calories he could be 10 spots higher. We won't know.”Tad Hamilton
It was great for Sammie to be in those breakaways, but he paid for it later. He didn’t get to finish the week. I know he’s super bummed but that’s what he needs to work on. Conservation and longevity. Getting in the break is not a great way to work on that of course, but it’s not a bad thing to be out there. It’s the right thing for Team Exergy and its a good way to start the week. And we had Freddie on the podium early on as well, so yeah. We had the best setup we could for Sam to recover, and if you find yourself in that break situation you have to go for it and make the best of it.
One of the difficulties we faced is that we didn’t get the official invite till just a couple of months out. If we had gotten that invitation in December we’d have been able to set up the whole year’s schedule with California in mind and plan individual schedules better. You can sort of assume you’ll get the invitation, but then you’re hedging your bets on one thing, and it’s important for us to show really well in all the NRC races. You can’t hide out all year just to show up in May and do one bike race, then hide away till Colorado in August. You have to put guys on the road that can win races. It’s a delicate balance. You have to temper the riders enthusiasm. You have to tell guys that they have to be fast in March when a lot of the guys riding California won’t be fast until May. The team wants to do california too but when you look at this course there aren’t many guys on this team that are able to get optimal preparation for it.
There were a couple of dark moments. One was definitely my fault, one was definitely a rider’s fault and the third was just one of those learning experiences you can’t totally control. We can’t be losing people to flat tires. We have to figure out how to keep guys in the race when the hammer is down, to get those wheels changed and try to get them back in the group. There are some gray areas in the rules that you need to navigate in order to make that happen. In races this big you can often do what you need to do, even if it costs a few bucks or a few seconds. You can’t lose guys to mishaps. Crashes or bad legs—that’s different—but it’s not acceptable to lose guys to flats, and the riders have to remember that. The typical occurrence is a mild crash with a bike change or a flat. There’s absolutely no reason at all to lose someone to that with a caravan so big, so we make it happen. You will get penalized at the end of the day. We call em fees, there’s no problem paying for them. That’s what happens, every does the same thing. No complaints there.
There are days when you look at the parcours, and you know that day is gonna be hard, and you think about whether your guys can make an impact on that day. To a degree you know, you know who is on form and who isn’t, but the racers themselves dictate how hard the race is. There were several stages this week that could’ve been like Stage 7 where the peloton just gets detonated and the leaders are charging, that sort of thing. It never really happened. so at night after it’s all over you look at yourself and the team, and you think, “My guys are good enough for these races.” Then Mt. Baldy happens, and you think, “Man I don’t know.” The thing you have to understand is who is around you. Look at the other guys in the grupetto. Look at the guys who Freddie, our sprinter, was finishing with. We are good enough. We weren’t alone in those places. We’re not gonna win the Yellow Jersey, but when we come to these races we can make a real impact if we pick the right moments. It’s nice to be in the break a lot and be on TV, but I just don’t agree with that being the first objective. If you end up losing a guy out of the race because of his time in the break, you have to figure out if thats a worthwhile trade. You have eight guys in the race, that’s all you get. If you lose two dudes and you all of a sudden have six guys, that doesn’t seem worth it. This week, the break won exactly once, and he was alone, and Garmin messed up by shutting down the chase halfway up the climb. Nine times out of ten that break doesn’t actually work. I just don’t feel like that’s why were at the race. We were in the break the first and the last day, and those were the two most important days of the race. I’m not into chasing the breaks just to chase the breaks—there are times, for various reasons, that you do want your guy in the break—and that was my screwup, not thinking to have a guy in the break on the third day. I had the gut feeling, I knew it was right, I didn’t do it, and there you go. We paid for it at the end of the stage.“In the end, if we aspire to do these big races, the riders and staff have to show up. It's not a one-and-done sort of thing though. It takes some time to prove you can get it done, and it takes some time to prove you can't.”Tad Hamilton