Conor Mullervy takes the win at the Old Pueblo Grand Prix

I am extremely excited for New York City to have its first professional cycling team and that I have the opportunity to race for them. The Champion System - Stan's NoTubes Pro Team had its training camp in Tucson, Arizona from March 1-9. With half the team being new riders from both across the country and world, it was a great opportunity for us to not only ride together but to also to get to really know each other well off the bike. Unlike in previous years, instead of just beating each other into the ground during training camp we had more structure this year.

We were extremely fortunate to spend one day with Gord Fraser. He’s a rider I have followed and been a fan of for as long as I have been riding a bike, you know being a Canuk and all. Gord gave us a motivating and instructional talk in the morning. He then took us out for a training ride where we were split into two teams to race against each other. We did several 2 to 4 mile races to improve our teamwork skills; Gord even schooled us all in the last race riding away from all of us. Just from our short session with him, I can truly say that we improved our teamwork, especially in how we support and protect our sprinter. Being one of the most successful sprinters in North America, Gord is truly a great mentor to learn from.

We put in a bunch of miles in the desert the rest of the days, working on rotating pace lines and racing a little more than half way up Mt Lemmon to Windy Point. We also had a media day where a photographer from a major national publication came out with us for a day of training. Look for the article to come out soon!

One of the reasons to have team camp in Tucson during this first week of March is to be able to finish with our first team race of the season, the Old Pueblo Grand Prix. With a big prize list and Tucson being one of the winter hot spots for Pros to train it was a very competitive field. The L-shaped course was just under a mile with 6 corners and windy. Our strategy was to have the guys who have been living in warm weather race more aggressively from the start. I personally needed time to get my legs going. It took me the first third of the race to move up to the front and get my leg speed back. When I got there, I learned that we had Conor Mullervy (Ginger 2) in the break of 9. Even though the odds were not in our favor (although no team had more than one rider), Conor is in amazing form right now so we were willing to take the odds. We massed the team near the front and had two guys go to the back as we knew it was inevitable that the break would lap the field. Conor came flying up with about 25 minutes to race (15 laps) and it was game on. We immediately organized at the front with Kevin Mullervy (Ginger 1), Andres Alzate and I taking control and rotating together while Isaac Howe and Conor sat behind us. It was a great feeling to be at the head of the race giving everything I had. I was definitely nervous about the training I’ve been able to do this winter in NYC, but I guess the road riding I have been doing on my mountain bike was good enough to be useful to the team. I blew with 5 to go and fortunately Andres and Kevin still had the strength to keep the field strung out until the last lap when Isaac took off with Conor on his wheel. Only 4 guys came to the finish line together, with the field decimated behind. Conor took the close sprint for the WIN! It was truly a great way to cap off a terrific week together and hopefully a good sign of things to come. An added bonus was that Gord Fraser was in the break with Conor and he told us we rode it perfectly (Gord was also on the podium finishing 3rd!). On the last day of camp we decided to ride the Old Pueblo Gran Fundo, a great way to support to the promoter of the race and the local cycling community.

Next up will be the start of our USA Crits campaign in Delray and Tampa, Florida. We also have a team of four going to race the OCBC Professional Criterium in Singapore on March 28th. Last year Simon Clarke from Orica-GreenEDGE won.

Thanks for reading,

Gavi Epstein

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