In what has become a right of passage for many, the CSU Cycling team headed down to Tucson earlier this month for its annual winter training camp. Most of the 15-rider crew logged between 400 and 500 miles during the week.

Jillian Lukez provided us with the following recap of what sounds like an awesome week of riding and team bonding.

By Jillian Lukez

This winter break, the CSU cycling team traveled to Tucson, Arizona for our annual training camp. 15 cyclists made the trip to the desert with goals of increasing fitness and bike handling skills, team bonding, and of course having fun. For four riders, this was their first time in Tucson. The rest returned for their second or third camps, showing the importance of continuity within the team throughout college. This was a high mileage week – most of the team rode 400-500 miles – so naturally, barriers were broken and plenty of new experiences were had by every rider.

Although the riding was different every day, each morning started with core and yoga, led by co-president Lucas Huesman. This is important to get your body in a routine, so you are mentally and physically prepared for a long day on the bike. A consistent routine allowed everyone plenty of time to eat breakfast and get ready to ride. Most days, the team rode from around 10am until 3 or 4pm. These long days meant plenty of snack breaks and photo ops for the amazing views. The first few days, most of the group was together and could practice riding in a large group.

Ladies photos on top of Gates Pass

Upon returning to the house, we took the time to practice road skills. Bumping shoulders with people gives you the confidence to react safely to that situation in rides and races. Major priorities for our team are safety and having fun, so this was just another way to initiate team bonding while learning relevant skills. The opportunity to develop these habits while in an inclusive team environment was a highlight of camp. As put by Ethan Hobbs, “the team was like a well-oiled machine. We were efficient, we worked together, and we got things done”.

Shoulder bumping drills!

In the evening, everyone took turns cooking delicious and creative meals. While eating we shared our favorite and least favorite parts of the day. This is an opportunity for self-reflection and group input when people have questions or concerns others may relate to. After dinner we played games, hung out, and prepared for another busy day.

An important part of this week was flexibility. Unlike the past two years, the weather posed some challenges. The first day was windy and rainy, cutting the mountain bike ride short and drenching the roadies. On the morning of the scheduled day to ride Mt. Lemmon, an iconic 25-mile climb from the Sonoran desert to a ski area, the first group returned with unfortunate news that the road was closed to bikes past mile 9 due to ice and snow. Regardless, everyone stayed in good spirits, and we were able to complete a wonderful loop through some hilly neighborhoods in the foothills, ending with a climb up the A mountain overlooking Tucson. Mt. Lemmon opened the next day, and remarkably, all 15 riders made it to the cookie cabin at the top! Watching everyone roll in with plenty of stories to tell was one of the most rewarding parts of camp, especially since so many beat personal records from previous years.

Leaving the Cookie Cabin after climbing Mt Lemmon

To make the most of good weather, we pushed our recovery day back to the fifth day. Rain and wind derailed the tradition of riding to a café across town, so we had to get creative. One group went for a shakeout run in the morning and we took a trip to a coffee shop for a change of scenery. The weather finally cleared up and the team went for a recovery spin on the bike path. We were happy to be able to ride, both to clear our legs of lactic acid and get outside.

The team rolling out

The last few days of camp are traditionally the most challenging and exciting, and this year was no different. On day 6, a group set out to ride around Mt. Lemmon. This involves almost 50 miles of rough gravel, not to mention a long slog back on the roads and bike paths. Notably, two women completed the loop for perhaps the first time in CSU Cycling history – Annie Hyatt and Katie McCauley. Despite a few flats, everyone rode the gravel very well. Some mountain bikers also joined for the first part of the gravel section on Redington Pass, before splitting off to ride some techy singletrack on the Arizona Trail. Adding to the create-your-own-adventure style of this day, some other riders started the day with a sunrise hike on Gates Pass.

The goal for the last day of camp was for everyone to successfully complete a century ride. The route to Madera Canyon south of Tucson mostly consists of rolling hills, while the climb up is steep and unrelenting through a beautiful pine forest. Once again, everyone completed the route happy and incident free. Continuing a tradition from last year, several riders kept at it to reach 200 km, or 125 miles.

Undoubtedly, everyone left camp a stronger cyclist. In the words of Ella Zimmerman, a newer rider but one of our most dedicated, camp was “an opportunity to push yourself, build connections, and spend time doing what you love”. The inclusive team culture is truly extraordinary, not only this week but throughout the whole year. Many riders commented that they are feeling more motivated than ever to train for the upcoming road season, especially with their teammates. Ella also reflected that “it was humbling and inspiring to see the best at work and only made me want to get better. I left wanting even more and thinking, if this is how life could be, I’d be pretty happy!” Overall, the team is very grateful for our amazing leadership and sponsors that allow us to train hard and have fun. We are stoked to have another successful team camp in the books and are hoping for many more in the future.

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