Team SaxoBank Training Camp: Interviews and Photos

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BIKERUMOR EXCLUSIVE! Team SaxoBank recently held their kickoff training camp in the Canary Islands, and our buddy Nic Sims, Specialized’s global brand manager, was there talking with the athletes and helping to introduce them to the 2010 gear.

We spoke with Nic about the camp, the tech and some of the riders to learn a little more about Specialized’s involvement with the team and what goes on besides the riding.  And, we’ve got lots of great pics to share, too, starting with the team SL3 above (yep, it’s relatively tame looking compared to some other team bikes, but Fabian Cancellara seems to like it)!

Let’s get started…

BIKERUMOR: Nic, you went to the first official 2010 Team SaxoBank training camp before Christmas, where was it and how did it go?
NIC: The first camp was in Fuerteventura which is one of the Canary Islands and it is a small island close to the coast of Africa. The week before we arrive the team did their usual survival training which they do every year, although one year it was not held in Denmark in the wet and cold, more of a desert environment. I know that Andy Schleck had blogged about it.

BR: We spoke on the phone and you mentioned that most of the team chose to ride the new Romin saddle versus the lighter Toupe that they’d been on previously…why do you think they made the switch?
NIC: The team had previously been sponsored by Prologo, so this was the first chance for them to try out our range of saddles, we took pretty much everything we have: Phenom’s, Toupe, Romin, Tritip’s etc. It turns out that most of the guys liked the Romin saddle. The little turn up at the back allows you to push off it and get good power to the pedals. There are some guys that wanted the Toupe just because it is a light saddle but as we also do three different widths (the Romin) allows us to really get a good fit for each rider. I believe you have tried the Romin and commented on how comfy it felt too, so you are in good company. Getting pro’s to switch saddles is a tough job as they tend to stick with saddles that they like and that they’ve had never had issues with. Getting these guys on our saddles is a big step for us.  (Editor’s note: We did get a Romin saddle in to test in early December and first impressions are very positive)

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LEFT: Lining up cleats with last year’s shoes. RIGHT: Jens Voigt checks out the Shiv.

BR: You also mentioned that a lot of the riders ended being fit on your widest (155mm) size and that they were really surprised by that.  Personally, I’m a bit surprised too because I’m much larger than most pro riders, but I’m fit on the mid-sized (143mm) Romin, which we have on review right now.  Is there any correlation between outward appearance and saddle size, or is it really totally dependent on bone structure?
NIC: As I mentioned we do 3 widths saddles and that allows us to really set the rider up for the correct saddle, we have a simple piece of apparatus called the “ass-o-meter” that when you sit on it it will leave a impression of where a riders sit bones are. We can then measure the distance and then reference the saddle chart to determine what will be the best width for a individual.

This is important not only for guys riding the Tour but also for first time bike buyers. The width of your saddle has nothing to do with how you look, I think there was about 6-8 guys on the team for next year that are going to be riding the 155 yet they look like the usual super fit skinny pro racer. People would naturally assume that as they are skinny they would ride a skinny saddle, but it is what is beneath the exterior looks that we are measuring. We have skinny tall guys at work who ride 155 and some larger guys who ride 130’s. So I would suggest that anyone interested in buying a new Specialized saddle get it sized for you and your riding style.

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Notice the two riders in the foreground?  Kinda puts those roads into perspective. Click to enlarge.

BR: Baden Cooke apparently went through a lot of fit changes on his bike during the camp…what changed from 2009 to 2010?
NIC: Yes Baden had a lot of changes, this is his first year on Saxo so he had never had a FIT last year. He is a guy on a 155 saddle but we also made seat height changes, stem height, I would have to check on exactly the changes where but his first rides on his new position where very positive so hopefully, he’ll head down to the Tour Down Under and get a few stage wins. Several riders commented that they wished they had had this opportunity to get FIT years ago.

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LEFT: Jens Voigt’s BG Fit Form.  RIGHT: Unless they didn’t get their new kit yet, this year’s uniforms look exactly like 2009′s.

BR: Does Specialized bring in Body Geometry fit specialists to fit the team, or do they use their own people?
NIC: We take our own team who teach the classes to dealers in Morgan Hill plus Andy Pruitt from the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine and one of his guys, and this year we also took one of our dealers so they could get a first hand experience, too.

BR: What sort of feedback are you looking for from the team during a pre-season training camp?
NIC: As with anything we do with our athletes feedback is a very important part and as this year was the first time the team had had our saddles we took with us our saddle product manager so that he could talk with riders. We are looking for how the seat feel, are they wide enough, do the need to be narrower anywhere, and are they stiff enough. Also the team is on our shoes and for a lot of the team it is the first chance they have had to wear the new S-Works shoe, so things like sizing issues, fit and stiffness are all important things to hear so that we can develop better products for them and also for the end consumer like you and me. As I have said before with bikes and anything we do, without the rider feedback it is harder to develop products that win races.

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Fabian Cancellara aboard his TT World Championship winning Shiv. You, too, can own one of these!

BR: Are they riding stock equipment that anyone can buy at their local dealer, or are some or all of them on prototype goodies?
NIC: No prototype goodies at the moment, they are all riding SL3’s and SHIV’S which are the same as you and I can buy. As the year progresses you might see a few guys on prototype products but that is normally closer to the end of the year around the Tour time.

BR: For 2010, Team SaxoBank is using Specialized bikes and saddles…anything else?
NIC: Yes the teams rides the SL3 Tarmac, the Shiv TT bike and then for Roubaix it will be the Roubaix. On the equipment side they use our seats, shoes and stems, too.

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Andy Schleck gets lots of help dialing in his bike’s fit.

BR: Do you know why the Schleck brothers aren’t racing in the Tour Down Under?
NIC: They don’t go as they are still ramping up their training for the up and coming classics season. We go next week to their next training camp and that is a very focused camp, plus we will go and see if anyone needs any tweaks on FIT as they will all have had a month riding the new positions.

BR: Any hijinks or good stories from the training camp you can share?
NIC: Hijinks, not that I saw. But I can say that the team atmosphere they have is amazing, and the early camps do really help bond everyone together and you really feel as though everyone will work as a team to win races, which is what you have seen from these guys. Obviously there are characters in the team like Jens and Fabian and Andy plus some of the younger guys who will joke around and play practical jokes, but when it is time to race it’s all about business. I’ll keep an ear to ground for funny stories next time.

BR: Awesome. Nic, as always, thanks for shedding some light on what you guys do!

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Jens Voigt gets his fit check out.

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