Oh geeze, where does the time go?
I can’t help but use hokey vernacular as I put pen to paper – or finger to keyboard – from arguably America’s corniest town, Solvang, CA! Actually I take that back; it’s not corny, not hokey, not tacky, nor hackneyed. Solvang is just a little taste of Denmark right here in southern California, complete with faux windmills, every storefront clad in traditional Danish font, and most establishments hocking magnets of miniature Hilde and Bjørn in their classic native garb.
It’s likely the Denmark of Europe’s affinity for cycling that gravitates cyclists to Denmark of California, here in Solvang. This quaint village has played host to the Tour of California time trial a whole slew of times. On top of that, tons of top-notch teams settle into Solvang for a week or two of early season camps. The near perfect weather, the abundance of well maintained roads in tandem with very low traffic, plus legendary climbs like Figueroa or zipping over to Camino Cielo make Solvang a cycling destination. Not to mention that every other establishment in the three-square block downtown is an exquisite bakery…
Let’s jump into the WayWayBack Machine:
Just as the top tiered European professional teams settle into their Solvang training camps, there I was in my sophomore 2007 season with Priority Health Pro Cycling. A nascent program, we were the bad news bears, a bunch of unknowns all young and eager and ready to storm cycling. We rented a house and, without a follow car of course, rode all the classic Solvang’ian rides – Figueroa, Gibraltar, Rifugio, and Alisal. I celebrated my 24th birthday at a nearby brewery, and soon after we took on our first Amgen Tour of California.
This is the brief, glancing chapter that’s helped to script my ongoing story in cycling. Time’s have changed, I raced two more years in America before setting overseas and setting up shop with the likes of Cervelo TestTeam, Liquigas, and now the almighty Cannondale Pro Cycling.
Like seemingly all things cycling, the more things change, the more they stay the same. I descended back upon Solvang two days ago for a brief mini camp. The windmills are still spinning, the roads are as sinuous as ever, and Hilde and Bjørn are still hanging out for sale on refrigerators across town. On camp’s day one, I set out with my friend and colleague Tejay, plus two youngsters who are new to pro cycling, eager and hungry to storm the sport. Jeff, 21, and Alex, a mere 19 year old, are already part of the USA national team in Europe and have strong roster spots on highly respectable domestic teams. Call it coincidence, but they lead the way and we rode the same Santa Rosa Road and onward to Figueroa that I explored on my first day of camp in 2007.