In recent memory, Bjarne Riis and his Saxo Bank and CSC teams have set the standard for over-the-top professional cycling boot camps. Year after year, he has taken athletes noted for their enormous aerobic capacity and no detectable upper body strength and has tortured them under the guise of teambuilding. The riders are taken down to the army surplus store to be kitted out in ill-fitting army gear after which they are led into the woods where they must go commando!
By getting a bunch of 5’8” 145 lb men to believe they could meet the entrance standards for the SAS or Green Berets, and then have them pretend they are commandos, suffering the hardship of faux combat for about 24 hours, the theory is that they should then become better team members on the roads of France in July. That is, unless it rains, in which case they then nip out for a quick cappuccino and head back to the hotel instead. This activity evidently brings the team closer together. Sports Psychologists call this team cohesion. Clinical Psychologists call this a pointless waste of time.
The jury is still out on whether these camps have had any positive effect on team performance. One veteran of the camps, Jens Voigt, has suffered Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Many speculate that Riis is taking out his frustrations on the team for doping scandals, team defections, and for once hiring Dave Zabriskie. Luckily for all involved, it only lasts a few days, and then they get on with something important – training for a bike race.
Not to be outdone, American team Optum Pro Cycling p/b KBS has come up with an early-season training regimen that takes team building to a whole new level for 2012. Not to be outdone by their European skydiving peloton mates, the Optum squad has taken to the ropes. That’s right, they are boxing. Michael Creed announced it on Twitter last Saturday with the proclamation “Boxing has started at camp.” He then followed up with “We are the only team that box.” He’s right; with the exception of a few Spaniards and Bernard Hinault, most cyclists couldn’t punch their way out of a wet paper bag. Their arms are so small, it’s doubtful they could hold a pair of 14-oz gloves up for three minutes. A recent match at Optum HQ between Tom Zirbel and Creed was called after the second round because no punches had been thrown. Michael Creed, is apparently no relation to Apollo Creed, Rocky Balboa’s opponent in Rocky I and Rocky II.
Team Director Jonas Carney’s idea for boxing came from his admission that he “was never a great cyclist,” but he adds, “I can kick the crap out of any of these guys.” Carney says he’s following Riis’ lead by getting into the ring with them, where he can take out his frustrations on their lack of performance while avoiding jail time. “They actually think we’re doing this for some kind of teamwork BS, but no, I just want to knock them into next week.” Carney adds “It costs a hell of a lot less than a weekend in up-to-your-ass mud in Belgium. Speaking of mud, now that we have a women’s team, we are thinking of adding mud wrestling.”