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Sponsor Life: Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling Team Camp

As I mentioned in my last blog, I transitioned from skiing powder to team camp last week. In this blog, I'll cover Team Camp (Wed-Thur) then highlight the Valley of the Sun Stage Race (Fri-Sun) in the following blog. These are my interactions as a team sponsor yet more perspectives of the week's activities can be found in the social media links found in my last blog.

I rushed to the airport Wednesday morning with my Ritchey BreakAway plus a roller bag with cycling gear and summer clothes. The forecast called for warm sun followed by wind and rain, so I tossed in a puffy and raincoat and called it good. I made it to the gate just in time thanks to my mileage status and TSA Clearance, then settled into my seat for the short flight to Phoenix. Not only was I excited to join team camp, I was on vacation until Tuesday and looking forward to a work reset.

By the time I landed, Cathy had left voicemails and texts letting me know that I was completely taken care of and had an airport pickup and hotel arranged. We would be heading straight to the Time Trial (TT) practice and take it from there. Erin (team soigneur) and Anne-Marije (Ella Cycling Tips) were waiting as I walked out of baggage claim and we were off. The next five days until Erin dropped me back off at the airport were incredible and I hope you get a glimpse of that throughout the next two blogs.

The Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling Team is in its 2nd year as a UCI Women's Team and has 12 racers on the roster. All but one attended Team Camp and nine raced the Valley of the Sun over the weekend. About half were on last year's team and it's exciting to see everyone bond and get to know each other. Like the team, the racers are active on social media and fun to follow and support.

Anna Sanders
Breanne Nalder
Cathy Fegan Kim
Claire Rose
Katie Clouse
Katie Donovan
Hanna Muegge
Jen Luebke
Mandy Heintz
Mia Manganello
Michaela Drummond
Mindy McCutcheon

As soon as we arrived at TT practice, I asked how I could help and got assigned the task of taking video of the starts and then again in their final lap. I'm not one to sit on the sidelines and be waited on, so being put to work and immediately participating was a perfect introduction to team camp! The weather was also perfect and as the team circled me in tucked position, I started to learn faces and names. By the end of the weekend, I had spent enough time with the new riders that it felt they'd been on the team forever.

Time Trial - Starts 
https://youtu.be/Hifg1h7G6vA

Time Trial - Last Lap 
https://youtu.be/57E_MlPN61E

Team Truck and Trailer - thanks to all the Sponsors!

There was just enough time between TT practice and the Devo ride to check into the hotel and kit up. The mechanics (Richard and Jerome) took my bike with them to build so I'd be able to join the ride with the local juniors from the Dynamix Development Team. One girl brought her musette bag from last year with all the rider's signatures. As the racers buddied up with their juniors, Anne-Marije and I talked to the parents and coaches that joined the ride. At the turn-around, the juniors asked the women questions, like "How did you get so fast?" It was great to see Katie C (only 16 herself) skillfully answer the youngsters questions.

Devo Ride - Cheese!

Devo Ride - Q and A 

We rode back to the house where the juniors got gift bags and autographs. Speaking of houses, although a few of us were at the hotel, the team stayed in several houses all nearby. Staff in the main house and then 2-4 riders in other houses, including host housing. At races, especially in the US, host housing is the norm for women's cycling. It adds another dimension to the sport and there are pros and cons. I really liked this week's setup for the team bonding benefits.

The team spent all but their sleeping hours together at the main house getting to know each other, eating, enjoying their Erin massage, laughing, and learning about their new gear and sponsors. Wednesday night, Joe from DNA Cycling, talked through all the kits and told some great stories. There are so many reasons to wear DNA, including Joe's passion for cycling and performance.

Dinner each night was at the house with everyone taking turns prepping and cleaning up. Scott also held team meetings to discuss the day's activities and upcoming schedule and strategy. I'm grateful for the trust the team had to include me in these honest and detailed meetings. Each evening, Anne-Marije and I took a few riders home to their houses on the way to our hotel. We really got to know these riders as the routine was the same each night and we had time to talk in smaller groups.

Vegetable Table (plus Katie D's legs)

On Thursday, we met back at the house early to roll out for an easy coffee ride to downtown Tempe. Anne-Marije took the opportunity to get to know the riders as she was meeting everyone for the first time and preparing for interviews and a podcast. I proudly wore my new Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling kit with our Three 9 Consulting logo on the back pocket! We stopped at Cartel where we met up with Joe and had a good roundtable with Anne-Marije leading the discussion.

Coffee Ride - Orbea fleet outside Cartel

Coffee Ride - Claire and Katie C (plus Anne-Marije's legs)

When we arrived back at the house, the riders had some downtime before heading out on the video shoot. Anne-Marije and I took advantage of the free time and headed back out for a ride along the nearby canal. We got to know each other better and talked women's cycling, something we are both very passionate about. I'm hoping we can keep brainstorming ways to increase sponsorship, equality, and coverage. Her reach via Ella Cycling Tips is greatly appreciated and I can't wait to see her content on Visit Dallas DNA.

Canal Ride - Anne-Marije Cactus Shot

Recovery - 2 rides down, 1 to go (my legs)

After a quick lunch, we kept our kits on and piled into the truck for the drive out to the video shoot. In my truck, Anne-Marije interviewed Claire in the backseat while Katie D slept in the front. Once everyone arrived and was properly attired, we took off for a ride into the desert so Ali could do his thing. Ali shot video at last year's camp in Dallas and the outcome was beautiful. I can't wait to see what he comes up with this year.

Anne-Marije and I kept our distance to make sure we weren't in the shot and continued to become acquainted as we tallied up the miles. I was really starting to feel the sun and my legs toward the end, but Scott took care of me with a nice motor pace up the last hill. As cyclists do, we all changed in the parking lot and were back on the road so the riders had time to register for Valley of the Sun starting on Friday.

Video Ride - Getting Ready to Roll

Video Ride - Anne-Marije and Scott talking while the Team waits for Ali's direction

Video Ride - New Kit Day! (Photo by Anne-Marije)

Video Ride - Anne-Marije

Back at the house, the evening routine kicked into high gear. Groceries, vegetable prep, main course seasoning, massages, and team bonding were joined by nerves as the discussion kept returning to tomorrow's Stage 1 Time Trial. In the next blog, I'll continue with my experiences as a team sponsor at the 1st stage race of the season. Thanks for reading and supporting women's cycling!

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