Fresh Brew: ABQ Camp - Day 1
- by Chris Brewer

Jan 24, 2008 - Welcome to Day 1 of Astana Cycling's camp here in Albuquerque, New Mexico! It's really something to see a brand new organization get started from the ground up, and for the boys in blue the time has come to put into action what so many have been preparing for.

As I am sure you expect, lots of things have been going on behind-the-scenes in the days and weeks leading up to camp. From arranging flights and rooms for 40+ riders and staff to figuring out where to ride in and around ABQ, it's been a real team effort across the board. One staffer of note thought has to be Assistant Director / legend of cycling Viatcheslav "Eki" Ekimov. He's been here for a week prior and has been scouting out many different routes for the guys to use. Add in that he's fluent in several languages and he's quickly become the go-to guy for one and all.

Probably one of the most anticipated times of any cycling team's new season - pro or amateur - is getting to unpack and check out the new gear. Team Astana is no different as the soigneurs have been busy sorting through all the uniforms and casual wear and the mechanics get the Treks all built up with their new SRAM components. Trek engineer Mark Andrews and team liaison Ben Coates were joined by SRAM's Alex Wassnann to make sure everything was just right, and the word is: so far, so very good.


Levi checking out what's what

It was no surprise that Levi Leipheimer was the first rider on the scene, and long before he saw the inside of his hotel room he was down with the mechanics checking out his new ride and asking for some tweaks to his set up (also no surprise!). While the Madones and TTX bikes are the same ones we saw winning the Tour de France last year for Discovery Channel, one very noticeable difference is the Astana paint job. The general consensus is that it really "pops", both on the road and the TT bikes - see what you think:

By 730pm most of the riders were at the hotel, with Alberto Contador and Sergio Paulinho coming in a little later on. Due to visa problems three Kazakh riders couldn't make camp (Kireyev, Kupeshov, and Zeits) but they will have all those issues resolved well in advance of the actual racing season. After a light dinner everyone was straight to bed knowing that the only way to beat their jet lag was to get into the local rhythm as soon as possible.

Early to bed meant early to rise as well, and most of the riders had breakfast over and done by 730. As the guys gathered for the morning meeting there was a stark difference in languages from the old Discovery days. Back then English was the dominant language with a smattering of Spanish here and there. Around the tables today it's primarily Russian, French, and Spanish, but interesting that Team Director Allain Gallopin gave his briefing in English. During that quick speech he stressed unity among the team, and that the guys would ride together today and wait for anyone that had a flat or mechanical issue.

And with that the boys were off on a 2-3 hour easy ride, checking out their equipment and getting to know each other. The weather in ABQ is great - temps in the mid 50s, light winds and pleasant skies. After the ride it'll be time to sort through any logistical or clothing issues as well as continue to work on season schedule talks between the riders and staff. All is well as camp kicks off - thanks for checking in! - Cb.

* You can write to Chris Brewer any time at chrisbrewer62@gmail.com

PS - don't forget the team presentation, Jan 31 5:30pm at the National Hispanic Cultural Center box office located at 1701 4th Street SW - details at www.itsatrip.org/astana!


Lots of stuff to sort through