Lance, Levi and Alberto all in the same place at the same time! No, it's not the Tour de France in February, its the Team Astana training camp. I traveled up to Santa Rosa, CA this past Wednesday for the media day and had quite a bit of fun re-uniting with the riders, mechanics and support staff as another year of professional cycling begins for, arguably, the best team in sport.
The camp is being held in Levi's backyard. I asked him if he was using his local knowledge to school his teammates on the training rides. He replied, "no, not really though my teammates think I am." However, after the days' 100+ mile ride through the incredible Sonoma countryside and along Highway 1 he did admit that he rode up the final climb, Coleman Valley Road, faster than he ever has before and only Alberto Contador was able to match his effort.
Lance was looking fit and relaxed and was clearly enjoying the area where he used to train when he rode for Team Motorola back in the mid 1990's. Armstrong has indicated that his first big race will be the Giro, but his fitness is ahead of schedule and it appears that he may be gunning for two spring classics, Amstel Gold race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. He has finished second in both races.
Levi lit it up on the final climb, Spring Mountain Road, the day before and only Alberto Contador responded as well. The Spaniard seemed pleased with his efforts, but acknowledged that he is a bit jet-lagged after just flying in from Spain.
Newcomer and climbing phenomenon Jesus Hernandez was grateful to have a team to ride on for 2009 after his team folded up shop in 2008. Hernandez has made the news recently after dropping his teammates on the big climbs on the Canary Island of Tenerife at the December training camp and on Old Willunga Hill during the team's preparation for the recently-concluded Tour Down Under in Australia.