Team Ouch's most recognizable rider is Floyd Landis, but what about the rest of what looks to be America's most powerful domestic professional team. If anybody is capable of going toe-to-toe with the top flight Pro Tour squads at the upcoming Amgen Tour of California(AToC) it's Team Ouch. While I would like to single out every rider on the squad, let's hit the highlights and let the others grab some of the spotlight as the season rolls on.
L-R: Brad White, Pat McCarty, Karl Menzies, John Murphy, Kid Rock, Tim Johnson, Andrew Pinfold, Jonathan Chodroff
Several riders besides Landis have European pro road experience. Australian Rory Sutherland has won the individual National Racing Calendar point series competition, signifying the best US domestic pro rider, the past two seasons and is a threat in flat, hilly or just about any bike race. He can time trial, climb and sprint and has worked harder than any other rider, save George Hincapie, to try and win a stage of the Tour of California in the last two years. Here's hoping he gets that much-deserved stage win at the 2009 edition.
Karl Menzies is also Australian though he would rather you called him Tasmanian.He is a solid workhorse who can also sprint and unless the topography has some major wrinkles, he can win any big race in the US. Two years ago he finished second place in Australia's Tour Down Under just several ticks out of the top spot after wearing the leader's jersey.
Pat McCarty is the most recent addition to the team. At 27, the Austin native has already been a pro for six years starting first with Lance and US Postal then moving onto Slipstream. He has finished the Giro d'Italia. His presence in stage races will greatly enhance Floyd's chances, though Pat has been top three on stages as well.
Tim Johnson is the road captain for Team Ouch and has decided to pass up a slot at the upcoming World Cyclocross Championships to be ready to bark orders when the Tour of California starts in just over two weeks. Tim recently won the USGP cyclocross title and also has European pro experience. Expect Tim to cover early breakaways or drive it at the front if Floyd is wearing the AToC leader's jersey.
John Murphy is a mere 25 years old and had a breakout season in 2008 winning the Tour of Taiwan. He can sprint and time trial and has a very bright future. He recently relocated from Athens, Georgia to Temecula to be able to train with Floyd. I am betting that it pays off big time.
Mike Tamayo is in his second year as the team director having taken over the reigns from long-time head honcho, Jeff Corbett, in 2008. Mike brings experience leading a number of top-tier women's teams including Victory Brewing. The chemistry on the team is excellent, look for Mike to make sure that things continue to run smoothly.
Also on the team are Brad White, Jonathan Chadroff, Cam Evans, Andrew Pinfold, Bobby Lea, Roman Kilun. Check out their website at www.teamouch.com.
Probably the best way to understand Team Ouch is to go on a ride with the squad that can only be described with in one word, 'ouch'. It must be remembered that Team Ouch is the re-tooled Health Net-Maxxis squad which has added one Mr. Floyd Landis to it's 2009 roster. The Health Net boys have won the prestigious National Racing Calendar title, signifying the best team and best rider in the USA, since their inception in 2004. Mr. Landis has won the Tour of California, Paris-Nice, Tour of Georgia and the Tour de France.
So, agreeing to head out on the road with these guys has the potential to send mere mortals crying for their mommas or just seriously questioning their passion for cycling. After all, it really isn't all about the bike. But, it wasn't the first half of the ride which prompted such heavy introspection. No, it was when the team got back to the hotel and Floyd decided that he hadn't had enough fun for the day.
Dr. Brent Kay, Floyd's long-time friend, co-founder of Ouch Medical the team's title sponsor and part-time hammer on the bike suggested that Landis take a few of us on an "hour of power". When Dr. Kay wouldn't exactly disclose all the details of the proposed route, I should have been suspicious, but since he was joining us, I thought all would be fine.
Would you buy a used bike ride from these two guys (Dr. Kay(l), Floyd(r))?
Yeah, right. After the first 21% wall, it didn't get much easier for the next hour and a half as one steep pitch after pitch followed. I saw 30% once and even 38% on one particularly bad patch. When it was 27% (the grade of a black diamond ski run) things seemed to be manageable. Granted these ultra-steeps were only 200-600 yards long, but, that's about the length of the climbs in the Tour of Flanders and nobody is calling those a cake walk.
This is what a 30+% hill looks like.
Enough of my whining. All seven of us survived and though I will not be at the starting line of Floyd's first big race, the Amgen Tour of California, I can tell you that from my perspective, the boy is looking pretty darn fit. Welcome back.