A Ride With Team Sky

A Ride With Team Sky

On the Monday following the completion of the Amgen Tour of California, a select few riders gathered at the Rapha Club in San Francisco for an easy recovery ride before boarding their plane for their return to the Continent. In attendance were six members of Sky’s seven-man ToC squad. Peter Kennaugh, who broke his collarbone on stage 3 had already returned home.


Riding with the assembled fans were Andrew Fenn, Gianni Moscon, Lars-Peter Nordhaug, Alex Peters, Danny Van Poppel and Xabier Zandio.

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of these ride-with-the-pros rides. Before his fall from grace, Lance Armstrong’s Twitter announcement of an LA-area ride brought everyone in LA County who had ever owned a bicycle. The Alberto Contador ride in Marin County was a similar affair in that it brought out seemingly every native-Spanish-speaking cyclist within 300 miles. The latter devolved into a “What yellow lines?” race that was only slightly less dangerous than the Red Bull Rampage.


This one was different in that it was the province of Team Sky sponsors here in the U.S. Fewer than 20 riders showed up, in part because it was a Monday morning. A few people dropped by dressed for work just to have a chance to see the pros in person. Thanks in part to the small turnout, the ride had the relaxed air of old friends rolling for coffee.


Due to the Rapha Club’s proximity to the Presidio, we rolled into the former Army base, across the Golden Gate Bridge and up to the headlands of Marin. I spent some time riding next to Zandio who told me how much he loved California and how he’d stayed over for a few days following last year’s Tour of California; he shot video as we rode through the Presidio. When I told him that Laurens ten Dam had been living in the Bay Area all winter with his family he began asking me for more details.

Within moments of rolling across the Golden Gate Bridge Andy Fenn’s Di2 battery in his Pinarello Dogma shifted its last. Fenn began the the eight-day race with a full charge, which will give you some idea just how frequently these guys shift during a stage. Fenn was forced to dismount a couple of times to manually move the rear derailleur. In the fashion of a true pro, he shrugged it off as no big deal.


The real revelation of the ride was how enamored the pros were of California, how enthralled they were with its beauty. It didn’t hurt that as Zanio and many others have commented that the Tour of California is exceptionally well run and the accommodations are much better than in many European races.

All in all, they were a friendly and chatty bunch, just the right sort to remind that pro cyclists can do more than go fast. And next time I’m in Pamplona, the first thing I do is look up Xabier Zandio.

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  1. Mike C

    Sounds like you guys had a very nice ride together. The contrast of Rapha and Castelli looks pretty neat also.

    Okay, now for the reason I posted. Have any of the manufacturers tried adding a very small adhesive solar cell that can be throughput to the battery plug? The small amount of charge from the cell should prevent total battery drain and the weight of the cell would be miniscule.

    Don’t we now have wireless shifting? Wouldn’t that be awesome to charge on the fly. Just add the cell to the top of the derailleur and let the sun take care of it?
    Maybe it’s already been tried…
    Just thinking while I charge my brain with caffeine

    1. Author

      You know, a solar cell with a wire running to the Di2 junction box would be pretty terrific. And given how long these bikes are in the sunshine, you might actually keep up with the drain from shifting. But that’s only true (or theoretically possible) with Shimano. With SRAM’s eTap, the batteries can’t be charged while installed on a derailleur; to charge them, they must be removed. I bet some Italian frame maker will come up with this in the next year or two, but I’m also willing to bet the frame will be garbage.

  2. Jakula

    I’m kind of surprised that the team mechanics didn’t charge the Di2 batteries after each stage. I know it’s not necessary, but I’m sure lots of the things they do every day aren’t strictly necessary.

    1. Author

      It wouldn’t surprise me at all that charging the Di2 batteries at hotels would be a challenge. What I would think they’d have figured out is some sort of bus to charge all the batteries off of a team vehicle after washing them. Running eTap will be easier because they can have a few fully charged batteries in reserve and then a team mechanic can simply charge a couple in his room overnight.

  3. Andrew

    memo to self: add “remember to charge my derailleur ” to things I hope to never have to do on a bicycle.

    1. hoshie99

      Yes, that is why even though electronic shifting is great (ridden di2 a few times – perfect!), I just haven’t put it on the covet list.

      Anyway, sounds like a fun ride that gave you some nice pro quality chat time – good for you. Headlands is awesome – so close to SF but a real escape; I always enjoyed it. That climb to the top has views for miles, doesn’t it?

      And the short steep descent down the backside has a few sharp turns that can be nail biters.


    2. Author

      Indeed. It has been years since I’d done that drop and it was significantly less fun than last time I did it, but the views, man those views are to die for.

  4. SBC

    As romantic as it sounds to ride with pros, I found it made me nervous. I rode with the Jelly Belly gang a few years ago and found them friendly and accommodating to the less-than-ideal situation (an easy ride on the crowded Lake Front Path in Chicago the day before a race). I am considered a pretty good bike handler, but the thought of causing a crash! Yoikes!

    1. Peter

      As a fellow Chicagoan, I wouldn’t wish that path on anyone. Pretty narrow, (at the moment) spotty asphalt, and the unpredictability of 40% of the people on the path is a pain. I made the mistake of recently trying to take the path home in the evening portion of my commute home from Oak Brook and it was a mess. Who the heck authorized those stupid golf cart sized pedal cars? I will continue using Ogden on the return trip home from now on!

      I am apparently not as good of a handler as I thought I was based on my awesome wet leaf back tire slide yesterday morning. I agree with you that the ride on that path would be filled with nerves.

    2. Author

      I’ve had the same feeling on occasion. The first time I ever rode with Andy Hampsten I couldn’t speak to him. We were side by side in a two-up paceline and I was entirely focused on keeping perfect pace with him and maintaining a two-foot spacing from his right arm. The moment our pull was over I dropped all the way to the back of the paceline and was joyfully relieved when he pulled back into the paceline after only dropping half way back. Now that I’ve done it a number of times and with the knowledge that I never crash anyone out—pro or no—I don’t have to think about it anymore.

  5. Fausto

    Not surprised that the Euro’s love Cali. Despite it being 2016 there is still the Euro view of NYC, DC and Disneyland on the east coast. The middle is Le Mond country with everyone on horses with guns and then Cali on the left coast. Good weather, Beach, varied terrain and hot chicks. What is not to love?

  6. nafik

    The first time I rode with him was after he showed up unannounced on our Saturday ride in the end of November. We rode about 60. He asked if anyone wants to do more. I was the only YES. I thought this will never be repeated. We did another 30 at about 15 mph and when I told him to go ahead and not to wait for dying me, the answer was what’s the rush, the Tour is 6 month away. He rode with us in the fall for several years and if it was not for his jersey and tights you would never know who he is.
    He was great to chit chat with, laughed at pranks just like we all did, pulled when the pace was getting too jumpy and even complained about going too fast. It was December after all.
    I made sure riding on his wheel as much as possible just to observe perfection. I know now how Lance felt.
    On several rides it was just two of us after the group ride was over. He always needed miles.
    One day in April we came back from the ride and learned on the parking lot that he won LBL. Later that fall he let me feel the bump on his healing collar bone.
    Along with my one and only podium place, knowing him remains the highlight of my 60 years long cycling life.

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