For years I’ve been hearing stories—legends—about the annual Trek Red Truck team camp. Earlier this month, I finally had the opportunity to experience it first hand.
In my experience with other teams, team camp has meant business. You eat, you ride, you rest. It’s about the riders and generally speaking, there are no other participants apart from staff. With Red Truck, however, camp is different.
This year, we were joined by 65 of our supporters. We ate, rode, chatted and maybe even partied together. The week was fantastic and the format, to me, makes all the sense in the world.
My assumption is that if you support a cycling team, you must like cycling. And if you like cycling, you must like cycling in California. And if you sponsor a team, you’d probably appreciate the opportunity to get to know the team and maybe even ride with its members. Why should we keep sponsors and riders apart? With Red Truck, I’ve been gifted with the opportunity to become friends with those who make what I do possible.
On a personal note, I’ve been less than the ideal athlete to support. Inconsistent and with undulating levels of motivation, and perhaps on a reverse trajectory in terms of what sponsors would want to see in an athlete, I recognize the privilege I have to be on such a team. Admittedly, I fear that if the team’s sponsors see me as a ‘vagabond’ or misinterpret my navigation of cycling as lackluster, that they may be disappointed. My goals are unclear. I’m obviously not as driven as I have been. I fear that this confusion and indistinct direction may lead one to think that I’m taking a free ride.
So, I was a bit nervous with camp approaching that when the sponsors would inevitably ask what my goals are and when my answer would be less than impressive, that I might frustrate them. However, the effects of the many conversations I had were quite the opposite and made me feel very comfortable with where I am in my life.
One man, Thomas Haas, listened to my story about struggles with mental health and cycling, and twice quitting as a pro. My favourite part of his response was something along the lines of, “No matter what you’re doing, every day, choose to put your best foot forward.”
Anthony Jacob was another individual who helped me find comfort in where I am at this point in my life. His father sponsors the team, and Anthony represented Canada as a rower at the 2012 Olympics. He drove down to camp in Westlake, California with an 11-ft surfboard as his only passenger in his blue VW Vanagon. Post ride one afternoon, we had a panel discussion where the riders could ask a few of our supporters questions. Anthony was one of the members.
Without writing a biography on Anthony, I asked him about life after sport. He shared a common experience of feeling directionless after achieving his goals within his sport. He worked for a few years after the Olympics then spent a year or so travelling before buying his van and chasing the surf. Meeting him and discussing goals, mental health and travel inspired a sense of security in my insecurity.
I could write a novel detailing the valuable experiences at team camp. Having sponsors there to kick my butt on rides made me ride harder, inspired me to get fitter to honour their support, inspired me to express gratitude at every opportunity and put into perspective just how big the Red Truck family really is. I feel that this model has encouraged further symbiotic relationships between the supporters and riders.
Trek Red Truck wants to see riders succeed and success to them isn’t reflected solely in race results. The team and it’s sponsors genuinely want to see riders do well in life, as humans, which is why they support our cycling, school and provide us with endless opportunities to chat with people who have been successful in real life.
My words won’t do justice to describe how grateful I am that this team has taken me in. All I can say is that: I no longer question whether or not I made the right decision to return to cycling for one more season, and to turn my focus from the professional circuit back to amateur racing. I recognize that this team is what I needed. Not to be a cyclist, but to be myself. To go wherever the heck I’m going and no matter where I go, I’ll put my best foot forward.
For more photos from the 2019 Trek Red Truck team camp, visit tlbvelophotography.pixieset.com.
Oliver Evans 20-year-old cyclist from Winnipeg, currently living in Victoria. In 2019, he will race with Trek Red Truck Racing.