As the 2021 race season looms over the horizon, many racers are looking at their form in preparation for the potential racing ahead. Unlike previous years, this pre-season is far from conventional. With no early season racing, training camps and lack of group riding due to ongoing Covid restrictions, athletes are left isolated in their pain caves and solo training rides with just numbers to measure their performance against.
Ian Boswell, Peter Stetina, and Colin Strickland are some of the top gravel riders around and while they may go wheel to wheel at the start line of some of the most iconic and competitive gravel races, outside the tape they are all very much in the same position. If this year had followed the usual schedule, Stetina, who previously raced for Trek-Segafredo before transitioning to gravel in 2019, would have already raced events such as the Rock Cobbler and Grasshopper series. The realization that Unbound and a planned FKT (fastest known time) attempt could become his first major milestones of 2021 drove him to reach out to Boswell and Strickland to set out on an unconventional training camp.
"He [Colin Strickland] kinda said the same thing, just he's lacking that impetus to go and get pushed and push himself. I think we all kinda needed to feed off each other just now and it was like, it just made sense"
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The proposed plan was simple, "big days with lots of vert" all while exploring the Lost Coast. With Stetina and Boswell coming from a WorldTour team background, training camps had become a vital tool to measure and fine-tune performance before the season starts. As gravel is a more individualistic racing format there are no team training camps so this trip would fill that gap.
Colin Strickland is unlike the other two. A late starter to cycling, he cut his teeth racing fixed gear crits like Red Hook. A win at the 2019 Dirty Kanza (now renamed Unbound) saw him rise to fame bringing the opportunity to race at the WorldTour level, which he turned down in favour of gravel racing and his existing sponsors.
"I definitely jumped at the opportunity and at this point in the year I am really ready to start kicking my ass and doing the hard work that you have to do to get yourself back into race shape and who better to do it with Ian Boswell and Peter Stetina"
The irony is that as they undertake this trip and push each other to ride further and faster each day, they are not only conditioning themselves, but strengthening the competition for when racing begins in anger. Stetina understands that to beat the best you must train with the best and muses on the catch-22 situation they are in.
"It's interesting, it's three frenemies I guess. We are supporting each other now and we are pushing each other harder than we thought we could with the end goal of beating each other later in the year."