Three things I learned from being a European on an American team

by Iris Slappendel


Since January 1st, I’ve been part of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team. Although you could say I’m in the ‘autumn of my career’, being part of an American team is a whole new experience for me. And it has taught me some very valuable lessons so far.

Bacon it is!

Since I’m a professional rider, I gradually learned to eliminate all greasy and unhealthy foods from my diet. But my new teammates have been putting a bomb underneath everything I learned so far when it comes to food. Especially bacon! I’m simply amazed by the amount of bacon people are eating in this team. And the craziest thing is; they are still so skinny and fit! It just makes me think I have been taking some things a bit too seriously the last few years…

Coffee is a religion

No lining up with my teammates in front of the coffee machine at the breakfast buffet anymore. I’m the only one who can’t conjure up a little coffee brewery out of my suitcase. While we Europeans often criticise Americans for not having a fine taste, that’s for sure not the case when it comes to coffee. They all have their own coffee ritual, including grinding fresh coffee beans. This also means they have to get up 15 minutes earlier to make their coffee, but on the other hand, they also always have a subject to talk about. Like, where can you get the best beans or how does your super-handy-futuristic-espresso-gadget work?

Avoid chamois-time as long as possible.

As a junior I got in my chamois while getting ready at home, sometimes three hours before the race. The older I got, the more I postponed the moment I had to put my bibs on (although I once had a coach who told me that chamois-time is training-time). But when I prepared myself for my first race with United Healthcare and got in my bibs in the hotel, approximately 1 hr 15 pre-race, I received some very weird looks. Soon I learned this is simply not done and the most preferable time to get in your bibs is 15 minutes before the start –even if it means you have to get in some acrobatic moves in the backseat of the team car because there are no dressing rooms around. I did notice though, that after training it is all right to hang around in the kitchen for three hours in you bibs –while having fancy coffee– before they can motivate themselves to get in the shower. Which is a logic I do not understand, but okay.

So, what I have learned is that you’re never too old to learn. And before I give anyone the wrong impression, this team is very professional.

I think.

 

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