Life inside Wanda, the Orica-AIS camper
I always used to wonder what went on inside those big, shiny, team buses with the blackened out windows. Where the riders are tucked away from excited fans and the frosty bite of the spring wind or the scorching heat of the summer. My first experience in a pro men’s team bus was at my first World Championships in Limburg in 2012. It happened to be the first year of GreenEdge and we were lucky enough to be allowed to use the men’s bus before and after our race. Espresso machines, kitchen, TVs, a working toilet and shower –this was a far cry from the school bus I remembered from Grade 7. So this was what it was like to be a pro? Awesome!
Little did I know that most women’s pro teams A.) didn’t have team buses, or B.) didn’t even have camper vans. But the year of 2013 saw the emergence of more camper vans in the women’s peloton. It was a horrific spring with some of the classics being cancelled due to such poor weather. My team at the time had just purchased our little camper, and the timing could not have been better. I felt for the poor souls who had to get changed in a small van or race car. Our camper was a luxury! Fast forward three years and almost every women’s pro team has a camper van, and some teams even have team buses. A small, but significant sign that more money is entering our sport, and progression is happening!
Life inside of Wanda- The #OGEfrocks camper
So, now that I am pro, I can tell you exactly what really goes on inside those team buses and campers. At Orica-AIS we have a camper, so things get a little more cosy due to the lack of space. We’ve probably all seen the backstage pass videos that Dan Jones puts together. You’ll see guys mucking around, sipping their espressos, lounging in their chairs with Beats headphones pumping out some “ACDC”.
But what are us OGEfrocks getting up to? Well, there needs to be a little more order and thought put into our movements in the camper in order to create a less chaotic environment. Before a race, everyone is a little on edge due to nerves and the general pressure we put on ourselves. Therefore, unison is key in the camper, so all six of us can get dressed, lubed up, fuelled up and pumped up!
Here are our camper van rules:
Priority number 1: Good Tunes are key to setting the tone of the race
Upon arrival at the race start, we get the tunes cranking. At the moment, we have been blasting out our OGEfrocks pre-race energise list (check it out on Spotify!). It’s a collaborative playlist by the whole team…minus Loren. No one seems to dig my music other than my roommate Carlee, who I believe just puts up with me. So once the mood is set, the nerves begin to settle and the inevitable question of what to wear is asked?
Priority number 2: What to wear??
There is usually a 15-minute conversation on “thermal or summer undershirt? Arm warmers? You getting heat cream? What about a wind vest? Aero helmet or standard…hmmm thermal, wind or rain booties? Black or white socks?” So many decisions need to be made!
Back in my Specialized-lululemon days, it was a lot more simple. My teammate Ally Stacher and I had a thing called “What would Ina do”, referring to the legend Ina Yoko Teutenberg. Whatever Ina would wear for a race, I would copy. Whatever Ina put in her jersey pockets, or snacked on pre race, I would do.
Now on OGE, in my fifth season of a pro, I do glance around at what everyone else is doing, but usually I go with the approach of “You are a sweaty individual, so less is more beneficial.”
No doubt Roy will pipe up and question everyone on what they’re wearing, and copy Gracie or Vluety.
Priority number 3: Getting undressed/redressed in a confined space efficiently
Order is key here or “clutch” as Tayler would say. Six chicks trying to get dressed at the exact same time is a recipe for disaster. In a small, confined space, with long limbs and general unawareness in all of my movements, getting dressed is always a thought out process for me. Pre race anyway.
Post race, when you’re tired and sweaty and hungry and just want to clean up as quickly as possible, you tend to forget about personal space. Gracie and I are just a little bit closer now after last weekend. We happened to pull our knicks down simultaneously, and bend over at the same time, hence touching butts…bare butts. So it all comes down to synchronisation.
In my humble control freak opinion, half the team should be getting dressed on one side of the camper while the other half should be collecting food, and applying their various creams. Currently, our camper van has no order and if you are the last one to enter the camper, you’re f**ked. Good luck finding room for your bag, let alone space for yourself. You are already behind the race, and it hasn’t even started. Now that I’m older and wiser, I make sure I claim a spot in the camper before we leave for the race.
Priority number 4: Application of the “creams”
Chamois cream vs. heat cream vs. sunscreen- what to apply when and how to do so:
Righto. I made this mistake once and will never do so again. You would think it’s “common sense”, but sometimes common sense is not our strongest point. I blame my cycling brain. So the right order is as follows:
1) Suncream –> 2) chamois cream –> 3) heat cream.
In that order, and never any other order. Just think about it, visualise it… Mmmm chamois cream in, and around your face. And never start with heat cream, that’s just a recipe before disaster! ALWAYS check the labels, because a lot of the pre-start chamois cream and heat cream tubes look identical! And a “hot tip”, no matter how cold it is outside, DO NOT put heat cream on your nipples to warm your chest. Yep. I had a teammate who did that once…see what I mean about cycling brain? She thought it was a great idea at the time.
Priority number 5: Race food hoarding!
Everyone has their food preferences and intolerances, but the swanny rice cakes are always a winner with everyone. Simple, yet delicious, these little nuggets of gold are the first thing to get snatched up. This is actually my priority number one in the camper. Get your supply of rice cakes. I always do a math calculation, how many rice cakes there are divided by number of riders. I take my quotient, and then eye off the container till the last minute before we finally leave the camper. Any of those bad boys left, and I’ll snatch them right up! The right and middle pockets are always jammed with rice cakes, and my left pocket is always packed with about 4-5 gels. My last resort in the race, or when I’m really desperate for anything because the race has been so full gas and hectic.
Camper van etiquette
Race food hoarding
I’ve broken this rule many a time because I’m a fat Amy inside, and I love them rice cakes, and Belgium custard tarts. I’ll admit, I’m a queen of hoarding and tend to get anxiety about hunger flatting (a.k.a bonking). So I sometimes take too much food in my pockets. Simple rule, make sure you share the rice cake love, and if there is some left over after everyone has taken their fair share, go for gold!
The old explosion of the bag. We see it happen in the race hotel, which as long as it is contained to one part of the room, usually isn’t too much of an issue. However, in a camper, when you’re all wearing exactly the same kit, it’s 0 degrees outside and there are arm warmers and leg warmers flying everywhere, it is not ideal. I am guilty of accidentally taking things that aren’t mine. So what’s yours and stay organised.
No eye contact during the chamois dance
In Drenthe, I was trying to pull on my knicks somewhat gracefully, doing the “chamois dance”, when I glanced across at a team member who was applying chamois cream…we locked eyes. Rule number #1 in the camper van: Never make eye contact when applying chamois cream or when pulling knicks on and off.
Along with all the pre race prep, there is constant banter, mucking around, awkward dance moves, shit talking and just fun in general. This is our time to rally one another, get pumped up, have a clear, set goal as a team, and then leave the comfort of Wanda to go to battle! I hope you enjoyed the inside look into our camper van life, and you’ll hear from me again soon!
Loren Rowney is a professional rider for Orica-AIS. The South-African born Australian lives in Girona, Spain during the European cycling season.