I thought I'd start things off with an informal introduction to the riders on the team- based on my observations, not their bio's...
Chad Thompson (OH); Team Director and rider. Chad is also the owner of Inferno. He's also a former body builder, California State Champ on the track and is currently a firefighter (hence the "inferno"). On top of running the team, being a rider and being a firefighter, he also happens to be a pretty decent guy. The team could do a lot worse than having him at the helm. You can really tell that he cares about the team.
(Chad's the handsome one one the right... I mean left.)
Ryan Rish (OH); Ryan, or Professor Rish, is the VP of the team. Ryan is a high school English teacher with his first child on the way soon. "Mr Rish" is also one of those guys who has two speeds- fast and "holy crap that hurts". By the way- don't feed him cheese... trust me on this one.
Todd Shaker (OH); Todd is the owner/ operator of a successful fruit and vegetable packaging company in Ohio. He's also a big, powerful guy. Another former body builder, Todd produces something like 2000 Kilowatts just smiling. His power meter had to have a few extra inches of LCD screen added to calculate and graph his power output. He also had his birthday on Saturday during camp.
(This is Todd's dog Dakota. This one of the most lovable labs I've ever met.)
Reid Peacock (GA); Reid is part of the student corps. Sorry ladies, he's getting married in August. I have to say, for as fit as the whole team was, Reid probably had the leanest looking legs of anybody at camp. I think he rides his bike in his sleep or something.
Ryan Gamm (OH); The Gammbino, Gamminator, Gammy Bear, Gammbo or Little Fireplug is another student. My favorite story about Ryan; he worked the night before camp delivering pizza until 2:00 in the morning, then got in his car and drove to North Carolina from Ohio. He got to NC around 9:00 as we were getting ready to head out for the day's first loop. He suited up and hopped on the bike and rode. No sleep. No food. No nothing. The college "all nighter" has trained him well. Ryan's the least tall of the riders on the team, which gives him a decided advantage when it comes to finding holes to squeeze through in a race. He's kind of like a Jack Russell terrier- tenacious little ball of muscle and energy. (I'm working on those pink camo booties for you too... I promise.)
(Here Gammy is showcasing his "mean face" with Reid Peacock checking for style points.)
Jeremy Grimm (OH); Jeremy, you may remember from his bio, is a fortunate and lucky survivor of severe Lyme Disease. You'd never know this big fella was knocking on death's door at one point. Going from Ryan Gamm to Jeremy is definitely running the opposite ends of the A&F/ Inferno size spectrum. Jeremy's a big boy, but a huge power machine. I've never seen anybody his size climb the way he does. Nor have I ever met anybody so genuinely happy. I can honestly say that I don't think I ever saw him not smiling. I don't know if he has it in himself not to smile.
Shawn Adams (OH); Here's another firefighter and all around tough guy. Shawn is cut from the same cloth as the stereotypical Belgian "hard man". The guy loves to ride. He goes about the job of riding his bike with the same steely determination of any Belgian cobble rider. He's just tough as nails. A couple of times I heard him say something about being willing to go out and ride some more or get some miles in before the official ride the next day.
Tim Swain (OH); Tim is also a college student, but you'd swear looking at him that he's still in high school. Tim has to be the one guy on the team who makes me feel old(er). He's also one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. He drove solo from Ohio to the camp because he had classes he couldn't miss and also never stopped smiling. Swainy will be a therat this year... trust me.
Andy Applegate (NC); Andy is the "elder statesman" of the team, but don't even think about calling him old. He's a former National Champion, an elite level certified coach and has already won one time trial in 2006. Sadly, by Saturday night he was also fully engulfed in the flu. The poor guy had to cut camp short to head home and get some much deserved rest. Since he's already started his season with a win, I think it is safe to say that we'll be seeing more of his name in the results column.
Abe McNutt (OH); Also known as the Ghetto-hickabilly (why, I don't know). Abe is a machine. I mean, a real machine. This guy is not exactly built like a climber and he tore the legs off of nearly everybody on nearly every climb during camp. He's built more like a sprinter than a climber, but he's got some kind of phenomenal power to weight ratio going on. Abe also owns his own business as a painting contractor (I think) and is one of those riders who just keeps grinding away on you until you just can't continue to follow his wheel anymore. Trust me, I know from experience.
Jered Gruber (GA); Jered is the little engine that will. This yong gun is headed for some race wins this year and in the future. This is a name you should get to know. He is going to be a contender in stage races and is going to be laying down some hurt. He's raced in Europe, while living in Germany. Poor kid came to camp a little sick though, so he couldn't really showcase his talents, but he's clearly got a ton of potential. Jered also writes and edits for PezCyclingnews.com and Bikegame.com. Another college student, he's bubbling with talent and a sense of humor. I'm really looking forward to working with the lad this year.
(Here Jered is getting a truly scientific fit by Tom Coleman of Wobble Naught.)
Jim Baldeseare (OH); Jim is the 2002 Elite National Criterium Champion. That isn't his only race win, but it sure is a good one. Jim's a real threat in a sprint out of a break away and an excellent opportunist in the bunch gallops. Jim works closely with Tom Coleman of Wobble Naught (much more about that later). JB is one of the quieter guys on the team, but don't let that fool you into thinking he's aloof or not a witty son-of-a-gun. On top of it all, he beat me in a sprint, so how can you not respect a guy like that?
(Abe McNutt on the left, Jim on the right and Masiguy smack-dab in the middle.)
Rich Harper (NC); This guy had me nearly in stitches the whole time he was at camp. Rich is one of the funniest SOB's I've met in a long, long time. The guy can ride a bike too. Really well at that; winner of the Georgia Cup last year. He can time trial like a bat on a rocket out of hell and can sprint well too. He's an excellent sprint leadout and can finish the job himself if needed. Oh yeah, he's some kind of gene research scientist at a major pharmaceutical company too. If you met him, you'd understand the irony...
(Here's Rich carbo-loading after a long day...)
Mark Hekman (NC); Heksquatch, Hekle, Bassoon Boy. Mark was our gracious host during camp, providing us not only with a place to stay but also the fantastic ride routes each day. Mark finished last year 5th in the nation in the National Crit Series standings. So yes, he's plenty fast. He's smart too... scary smart. Two different music degrees from two different universities. He's a top-notch bassoonist. No, not balloonist, bassoonist. That might be where he gets the lung capacity for long breakaways (more on that topic later). Hekman is another name you're going to want to remember because this guy is going to make a name for himself. There are likely to be a few more race wins with his name on them in the very near future. When Mark was driving me to the farm when I arrived, I was doing the diligent "reporter" thing and asking questions. When I asked him what he wanted to accomplish with racing, where he wanted to go with it all, he simply replied, "I just wanna race my bike." That pretty much sums it up righ there.
(Here's Mark getting his groove on.)
There is still a whole lot more to come, but now you know the cast of riders a little better. Sponsors are next...
Here's a shot of the complete team as a closer.
(Starting in the back, from left to right; Rich Harper, Andy Apllegate, Todd Shaker, Jim Baldeseare, Jered gruber, Mark Hekman, Ryan Rish, Reid Peacock, Tim Swain, Shawn Adams and Chad Thompson. On the floor; Abe McNutt, Jeremy Grimm and Ryan Gamm.)