Team Tinkoff-Saxo has passed through bad weather and the midway point of its team building camp on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
The Russian WorldTour team, including both its staff and riders, is following the Machame Route on Kilimanjaro’s south face. On Sunday, the team reached the Shira Camp at 3,800 metres, including stars Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan.
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On day one (Saturday) the team in yellow and blue began and reached the first Machame Camp at 2,860 metres. A team Twitter post read, “The same as the highest pass in Europe!”
The Machame route is the most popular way up to the Uhuru or Kibo Peak at 5,895 metres or 10,065 feet. Team Manager Bjarne Riis is taking the riders and staff, around 80 in total, on the minimum option over six days and five nights that covers 30 miles.
The journey heads out of the lush rainforest to the Shira Plateau at 3,810 metres. It circles on the south, holds at 3800 to 4000 metres (12500 to 13100ft) and covers two to four miles a day.
The Machame route rises to elevation quickly and then holds it so that Riis elite cyclists will less likely suffer headaches and other problems brought on by rapid elevation gain. On the fourth day today, the team should have covered the Barranco Wall with several up and down sections near and over the Karanga River. Rough weather overnight and rain today would have made the trek harder.
For athletes used to cycling 250 kilometres in a day or racing three weeks straight, the trek could be seen as easy. However, many may find themselves out of their element or forced to lend a hand to weaker team members. That could be exactly what Riis is after with 2014’s camp.
“I look forward to seeing how the team reacts under this kind of stress and difficult conditions, climbing in such high altitudes,” Riis said in a statement ahead of the camp.
“I want to see a group where everybody works together, building the foundations for the next season.”
Team Tinkoff-Saxo and its former incarnation as CSC has met for team camps in northern Denmark, Israel and Spain to test everyone ahead of the coming season. Its members have fired guns, drove cars blind folded and navigated open waters – all designed to build the team spirit that is required to win races like the Tour de France.
The group in Tanzania does not include outgoing members like Nicolas Roche, who will race for Sky in 2015, but does include new cyclists Peter and Juraj Sagan, Ivan Basso, Maciej Bodnar, Pavel Brutt and Robert Kiserlovski.
Fans asked about the risk of team members contracting Ebola, but the deadly virus is mostly limited to western Africa in countries Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Sean Yates will join Tinkoff-Saxo as directeur sportif for the 2015 season, assisting Alberto Contador in the Grand Tours
British sports director Sean Yates will also join the Tinkoff-Saxo team-building trek in Africa