A phrase that conjures mixed emotions... Sure, there are those able to regard it in a positive light—an opportunity for much-needed rest—time to relax the body and mind away from the saddle and the race track. For others it's all about the hard grind—a sufferfest spent putting in the hours with a brutal physical training regime that will allow them to climb another rung of the long ladder to the top. But sadly for many of us, it's a dull and dirty word… an empty chasm of nothing but a long, dark, lonely, cabin fever-inducing void that must be endured while the weather goes off the rails outside. There are also, however, the lucky few who continue to live the vida loca on bikes all year long. These are mainly pro riders blessed by the latitudes they call home. Australians, for example. And Californians.
Record levels of rainfall were (another) shaky start to 2017 for residents of Trump's South-west, but for the stars of Intense Factory Racing it was soon time to make off-season... very good... again. The long awaited team camp was upon them; a coming together of riders, old and new, with the management at the home of the legendary bicycle brand in the SoCal city of sun, Temecula. Testing, training, getting to know sponsors, and above all... riding, would feature heavily in a month-long schedule of nigh-on exclusively good times. Before anyone's eyes glaze over green with envy let's remember; the door is open. If you too would like to be a professional mountain bike racer and live this kind of a life there really is absolutely nothing and no one stopping you. Except; Aaron Gwin, Rachel Atherton, Danny Hart, Manon Carpenter, Troy Brosnan, Tahnee Seagrave, Greg Minnaar, Tracy Hannah, Connor Fearon, Emilie Siegenthaler, Loic Bruni… you know, those type of people.
What exactly goes on at Team Camp for the accomplished and privileged few at the sharp end of downhill racing, too often remains a mystery. Well, this time Pinkbike was there to share a piece of this American pie. Come aboard as we penetrate that warm and fruity interior, with a more than ride-rich highlight reel.
The old and the new… Pieces of history fill every nook and cranny at the HQ, but they're only gathering dust. It's time to look to the future and after some low-profile years on the World Cup scene, Intense know it. This is the year they fire-up plans to go big at the races and regain the kind of presence they had in the late 90s to early 00s. For that, you need to a build a solid team and Intense will be attempting it from the ground up with a bunch of riders with bright futures all committed to helping put the rock 'n' roll American brand back on the map//FONTANA//
Rain ruts the size of Horseshoe Bend had just written off many of SoCals most popular riding haunts, including a couple of the closest and best. Thankfully Fontana, aka Fontucky, not far from L.A., runs well rain or shine, so the boys found themselves back on the hill that hosts the winter series testing wheels and a fresh prototype from Jeff. //SAN MARCOS////FILMING//
With a half-done team video that wasn't going to finish itself, the boys had work to do with bikes of all shapes and sizes. Making a dubious call, in light of recent conditions, the team decided to gamble on a trip up into the San Bernadino mountains, hoping they wouldn't have to break out the snowboards. Luckily the drive paid off and despite a good coating up top, the lower steeps were ready to rip after a little bit of graft on the mcleod. This is a legendary, but unofficial trail that has stood the test of time for over 20 years of big bike abuse, actually before a couple of the team were even born. Anyway, it proved to be a great choice to show the cameras what the guys could do and the loam was flying.//AIRTIME//
Built by Eric Carter and friends long back in the day, the iconic SoCal jump spot is just a stone's throw down the highway from Temecula. Overlooked on their 2016 team camp it was a must-visit location to put some respectable distance between the team's wheels and the ground. //THE ENDURO SPOT////ONE LAST RIDE//
One of the last outings on the big bikes before the long flight home, well for 50% of the team at least, was a return to the San Bernadino mountains. With all the snow melted away on the upper slopes, the boys were able to pack in the shuttle runs. It would be the last training session together before the first significant regroup of the season in Rotorua, NZ.
Yes, indeed camp-life sure looks ideal. It would be remiss of us as journalists, however, to present this photo-set as a complete and thorough representation of what these pro-riders really experienced here in Temecula. The following list includes some of the aspects that, for better or worse, have been omitted in the pictures:
Gym sessions, protein shakes, bananas, foot-long subs, burritos, jerky, pancakes, fish tacos… let's just say 'food'; sleeping, stretching, Reflex Motocross, shoe shopping, California traffic jams, dirty laundry, surfing, sky-diving, Whatsapping, toilet blocking, BBQs, opening boxes of fresh kit, faffing, Instagramming, iPhones falling into hot tubs, XC riding, being sick in swimming pools, and rap music.