In the mid 90's I was mounting my third comeback of my cycling career when I met a guy at a bike race named Chuck May. He told my he was on a team named Sierra Speed Gel that was looking for riders. I told him I was interested and so was my friend Chris Baumann, and before we knew it we were driving back and forth from Sacramento to Visalia where the team an most of the riders were located.
The team consisted of a bunch of guys trying their best but mostly having fun. It was manged by a guy named Mike Camarena and some guy who said he was an ex-Belgian pro. I remember Shawn Bagley, the sarcastic mechanic/racer Danny Rondon and most memorably Ryan Smith who was a last year junior.
By the time the team had run its course, it had had some pretty impressive riders. Most of them were my friends and connected to the team through me. We had former Irish National Champion and ex- 7-11 rider John Brady, former Tour de France rider Nathan Dahlberg, current pro Tony Cruz, of course Chis Baumann and Ryan Smith who ended up riding for Sierra Nevada and even Chad Gerlach. There were even two Dutch riders, Remko Krammer and Ono and some crazy Italian-Canadian dude named Lucca Segato. The team somewhat reminds me of Battley Harley in that it was composed of ex-pros and up and comers. We won many races, and NRC race and the sprinters jersey and even top 10 Redlands. It was a lot of fun.
All of us non-Visalia riders would stay at Ryan Smith's dad's house we called Club Med. The place was huge, giving each rider their own bed. It even had a jacuzzi, pool and what seemed to be endless groceries at our disposal. There was even maid service once a week. I was the first to stay there, and on that first night created quite the mess while trying to bunny hope onto rollers after too many beers, no food and a 5 hour ride.
Ryan Smith, Chris Baumann, John Brady, occasionally Chad Gerlach and I would form a core group of riders that would switch teams together, travel all over the country and Mexico in Cris's vintage VW bus and just create general mayhem wherever we went - sometimes getting kicked out of races or even towns. We had as good of a time you can have racing bicycles and still win.