Cyclists and stingrays rarely meet, but the riders and staff of Garmin-Cervelo had a great time interacting with the friendly locals at Stingray City sandbar this week.
The team, which includes the likes of world champion Thor Hushovd and Commonwealth Games gold medallist David Millar, was formed when team Garmin-Transitions announced it would be joining forces with Cervelo SA to form a new team for the 2011 season.
The Stingray City trip was the highlight of the first day of the camp, which promises to give everyone a taste of the best that Cayman has to offer.
Interacting with the stingrays was definitely a good team building exercise, with some of the cyclists clearly more in their element than others.
Regular visitor Peter Stetina showed the rest of his team how it is done, as he was one of the first into the water and managed to plant a big kiss on the first stingray that came up to him. Although none of the rest of the team displayed quite the same level of comfort with the stingrays, most of the team got used to the idea of sharing the water rather quickly. Of course, one or two pranks sent some of the more skittish shuffling back towards the boat at lightning speed, while some unexpected encounters with overly friendly stingrays also elicited the occasional yelp of surprise.
Even though conditions were somewhat choppy, Christian Vande Velde, a former top five finisher in the Tour de France, said these were the best conditions he had ever encountered on a visit to the sandbar. Vande Velde had the misfortune to have his first visit to Cayman coincide with the passage of Hurricane Paloma in 2008, and on his subsequent visit had a Nor’wester stirring things up.
Mike Nelson and Ryan Friedman of Don Foster’s Dive saw to it that everyone had a safe and fun experience and learned more about stingrays in the process.
After the visit to Stingray City the group spent some time snorkelling along the barrier reef to experience the underwater beauty Cayman is renowned for, with a number of the riders and staff demonstrating that they are almost as good in the water as they are on a bike.
The day concluded with a reception for the local sponsors of the camp on the beach at the Reef Resort in East End. The cyclists and staff of the team were able to interact with the sponsors with a glass of champagne in hand. In spite of the superhuman efforts these cyclists put in on a daily basis when racing all over the world, the whole team was very approachable as sponsors and riders talked about anything and everything, including a little bit of cycling. There was also time for a couple of photos with the riders which are sure to become treasured mementoes of the evening.
The team also took part in a public ride on Thursday morning, followed by a dinner and charity auction with the team in the evening at Camana Bay.
The main sponsors of the Cayman Pro Cycling Camp 2010 are the Ministry and Department of Tourism, The Reef Resort, Walkers and Piedra Winery, with The Cayman Islands Journal serving as the local media partner for the event.