Interview: Olympian Conlin McCabe and Rowing Canada Cycle through Southern California

Look fast, feel fast, go fast (Photo courtesy Conlin McCabe)

If you're up on the recent travel plans of the Canadian rowing squad (and who isn't?), then you'll know that they just wrapped up a cycling training camp in Southern California, where they put themselves through the paces, climbing their way through the Santa Monica Mountains. Among the group that traveled south for the winter was 2012 Olympic silver medalist Conlin McCabe, who got his first taste of Southern California cycling, along with fellow Washington alums Will Crothers and Rob Gibson. Here, McCabe shares a little about the training, the cuisine, and the bragging rights from the trip.

RR: Was this the first cycling camp you've done as a squad in Southern California? How did this camp differ from other cycling training you've done?

Conlin McCabe: This was my first camp in California that was focused on cycling—I have cycled in Sacramento before with the team but the main focus of the camp was rowing. The team did a similar cycling-based camp last year in Carlsbad, California. I was still finishing my undergrad studies, so I was not able to attend that camp. Any cycling that I had done before had nowhere near the elevation change that was taking place while cycling in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. We where able to clock multiple rides with over 2,000 meters of elevation, and a few kilometers biking along the Pacific Coast Hwy through Malibu. The setting was surreal at times, as we would travel past strip malls, mountains, mansions, and beautiful beaches all in four to five hours of heavy pedal mashing.

RR:Where were you guys based and what did you manage to discover about Los Angeles while you weren't on a bike? Any surprises?

We were based out of Thousand Oaks, and we had very little time to explore as we were in town on a mission to bike as many miles as we could. If we weren’t on our bikes we were at Crossfit Fast lifting weights and erging. The one thing we did find on our down time was a delicious hamburger place called Umami—the 'manly burger' was a great appetizer before dinner. Most of my rides ended with me starving and thinking about food as I counted the number of bars and gels I had just consumed. (Big bodies required tons of calories as we climbed!)

RR: What was the most difficult climb? What was the best view? Who won the yellow jersey for the team, and who won the climbing vest?

The main climbs on our routes where Latigo Canyon Rd, Mulholland Highway and Decker Rd (Hwy23). Latigo was enticing to me because Levi Leipheimer has the third fastest time on Strava at 27:07. After a quick Starbucks latte in my nifty full sleeved skin suit we TT’d to the top in a strong headwind (it wouldn’t have mattered) I ended up seven minutes behind Levi’s time—my guess is he was probably drafting off of somebody… This is when we where able to crown our King of the Mountain (KOM) and award the non-existent polka-dot jersey to Andrew Stewart-Jones. Andrew is a retired X-country skier making the change to rowing and I’m convinced he has three lungs. The coveted yellow jersey would have to be awarded to Will Crothers. For whatever reason Will can bike really fast, and consistently attacked on every climb. If my home was the peloton, Will’s was the breakaway.

RR: Any recommendations or can't-miss locations for other rowers/cyclists visiting the LA area?

I’ve been lucky enough now to bike in Sacramento, Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria, but the Pacific Coast Hwy heading north from Malibu would have to be the most beautiful road I’ve been able to cycle on. I recommend the hills of Malibu to anyone who wants to cycle some great hill climbs and soak up a little vitamin D well they are at it!

Thanks very much to Conlin for taking the time! You can check out a few of the workouts via McCabe's Strava profile, as well as the Twitter accounts of head coach Martin McElroy and men's quad coach Howie Campbell. Also, you can follow Conlin on Instagram: @conlinmccabe.


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