Posted by Editoress on 08/9/07
Inside The S-Team - A Tour of Canada's Top Pro Team's Compound
By Matt Hansen
Symmetrics Cycling fuelled by FarmPure has come a long way in its five years of existence. The team began as a brainchild of Kevin and Mark Cunningham, both entrepreneurs of successful businesses who also happened to be cyclists. Since 2002, the team has grown from a regional team to Canada's top pro team, signing up many of Canada's best road and track cyclists.
2007 has been another breakthrough year for the team with a whole host of top results, ranging from wins at international events such as the Tour of Cuba and Redlands Cycling Classic, to the National road championships.
Currently, the "S-Team's" Svein Tuft is ranked number one in North and South America, wearing the prestigious UCI Americas Tour jersey. Symmetrics fuelled by FarmPure is also leading the team category in the UCI Americas Tour. With that in mind, many readers have asked to learn a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes of Symmetrics fuelled by FarmPure. We took a trip to Kevin Cunningham's estate, where the team is based.
The Cunningham's generous and inviting house is located on 16 sprawling acres just outside of Vancouver, BC. Many of the team members live here, either temporarily or permanently. Svein Tuft, Christian Meier and Geoff Brown live on the property permanently, and various members on the team are always around for short or extended stays.
The Cunningham family - Kevin and his wife Kelly and two boys - have lived here since 2000. As well as the main house, there are several guest houses, a large converted barn which serves as the team's equipment warehouse, and Tuft, Meier's and Brown's residences.
The equipment warehouse is a definite focal point of the visit to the Symmetrics fuelled by FarmPure headquarters. This is where former Discovery mechanic Geoff Brown makes his "office", working daily on the bikes; whether it is repairing current ones, building up new Norco road or time trial machines, gluing tires and other daily maintenance.
Brown lives alongside Tuft and Meier in portable homes. Many have asked about the trio, and they've even been referred to as "The Trailer Park Boys." The living arrangements are a far cry from Trailer Park Trash, however. To understand how the three started living in the grounds requires a further understanding of Tuft, who along with Meier, decided to move from their apartments to live on the grounds.
Tuft is a veritable journeyman, like a character out of a Kerouac novel. Here's a rider who once rode from Vancouver to San Diego to a Prime Alliance team training camp. Why? To lose weight and get fit in the 10 days it would take him. Dragging a trailer behind him, Tuft got to the camp fitter and leaner. (This was nothing new for Tuft; this is the same rider that has bike toured to Alaska with the aforementioned trailer and his trusty dog perched on top.)
"We were renting some apartments closer to town," Tuft explains. "Both Christian and I realized we could buy these units and live on Kev's property, which is beautiful and in the country by our favourite training roads."
So a few payments later, the duo moved on the grounds. "For us, it's a perfect situation for this lifestyle, really." Meier continued. "I don't want to just put money into rent, but I'm not ready to settle down with a house. I can always sell this if I move. Plus, we are right beside the barn which is great in case we have bike problems. The Cunninghams are really great to us and we often hang out by their pool or play with their kids."
These are no run-of-the mill trailers, either. The brand new "units" (as they are colorfully called by Tuft) are spacious and comfortable for a single person, For a cyclist who needs to focus on training and racing (and are not often home) it makes for a perfect home base.
When Brown began his relocation plans from Belgium - where he'd lived for more than a decade while working for the US Postal/Discovery squads - he was instantly struck by the set-up Meier and Tuft had.
"When I first heard these guys lived in trailers, I sort of laughed." Brown says. "Then I saw the interiors, and also where they lived. I love it here. I go running in the woods, and I'm just 10 metres from my workplace. I couldn't be happier and the Cunninghams are so accommodating. When I lived in Belgium, I lived for five years above the team warehouse for Motorola. So living adjacent to my workplace is nothing new. And because of the BC climate, it's the perfect set-up."
The house also serves as a home base for riders visiting for races or, more and more, a place where riders can get massage or physio treatment. It's not uncommon to see at least one rider apart from Tuft or Meier wandering around, getting his or her bike fixed or a massage. (The day of the photoshoot, Cam Evans was getting work done on his knee.) A few weeks earlier, all the out-of-town riders lived at the house for two weeks: Eric Wohlberg, Andrew Randell, Jacob Erker and staff member Myriam Desrosiers.
"Mark and I come from a large family, so we've always enjoyed people," Kevin Cunningham said. "It's great to have so many positive role models for my kids too. My kids see the dedication when they watch Svein or Christian on their bikes every day. Logistics-wise, it's great too when we need to run the guys to the airport for a race. We fly a lot out of Abbotsford because of our sponsorship from WestJet so this is a great meeting place for everyone."
With so many riders around, does it ever infringe on family life? Is it hard to separate "work" from pleasure, being surrounded by cycling and cyclists? "Not at all, " Cunningham continues. " We have an open door policy here. It's not uncommon to have five guys drinking coffee in kitchen in the morning before a ride or race. As far as being surrounded by bikes ... this is our passion, and we consider all the team-members and staff as our extended family."
The team and riders were gracious enough to allow us to take photos of the compound, which can be seen in this gallery.
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