New Bissell team rider Andy Baker

The Southeast continues to be a hothouse for developing talented riders. Last year Greenville, South Carolina resident and Furman College history student Andy Baker was an elite amateur rider. In 2008 he’d been a pro for the Time pro team and in 2009 a stagiaire for Mountain Khakis. In 2010 he returned to the amateur ranks. However, a year of solid results caught the attention of Bissell team director Omer Kem. Soon a contract was signed and Baker was once again a professional rider.

After a slight flight delay Baker was able to rendezvous with the rest of the squad in Santa Rosa, California for the Bissell team camp. As with all team camps there’s a routine: eat, tinker with the new bike, ride, massage, eat, sleep, repeat.

Also featured at the team camp were the body fat test and scans of their feet for custom insoles for the new DMT Flash shoes the riders will be using.

Yesterday’s team ride was six hours in the saddle with crisp, cool temperatures and Baker said he was prepared.

“Fitness-wise I came into training camp just where I wanted to be. I want to be going good and not be dropped on the training ride. It isn’t a good way to show the directors that you haven’t put in the work during the winter.”

However with still a month to go before his first official Bissell team race, the San Dimas stage race in California, Baker isn’t looking to be quite race ready yet.

“I didn’t want to be 100% but between the training and the couple weekends of racing I feel fine.”

Other than the stage race in San Dimas the new Bissell recruit’s preliminary race schedule includes Sea Otter, Sunny King criterium and the SRAM Tour of the Gila.

While Baker’s racing license says “Pro” he’s still a college student at Furman having to carry 12 hours of classes a week.

“It’s difficult and at times I tend to prioritize cycling over school. But at the same time I’m taking less classes and still considered a full-time student so I can compete in collegiate nationals.”

The college has given their support to Baker and when traveling he’s going to have to pack his history books in addition to his cycling gear.

“There’s down-time after the races and as much as I’d like to be brain dead afterwards and stare at a hotel television I’ll have to study.”

With the season under way Baker wants to show his team that he deserves to be there and contribute to the team’s success.

“The team gives us so much support and to not try and pay that back with racing to the best of my ability would be a real let down.”

Baker returns home before the weekend and will be racing in the final Greenville Spring Training Series races. With the team camp behind him and several five-hour rides logged in the legs look for the Bissell jersey flying up the climb at River Falls to the finish line.