Dear Mom and Dad,
Camp is totally great! All my new friends are super duper nice, we’re having a blast doing a bunch of neat activities, and I’m learning all sorts of cool new things. Cycling camp is the best.
I’m here on the remote Mediterranean island of Sardinia with the rest of the crew from 2011 Team Liquigas-Cannondale for a two-week block of training to help usher in the new year. As you know, it was nearly three weeks ago when I bid you farewell and then rendezvoused half-way across the world in snowy San Pellegrino for the first team congregation of the year. For just shy of one week we trudged through the requisite off-bike chores of team meetings, a hodgepodge of administrative stuff, along with sorting out of some equipment. Oh, and some literal trudging through knee-deep snow. We’re cyclists, though, so sitting through meetings (and playing in the snow) can last only so long.
With that out of the way and one flight to Sardinia later, we’re properly back on our bikes. We log a fair number of hours on the bike, but being merely December it’s all quite relaxed at this stage. Rather than giving you a rote day-to-day list of what we’re doing, instead I thought I’d write to you today and offer a fun handful of the things I’ve learned so far at camp.
1. Rosetta Stone is a far cry from fluency. The day I signed with Liquigas-Cannondale I made the noteworthy investment in Rosetta Stone. Poring over the material daily made me feel like a proper Italian for much of the fall. Heck, I went so far as to consider changing my name to Paolo (…which has become my go-to name for an Italian if I don’t know his name. Much like, “Dude” or “Man” in America). Thankfully I didn’t go quite that far since I’m still a sizable way from proficiency. That said, my mind is something of a sponge these days and I’m able to absorb a ton of the language. It’s the reciprocal speaking that still trips me up. Definitely no better way to learn, though, than this sort of experience.
2. Oh, here’s a noteworthy tid-bit: there are two Sagans on the team! Peter obviously made an impact on the 2010 cycling world with wins in some of the biggest races of the year. But his older brother Jurej joined Liquigas half way through 2010 and they’re two peas in a pod. These Slovakian fratelli (that’s brothers in Italian, duh) are two of the nicest guys on the team. No kidding, one of the best sights from camp was when they were doing calf-raises in the gym with one brother on the other’s shoulders.
3. Speaking of this camaraderie, it’s worth pointing out how incredibly receptive and almost absurdly friendly everyone is. A perfect example is after both lunch and dinner when, upon the completion of the meal, everyone stands up en masse and we make our way to the cafe next door. Laughing, cordial slaps on the back, and buddy-buddy arms around each other are the standard as we make our way through the slow ordering and acquisition of 29 coffees. Despite the barista’s deft prowess of the espresso machine, to grind, tamp, pull, and plate 29 coffees one at a time is a lesson in repetition — or else a reason to take up drip. To the few non-Italians on the team it’s comical that it takes up to 20 minutes to order a coffee that proceeds to take all of seven seconds to down, but that’s all part of the culture and for sure coffee in Italy is not something that’s going to change.
4. There’s hot chocolate and there’s ITALIAN hot chocolate; they’re like comparing apples to oranges. I’ve been told of Italy’s take on toasty chocolatey goodness since my first Italian race, back in the swelteringly hot 2009 Giro. With hot beverages not on my mind at that time, it’s been a while since I’ve thought about it. I’ll spare you the details and let your mind do the rest, but suffice it to say that you’re perfectly able to “drink” it with a fork.
Well that’ll do for now. Camp is winding down quickly and it’s going to be a bummer to say goodbye to the gang, but great to see you for Christmas. Ciao from Camp Granada… err, I mean Sardinia!
p.s. Just thought of two more. 1) Italians really do exclaim “Mamma Mia!” when something startling happens. 2) The whole rule about Italians not having milk in their coffee after lunch — as in a cappuccino — is a farce. They have cappuccinos all day long and late into the night! That’s apparently a figment of the American imagination.
(Related: All Ted’s columns)
Ted King rode the 2009 and 2010 seasons with Cervelo TestTeam and will join Liquigas-Cannondale for 2011. After getting a taste for the European peloton with the U.S. espoir national team in 2005, King returned to the United States for three successful years of domestic pro racing. The 27-year-old is a native of New Hampshire and despite his affinity for hearty servings of coffee, he is slowly adapting to the smaller European portions. Slowly. His diaries appear monthly on VeloNews.com; between the scanty portions we serve up, you can follow Ted at www.Cervelo.com/team and www.iamTedKing.MissingSaddle.com. Those of you content with 140 characters or less can track his activities at www.twitter.com/iamtedking.