By Christian Vande Velde, CSC professional cycling team
Well, training camp part deux is officially over. It was a good experience, all in all. Got the miles in, plus intensity, and we were treated to some great Italian food.
The quality of food in Italy is second to none, and we had plenty of it. In fact, Dave Z was feeling quite nervous since the hotel cafe asked for his room number every morning. He was envisioning a Starbucks-size bill for 100 cappuccinos when he checked out.
I do love Italy for the food and the culture, and I kind of laugh at their driving – until I’m on my bike. Then I realize why people get hit by cars every day. The drivers all think they are Mario Andretti, and drive as though their cars had no brakes.
We stayed in the Medici region of Florence. Our hotel was 500 years old and perched on top of a nice-sized hill, which is great when you’re sipping your 87th cappuccino and looking out onto Tuscany, but horrible when you have to negotiate 16 percent grades for more than 3km after six hours of intervals and testing.
Poor Tristan Hoffman did the hill more than anyone. “Hoffy” had some problems with his underside so he couldn’t sit on the saddle. Bored and frustrated, he tried to ride as much as he could. One of the staff would drive him down the hill and he would ride back up to the hotel, out of the saddle the whole way. I think he did the hill eight times one day, and then did a thousand sit-ups on the fit ball. Every day, he had this to look forward to. What a lucky guy. Still, Tristan will have the strongest stomach and back for the classics. And anything is better than riding the trainer out of the saddle.
The team did a ton of work on the small climbs and flats around the Pisa-Vinci-Carmagnano area. We even put the time-trial bikes to use. The truck met us at a cafe in the middle of nowhere. You should have seen the look of horror on the barista’s face when we ordered 35 cappuccinos. Then, all fueled up, we jumped on our TT bikes and killed each other for two hours. This was done twice. The first time, the mechanics had trouble getting the truck back to the base of the hill so that we could swap our TT bikes for road bikes. So we hauled our butts up the hill on these aero’ contraptions, which were a little less then comfy. The second time they made it. But then it took them two and a half hours to get the truck back to the hotel, even though it was only two miles back up the hill. All the roads were too small, or there was a bridge that would have given the truck a crew cut.
Our mechanics are awesome, and Bjarne tests them every day. In fact, Bjarne puts everyone through his paces once in a while, and I’m sure it’s all for a reason. “Show me wax on, wax off (from “The Karate Kid”)”.
So it’s race time. There is a team in Qatar and a team getting ready for Marseilles on the first of February. I’m on the latter. Then I will do the Tour of the Mediterranean and head straight into another training camp at the same hotel, with the same hill and the same food. Take the good with the bad, huh? Talk to you soon from the races.