After a short but sweet off-season spent recharging with my wife Loren and our dog at my home in Colorado, I jumped the pond to get together with my new team, Liquigas-Cannondale, for the first time at the end of November. For a nice change of pace, we were based high on top of Passo San Pelligrino in the Dolomites, in a small hotel surrounded by amazing mountains and meters of snow.
It was probably the polar opposite set up to that of my former Garmin team-mates, who were a couple thousand meters lower in the sun and surf of the Caribbean! I prefer the snow anyways. I was pretty bummed not to have a pair of skis with me this week for sure.
Way up this remote mountain, we really had an ideal set up to sync the new riders with the team and just focus on starting the year off on the right foot. We had to stop and put chains on the cars just to get up the hill, so you can imagine we weren’t exactly inundated with reporters and media commitments!
We banged out all the boring administrative stuff, meetings, equipment sorting, and photos so that at our next training camps we can focus on the serious business of training hard and recovering without distractions. Often, training camps turn into "de-training" camps. If you haven't spent a few days at a not-so-critical point in the year with the whole group together getting the boring but necessary stuff out of the way, then you have to try to fit it all in at a later training camp when you are really going for high intensity and optimal recovery.
But if after a five hour ride in the rain you have a two hour sponsor meeting, a media interview, and a bike fit, you’re kinda cancelling out all that hard work you did because you’re not recovering. Banging all this out in a spectacular and refreshing environment made it all pass pretty easily. The team is super-organized and it’s great to get all that taken care of at the very start of the season.
When we had some free time, we made good use of sleds and snow shovels, creating some rather dangerous jumps or doing a five man luge at high speed. The most organized outing was a team orienteering exercise. We broke into small groups armed with snowshoes and a crude map and set out to slog through waist-deep snow to locate the various points on the map, culminating a couple hours later at a mountain top lodge.
We had to come up with a strategy of how to best negotiate the mountain and the terrain and gain the most points in the shortest time. Let’s just say some people were definitely more comfortable moving around in a snowy mountain environment than others…!
At the end of the week, we went to a remote "refugio" up a snowy road into the woods and found a quaint alpine lodge and a pretty insane sledding hill. Let me tell you, when you get 6 or 7 guys on a few giant inner tubes all hanging onto each other, it gets going fast enough for some serious carnage at the bottom. One team mate ended the sledding session with a huge bump on his face and a little blood loss. No problem, because right afterwards we went to the lodge to initiate all us new guys with a few hits of grappa to bury the hatchet on a good week of team bonding. That definitely took the sting out of the sledding bruises.
Soon I was back home in sunny Spain for a week, breaking in my new Cannondale and ramping the training up a bit more. Today we just pounded out the UCI standard medical testing and I’m on a plane with my team mates to Sardegna to all get some miles in together in a (hopefully) sunny and dry climate.
With all the time-consuming administrative stuff out of the way, its time to get serious on the bike. My goal is to be a lot stronger and a lot more Italian by Christmas time. Hard to believe but we will be racing and training on three different continents next month!
Thanks for reading,