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Cycling's coffee culture
Posted on 4/9/2011 3:35:39 PM


The ball is finally rolling after a light start to my season. After weeks of training camp and my teammate Elia Viviani winning my first race with Liquigas-Cannondale at the GP Costa degli Etruschi, I had another long chunk of training time at altitude back home in Colorado at the end of February.

That was a nice change, as that was the first Valentines Day I’ve been in the same place as my wife since as long as I can remember. After that I came back to Europe for the Volta Catalunya to help Ivan Basso obtain a good overall result. I can’t tell you how nice it was to get a proper World Tour stage race in my legs...after hardly racing last year and a light schedule this February, I feel like a different rider now.

Well enough with my program, and I’m not gonna bore you with "I attacked, she attacked, he got dropped, so and so was fourth...you can read that anywhere.

Instead, random topic of the day is...coffee! As you know, the coffee culture is pretty important in cycling. I thought I’d give a little glimpse into when, where and how the coffee is flowing at the races. There are several possibilities for coffee at race breakfast: one possibility is carafes of coffee on the table to share. An efficient system when you have dozens of riders and staff who need coffee. This provides the most volume, but is often only luke warm, and more often, really terrible.

The second possibility is the push button automatic coffee machine. This was prevalent at every hotel in last month’s Volta Catalunya. It’s generally slightly-better coffee, but horribly inefficient when there are a lot of people. They usually take about 10 minutes to dispense one "cafe americano". Add to that how most people don’t know how to work the machine right, so even more precious time is wasted fumbling with the buttons.

The most entertaining part is how everyone bends over to get a closer look at the coffee pouring out, as if a close analysis will make it come out faster. And then of course its inevitable that it will break at some point, so then you gotta track down a waiter and watch him take it apart. This is all made even more complicated when the machine takes an individual capsule for each cup.

Then there’s the Italian way of coffee service. Always from a nice, expensive, cafe quality machine. Definitely the highest quality, as is the standard in Italy. I always feel bad for the guy making coffees, all individual, to order, on a saucer with sugar and a spoon. The guy has to walk back and forth with all the orders and you have to track him down again whenever you want a coffee. Thing is, they never seem to be stressed or anything – that’s just normal. I wouldn’t want to be a barista waiter at a bike race, that’s for sure! I’m surprised any of those machines work anymore after a bunch of cycling teams stay at the hotel and the coffee machine is running constantly.

Finally there is the coffee machine on our bus. At Liquigas-Cannondale we have a little capsule one that puts out a great brew. But the catch is the director rags on you if you drink too much coffee before the start.
Lucky for me, as I sign off here, I’m right now in the land of great coffee, Italy, for an altitude camp on top of Mt Etna. I’m looking forward to my brew in the morning to fuel a five hour ride with my team-mates…

Thanks for checking in,

Timmy


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