Our team training camp was a whirlwind of meeting new teammates, training near the ocean, and reading plenty of books. We traveled two hours from our home base in Vaiano to Riotorto, a small town near the sea. We stayed there for two weeks training together and working with our team staff, learning more about each other and preparing for the upcoming season.
My highlights of the trip included riding the Strade Bianche course, meeting my new teammates, and eating pasta every day.
A week into camp, on a rainy and cold Sunday, we drove two hours to the city where Strade Bianche will begin. We unpacked our bikes, were handed race radios (I might have taken a selfie of the radio in my ear), and began our 103km journey. “Strade Bianche” means “White Roads” in Italian, an aptly named race as there are stretches of the course which traverse white gravel roads winding through the countryside, up and down some gnarly climbs. This will be the first year that there will be a women’s edition of the famous Strade Bianche race and I could not be more excited to be a part of the field!
While riding the course I was pushing myself hard on the climbs to stay on the wheels of two of my teammates, Ewelina and Rasa. They are both so fast on those hills and I sounded like a dying horse gasping for breath behind them while they strolled up the climbs like two graceful gazelles! By the end of the ride we were are quite dead…and that was only after a training ride, not even the actual race. The race will be held next Saturday, March 7th and will be one of, if not the toughest race on our schedule this year. Many of the world’s best women’s cycling teams will be in attendance and my goal will be to survive, for this year at least.
I have been trying to learn as much as possible from all of the people I am surrounded by here. There are so many questions I want to ask and so many cumulative years of knowledge that I hope to glean, this is what inspires me most to continue learning Italian.
While all of the women on our team are great riders, two of them are exceptional – Rasa Leleivyte, previously the European Road Champion, and Marta Bastianelli, a former Road World Champion. Both of these women are ridiculously strong and when I feel like I am at my limit up a climb, they blow right past me as if I were rolling backward. It is amazing to watch and makes me begin to understand the strength and power it takes to be a great cyclist. After our visions of cycling outside were squandered by rain and high winds during a few of the days at camp, I was starting to go crazy! All I could think about was how I was missing training and how close Strade Bianche was. Both of them had the same message to me, “remain clam.”
After two weeks of camp I was glad to arrive back in Vaiano. We have our team presentation tonight and training as a full team tomorrow morning. After that it is back to the grind before Strade Bianche next weekend!
Here is a link that *may* show live coverage of Strade Bianche:
Ciao da Italia!
Vaiano is a small town just north of Florence. It is in a valley surrounded by small mountains. Our house is two stories and has a very Italian feel - from the religious relics to the unlimited pints of tomato sauce in the pantry. I will be staying in a room with two other girls on the team, Lija (from Lithuania) and Ewelina (from Poland). They both seem like great people and I am learning many different languages!
Unfortunately due to the weather (and partly because our bikes are still being built), we have not been able to ride yet. This is probably best for me because of a nagging cough I have had since I left Miami a few days ago. The first night I arrived it was probably 50F in our house, seriously. I could barely sleep I was so cold even with all of my warm clothes and a blanket on. My checked bag was still somewhere over the Atlantic so my clothing layers were limited to the few items I had in my carry on.
On my first full day here we took a trip to Renato's house for lunch, one of the past mechanics for our team. He has an entire garage full of vintage bikes which he restores and rides...at 72-years-young! It must be something in the delicious Italian food that he and his wife prepared for us because neither of them looked a day over 58!
At night (and after our delicious five course lunch) we had our first trip to the team doctor. He only speaks Italian and some Spanish but with the help of Lija and Google translate I was able to communicate to him about my allergies and Epipen. I also brought a picture of what I look like with an allergic reaction (this picture will not be posted as it may scare small children) and I think that helped to get the point across.
The doctor sounds very knowledgeable and, considering that his office was filled with old cycling trophies and jerseys, I would say that he knows a thing or two about cyclists.
Then the dreaded part of the visit arrived - stepping on the scale. I had to take my pants off which totally freaked me out, as I only had my undies on underneath (note to self: wear shorts next time). I awkwardly stood there while he used the body fat calipers to pinch my skin and tell me exactly how little pasta I was allowed to eat from now on (kidding...well actually, not really).
In the end it was not so bad and I feel like a science project in the doctor's eyes. Let's just hope I get to ride my bike before the next doctor visit!
Today it is snowing up in the mountains and raining down in the valley so I will have plenty of time to continue my Duolinguo Italian lessons. I am currently watching the Dubai Tour in Italian on TV with only 25km to the finish, will Cavendish do it again??
Until next time...arrivederci!
Professional cyclist turned professional triathlete living in Boulder, CO.