Strange how for the second week running I’m sat typing away in a ski chalet, this time though I’m 2,203m up in the tiny, snow-covered village of Trepalle, just above the valley of Livigno. I came here straight from the Tour of Austria, where I was a last minute call-up, but to be fair it was fairly successful for the team with one guy on the podium and two other guys inside the top 11, a stage win, the green jersey and the team prize. I can’t help but think I’m a lucky charm when I get called up late… scratch that in case one of my Directors read this. I’m no good as a late call up (don’t want to make it a habit!).
Austria was a race of 4 quarters for me; first three quarters I was rubbish. Last quarter I came round a bit and felt much better than I did the first few days. It's always strange in a stage race how you get to know your body. Even before you clip into the bike you can usually tell how the race is going to go. This is something my better half Pia tries to discourage me from, as she knows me so well she also knows my head can be my greatest stumbling block. If i think I feel rubbish my body usually follows suit. Anyway it took me to the 6th day of the race to actually feel like myself. Being pretty active early on, then sitting in the wind to look after our boys who were up there on GC, until the last climb of the day (apparently my arse is a good windbreak…no pun intended).
No sooner was Austria done, I was on my way to my previously planned altitude camp in Livigno, even if it was a few days later than originally planned. Its my first time at altitude so its all a bit of an unknown. After Austria I took a few days easy and enjoyed what Livigno has to offer with Pia who drove out here on the dates we had originally planned. Turns out shopping here is tax free because back in the day when the Italians discovered the valley they had to persuade people to live here to claim it as part of the Kingdom of Italy and the best way they thought of doing that was to make it tax free. Other highlights included seeing a man casually walking his two lamas down the high street in the town, and being introduced to the wonderful Italian pastime of Aperitivo.
Aperitivo is like a pre dinner drink but you get free snacks with your drink, depending on how well you know the fella behind the bar - which also directly affects the quality of your snacks. One of our first nights here we went for Aperitivo with my team mate Enrico Gasparotto, who seemed to know the barman pretty well..a chap by the name of Raymondo. He brought us plates of cold meat and cheese as far as the eye could see. It was fantastic! I thought this was standard fare in the Aperitivo game, but the next night I was brought crashing down to earth in another bar when we ordered. The bartender was more formal than old Raymondo, and when he explained the Aperitif snacks were self service my eyes lit up, with thoughts of parma ham on tap. As I approached the self-service bar my dreams were crushed, where I was faced with what can only be described and a 'pick and mix' consisting of various nuts, crisps and olives… My world was shook, anyway, the moral of the story is always choose your Aperitivo location wisely.
Its not all been Aperitif and snacks. I’ve also done a bit of bike riding but at this altitude it's easy to get puffed, so I’ve gone a little slower at times than I would have liked. It's interesting getting to know how your body reacts at such high altitudes. So far I’ve found I’ve struggled to produce my usual training powers for the same heart rate, which I’m told is perfectly normal for your first few days here. Anyway I’ll let you know next week how the training camp ended up, but so far it's been thoroughly educational and enjoyable!