Canoe trips, sing-a-longs by the campfire, horrendous cafeteria style food … ah, the fond memories of summer camp. This column arrives to you from summer camp, but of a different variety than the American general public is accustomed to. Namely, I’m pecking away at my computer from 2,309 meters above sea level at our mid-season high-altitude cycling-centric summer camp!
While many divide the cycling season into pre- and post-Tour de France, the hinge of my season is the Giro. So after a race-heavy spring, I returned stateside for the month of June, thoroughly rested up, and began my European race campaign 2.0 at the Tour of Austria. Basically, this is Europe’s “other” tour in July, as it embarks the same weekend as a certain three-week French race and spans an arduous eight days. A week of many highs and many lows ensued — more literally than figuratively, as it was a successful race for the team — and we deftly charged across the razor-sharp Austrian Alps.
Much like school wrapping up in mid-June with kids anxiously scurrying off to summer camp immediately thereafter, upon the completion of Tour of Austria I hopped in the car with my German sports director, Jens, and ripped across the European autobahn to begin the cyclist’s version of summer camp.
Our staff consists of one head counselor — err, a sports director, rather — a pair of soigneurs and one mechanic, with eight shaven-legged Cervelo TestTeam campers in attendance. While we’re not exactly roughing it, we are staying high atop a mountain pass in relatively sparse accommodations.
With very few distractions, we quickly settled into a routine. Here’s my day in a nutshell: Wake up by 7:30 when my roommate heads downstairs to overachieve with half hour on the rollers, make coffee, read, breakfast, 30 minutes of rigorous core exercises, kit up and ride with the team for four to six hours. Upon returning home we get a mid-afternoon lunch and a massage every other day, both of which we enjoy while intently taking in the Tour de France on the hotel’s one television. From there it’s nap, read, or stare at our computers, which plod through impossibly slow Internet. Next stop is dinner, then more time-killing before hitting the hay. Rest and repeat.
One noteworthy aspect of our home base is that we’re retracing many of the same roads and climbs we tackled in the final gut-wrenching week of the Giro. Just yesterday we crossed the three categorized climbs that took place on the Gavia stage, thereby netting us more than 4,000 meters of vertical. On occasion I tried to take in the sights during May’s Tour of Italy, but navigating the parcours while nearly cross-eyed with exertion often took precedence over being a tourist.
While our camp does not have the aforementioned canoe trips, sing-a-longs or horrendous food, we have added a bit of variety with talk of a whitewater-rafting expedition (although that is yet to materialize, and I have a hunch we’ll all inevitably pass up that chance) and a very enjoyable barbecue accentuated by roasted marshmallows and chocolate bananas.*
So with the end of camp in sight, it’s soon off to the next series of races. Focus is high, fitness is excellent, and camaraderie is top-notch. Season 2.0 coming right up.
* This concoction is new to me and I’m glad I learned. Slice a banana, still in its peel, wide enough that you can fit in small chunks of chocolate. Dark is preferable, but some folks don’t have the palate for the sophisticated goodness of dark chocolate. Wrap the entire banana in foil and place over hot embers for five minutes or so. You will likely get messy eating it, but the banana’s caramelized sugars accentuate the (dark) chocolate magnificently.
(Related: All Ted’s columns)
This year Ted King is in his sophomore year with the Cervélo TestTeam. After getting a taste for the European peloton with the U.S. espoir national team in 2005, King returned to the United States for three successful years of domestic pro racing. The 27-year-old is a native of New Hampshire and despite his affinity for hearty servings of coffee, he is slowly adapting to the smaller European portions. Slowly. His diaries appear monthly on VeloNews.com; between the scanty portions we serve up, you can follow Ted at www.Cervelo.com/team and www.iamTedKing.MissingSaddle.com. Those of you content with 140 characters or less can track his activities at www.twitter.com/iamtedking.