Friday, April 5, 2013

Welcome to Alcatraz

For the next 10 days this will be my home, the hotel parador el tiede on the spanish island of tenerife. Due to its remoteness, baron surround and basically nothing else to do than train and rest, I have affectionately named it Alcatraz. The hotel is far from a prison, infact its one of the nicer hotels I have been to, good sized rooms, very friendly staff and most important for me incredibly delicious fresh food on tap. Its pretty much a training paradise, isolation aside and like I do with mt rumney in tasmania and gavirate in italy its just the type of environment I want to be working in.

The purpose of this camp is to prepare for the giro d italia. I am here with our team leader for this years addition Ivan basso, aswell as a few of our young stars in moreno moser, damiano caruso and allesandro de marchi who are preparing for the ardennes classics. We have our team trainer paolo slongo here to oversee all the work with his trusty brain coach and stretching expert merino rosti always at his side. Carmine is here as our massage man and ensures all our food, washing and general well being is taken care of. He is basically mum and dad for us demanding pre Madonna athletes! Its a job I certainly don't envy and take any opportunity to lesson the load on him. Carmine is a dead set legend!

Being a hot spot means we are not the only ones taking advantage of perhaps the worlds best live high train low environment. Other teams including sky with froome and wiggo, blanco with gesink, katusha with rodriques, and astana with nibali are also here so if you were a betting man on the big grand tours in italy and france fast approaching you could serve yourself well by plonking yourself up here and seeing who's on and who's not. We never ever train together, squad crossing is simply taboo in cycling it seems but I am going to do my best to change this over the course of our next 10 days here. Doing pre race workouts with apposing squads in rowing was always exciting, be great to get a giro preview watching wiggo, gesink, basso and nibali trying to drop each other racing to the top of the volcano! Will keep working on making this happen. Its a funny environment and one you know everyone is watching everyone, bit like the school yard really with all the gossipy conversations which go on within teams and also riders on varying teams. It really is comical specially considering its happening with some of the best athletes in the worlds. I just do my thing knowing that a lot of how I go about things is not normal in cycling but hey I come from a different back ground and realise I won't be able to change even if I wanted to. Besides its quite flattering when you see others all of a sudden doing exactly what your doing, you realise you must be doing somthing right. At the end of the day as always you can only control what you can control and regardless of who is around you its important to keep focused on that.  

So training in altitude is a special beast and everybody adapts differently. I have done a lot of time up high now and have found that its important for me to push myself but also to always leave a little more than I want to in the tank. Always force myself to pull back that fraction earlier than I would like and save that extra bit for a rainy day or simply for the race track when it matters most. We begin with a day or so's settling before doing a lactate test to establish training zones for the camp. This will be repeated later in the camp to see how much we have improved after doing the prescribed work load. From there its into the work with generally 3 days of work and then a rest day. Repeat this 3 times and it is time to go home, simple.

My test was good, I have maintained my good base from the work in october november in tasmania which I am pleased with. Following catalunya I have also seen a noticeable jump in my threshold level which is to be expected so I am starting to develope the type of power/lactic profile I feel will allow me to make a good contribution to the team. More importantly after doing the test and getting the training zones I have felt comfortable in training at these new improved levels. This is crucial as we work toward the giro. The training is incredible. You basically begin the day with a 40+km plunge down to the sea side and from there you can do anything, flat, roleing, short hills, long hills, you name it. The only certainty of each days training that there is no escaping the 40+km haul back up hill to the hotel! Being a sucker for punishment I love this part about training here. I love living atop mt rumney back in tassie because I finish every days training with the satisfaction of going up that climb, you can not ever feel anything but satisfaction when you finally haul your tired backside up to the base of the volcano and into the hotel parador front door.

Once at the hotel you can do nothing but relax and recharge for the next days session. This is basically because there is absolutely nothing to do up here so even if you did want to do somthing energetic you can't! I pass my recovery time post ride with a little gym, stretching, massage, sauna and then its finally dinner time. We have our own private little room set up with my ergo, trx and stretching mat which I retreat to to work on the 1% activities I like to do. I have the computer set up to watch old cycling movies while on the trainer so basically I have managed to turn hotel parador into my home away from home. With these creature comforts in my little cave I happily pass away hour after hour of activities I hope will give me a slight edge in the races. So the days all tend to pass pretty quick once you allocate and hour or so to each of those activities. The most important thing is that if you are going to smash the body to bits out on the rd you need to be certain to recover equally as hard when off the bike. This place certainly forces you to do all that.

So after a week of being here I am well and truly settled and into my routine. I can't wait to go to sleep every night as I know when I get up the next day I get to train my backside off which I love doing and then enjoy the spoils of the recovery time back in the hotel following the hard days work. All in all its an exciting time for me, experience that a few years ago I could only dream off. I still have to pinch myself to remind me that I am really here. Last night the anti doping inspectors arrived to test 3 athletes, Ivan Basso, vincenso nibali and myself. Ok being drug tested is far from a glamorous exercise but I was excited to be being tested along side 2 of the worlds best cyclists and two men a look up to so was in a stupid way an honour to even be in the same room as them all be it for a drug test. Also another great reminder of how sport is an amazing leveller as for that hour or so we were simply 3 athletes being drug tested, fame and greatness of the other 2 asside, we were being treated equally in the process and this equality that sport brings to society, to me is the greatest thing about partaking in it.

So another 10 days here in training paradise before I head for giro del trentino for my final racing tune up. From there a couple more weeks of recharge and final work out on the road and may 4 and the start of the giro d italia will be on us. I can't wait!


The photo is of the hotel off to the far right, the small chappel at the entrance to the hotel and off course the volcano that symbolises the island. Also it shows the rd we take each day to get to the hotel, as you can see its always uphill!
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