Its been 2 weeks since I landed on the hallowed shores of the island of Tenerife for the Cannondale pro cycling altitude camp. As I explain in as much detail as possible in my previous blog, I really really enjoy coming here!! Well I have to say that the past 2 weeks have done nothing to dampen that enthusiasm for how awesome this spot is to ride your bicycle so here's a little snap shot of what's been happening at the hotel parador and on the slopes of the volcano.
The first few days was spent settling in. That not difficult due the fact I have been here so many times before. Infact I am actually staying in the exact same room as I stayed in 12months ago. That was quite convenient as when you are going to call that hotel room home for the next 3 weeks you want to make it as comfortable as possible. So my first job like it was 12 months ago was to rearrange the furniture to maximize the space in the room. I like to create an area where I can sit on the sofa and write my blogs! And also a comfortable space to perform my pj pilates in then morning and my stretching post ride. These are just little touches that make life in a hotel room that much more homely, you don't want to be tripping over your fit ball every time you get up to grab a glass of almond milk out of the fridge! This may seem fickle but you spend so much time in your hotel room that's it's important you feel as comfortable in it as possible. It's a bit like the team bus at races, you always want to find a spot that you find relaxing as at times you can be aboard it for more time than when your on your bicycle. In the fist few days off course the who's who of cycling started to role into the hotel and was great to catch up with so many familiar faces.
The cannondale clan has sent to the camp quite a mix of riders with all varying objectives while we are here. Marco Mercato and Alexandro demarchi are here to prepare for the Ardennes classics commencing next weekend. Our young superstar junior Matty mohoric is also racing the classics but at just 19 years of age is more here to experience altitude training and it's effects on his young body. George bennett not surprisingly being just 58kg and moulded perfectly to glide up the side of mountains with consulate ease is not surprisingly relishing his time here. While us big behemoths drag our fat backsides back to hotel everyday you can only look on with envy as he glides along so effortlessly spinning his gear. He is gearing up for a big tilt at the giro. Next up in the team line up is our caption Ivan Basso who os also preparing for yet another crack at winning the Giro d Italia. Ivan has been coming here for over 7 years so know the place like the back of his cycling gloves, we certainly never get lost out training with Ivan. He is not only the captain in the races but also the designated camp captain as we all look to him for guidance and advice on and off the bike. Altitude if done properly can be extremely beneficial however if you don't handle it properly it can also be very detrimental to your performance. That's were having someone of ivan's experience is invaluable for all of us and along with our team trainer Mattia they ensure that we keep our wheels and handlebars steering in the right direction. Of course we are all training hard and that means recovering is super duper important so we are very lucky to have had firstly Carmine and now Simone here to give us a massage at the end of a long day and ready for the next one. It's a great group and while Ivan is certainly the head of the show we all in our own way contribute to the atmosphere of the cannondale clan here at the hotel parador.
We even had one very special occasion among the cannondale clan while in Tenerife. The occasion was the 24th birthday of our climbing specialist, the kiwi George Bennett. He kept this a very big secret and it was only by chance that I found out it was his birthday. I rolled along side him as we were completing our interval for a de brief and said how you going mate, he said I am "pissed off" he had had a unsettling tummy overnight and was feeling a little out of sorts and on top of that it was his birthday and he wanted to be feeling better!! I said well I am not going to say a token happy birthday to yo now give me the day to find a way to put a smile on your dial and then I will not only say but sing happy birthday to you!! So I cut my training ride short so I could get back to hotel quick enough to order a cake and so the chef had time to prepare it. Also I wanted a special meal for the big day so requested roast lamb as George is kiwi!! Unfortunately at such short notice sew zealand lamb could not be sourced but the finest steak in the canary islands could so that was a good compromise. The chef was super excited about the prospect of preparing the special menu for the evening so I was champing at the bit for dinner to come around and George to have a little surprise waiting for him in the dinning hall. It all worked our fantastic, george was stoked and I finally saw a smile return to his dial. The hotel donated some of there finest red to compliment our meal and not surprisingly we were the envy of the Astana and katusha tables close by. When the cake arrived wewerealready full as a butchers pup but the cake was incredible. Was like a tiramisu but without alcohol and had a final thick layer of rich chocolate just under the icing! Oh it was absolutely delicious. Being a 58kg mountain goat climbing specialist George is always ontop of his diet so didn't indulge to much on the cake. This is my favorite bit about George especially at Deseret time as I meant I also got to eat his unwanted portion of the cake. No matter how much I forced into my belly however we barely put a dent in this monster birthday cake so made plenty of friends amongst the dinning hall when we shared it around. That's really no surprise though as whoever stays at the parador basically becomes like a home away from home, we are all friends there. Anyways it was a great evening and I was just pleased we found the opportunity to say happy birthday in a nice authentic manor.
With so many superstars of the sport around the place and with the experience that goes with that it's no surprise that from time to time you are fortunate enough to learn some valuable lessons. The most interesting and unexpected one I learnt this past week involved Lemons and came form the mouth of vincenzo nibali. Vincenzo spotted me squeezing a lemon into a glass at breakfast as he walked past the table. He stopped and cameron "what are you doing"? Having some fresh lemon juice i replied. He said yes I can see that but are you also going to drink that actimel in front of you and eat that tub of yogurt? Oh and drink that glass of milk you just poured? Yes to all I simply replied. He said, well look I am from Sicily and in Sicily we eat lemons like apples, the are everywhere. They are very good for you and an excellent antioxidant but only when juiced or eaten alone or with simple foods. He then proceeded to show me what happens with lemon juice and milk when mixed together and that it's probably not something I want happening in my stomach! He was spot on and I obviously had no idea about such side effects of having lemon juice in the mornings before breakfast. Who would have thought that it would take Vincenso nibali passing my table at breakfast to learn about how to best utilize the antioxidant properties in a lemon! Well at the hotel parador of course during the month of April!
The dining hall was not the only time I crossed paths with Vincenso over the past 2 weeks. In fact we also shared a couple long climbs together rarely seen among different riders from different teams. It wasn't planned just happened to be on the same stretch of road back to the hotel on the same day. One day particularly we had a very interesting chat about the bike and the technology more specifically on his bike. He was actually training on a bike that the public won't see for a few months so was interesting to here what his bike manufacturer had install for it's new model. Obviously now having a bike on the minimum weight is not a problem, the opposite is more the issue insuring that the bike is heavy enough os more of a challenge for the manufacturers and our team mechanics. Therefore technology these days goes into the type of carbon used and off course where it's a little heavier and a little lighter to maximize ride ability and performance. Vincenso even discussed at length as to how he chooses a comparatively heavy or light front and back wheel depending on the terrain. Not only that but the type of tyre on the front and back, sometimes ones a clincher and ones a tubular and off course varying pressures. All very very intriguing stuff and another great example of why Vincenso is such a champion. Yes he can ride his bike incredibly fast and racing often it seems on pure courage and determination but there is much more to him than the natural super talent you see not the tv. He is an absolute student of his sport and during that one hour pedaling up the chio climb I learnt more about the way a bike can run faster simply by the make up of parts onboard than I have learnt in my entire cycling career.
So if Vincenso was teaching me something then what did I teach him? Well I have no idea to be honest, I did alot of listening. Also when you are speaking Italian I have to concentrate twice as hard to do my best to get my points across and understand what's coming my way. Also through in the fact we were climbing up to 2200m altitude and breathing is difficult let alone talking and not only that but talking in another language! I do remember however telling how great it is being able to go home to Australia in the summer and train and that he should seriously consider riding down under next year. He seem interested in the idea so who knows maby we will de him in Adelaide in January. From a fan perspective it would be great but from the perspective of having to race him I wouldn't be so good! The tdu course would suit his wide array of characteristics very well so would without a doubt be a big favorite should he venture down under in 2014. When we finally reached the top of the climb our old team coach paolo slongo was waiting with 2 icy cold cans in his hands. When we pulled up he handed them over a can of tonic water to each of us! I have certainly never ever ever downed and ice cold can of tonic water at the summit of a 25km climb before. I gave Vincenso a glance which he knew meant this was my maiden post ride tonic water and simply nodded his head to down it and said "buona", in other words it's good! I have to admit it did taste very good however after 6th IRS on the bike so long as it's cold and sparkling most things taste good to me, infect if you added a dash of gin I would have tasted exceptional! Still it capped of a very enjoyably and rare hour mingling with a rider from another team on the slopes of Tenerife. Thanks Vincenso.
The hotel parador is one of the rare places I like to enjoy an occasional sauna. If you take away the time you spend on the bike, e massage table, and in the dining room, there is absolutely nothing else to do but relax. Some days therefore you have quite alot of spare time on your hands and it's on these days I like to go and relax a little in the sauna. Generally you will find another cyclist or 3 in there and it's generally the same guys each time you go for some reason. Each time I have been to the parador I have had different dudes that I have spent my sauna time with. This time I always seemed to synchronize my 30minutes of sweating with the Spanish Amada from katusha. Angel vincioso, dani Moreno and of course purrito Rodriguez were there each and every time I was. Actually that's a fib, puritto missed a couple of sessions as he was probably still on is bike!! I thought I liked to do long long hours on the bike but that guy takes the cake, its not by any chance that he is regularly one of the top few riders in the world, he really really works hards and is diligent in every aspect of his profession. So back to the sauna time and it's so funny listening to the spaniards chewing he fat. We discuss the usual cycling things, upcoming races, how long are you staying at the parador for? Will you be coming back again during the season? The sauna is abnormally hot today!! And so on and so on. One conversation i did enjoy eves dropping on and I am sure they were unaware of my understanding of cycling Spanish! Was when they were talking about there training. Wile I did not take any interest in specifics, I am too respectful for that, it was interesting hearing the words used when describing what puritto wanted to the following day on the bike. The most common describing words were "Ostia" "mum ma Mia" "thinko puerto" "manyana???" "quanta venti?" "Ostia" "Ohh la la" and often finish off with another "Ostia". Basically what they were saying was that's going to be an incredibly long and hard day and we have no idea if we are going to survive and guess we will just have to buckle our seat belts and enjoy the ride! And always with a big big shrug of the shoulders as if to say in reality it's nothing new, we are used to suffering through a puritto training session! And I am not surprised they don't mind pushing themselves though it. The katusha Spanish Amada is one of the most successful core groups in the world tour. It's not only purity that wins but also Danni Moreno who is one of the top riders in the world. Was no surprise to here how the speak and how hard they work as the proof is in the pudding on the results sheets all season long. So my sauna experience was a new one this time around at the parador and I really enjoyed getting to know these guys very much.
Carmine and Simone
It's not only at the races that team masseurs are crucial to the success of the team. In a training camp where all the foundations are laid for a success in your upcoming races, the masseurs role in this process is even more important. In tenerife we have two of the very best masseurs you could wish for in Carmine and simone. Infact they did a tag team with Carmine the first 10days and simone the final week. Like at the races these guys are always doing something. You can easily pick the very best ones in the business as they always have something to do, they are extremely passionate about there roles in the team and this passion and enthusiasm is passed onto the rider when we are doing something with them, be it massage or just hanging in there room after a training session. Like at the race the masseurs room is also the "food room" where we can go and grab a snack or a drink in between meal times. It also becomes an unofficial chill out room I guess as we all seem to get hungry for snacks at similar time and end up in the room as a big group often. Both Carmine and Simone are such lovely people they they create and environment in there room that makes us wan to hang out there, it becomes like the lounge room in your house where you like to chill and chat with your family. So a very important element to have at a training camp.
Carmine and simone's work starts early in the morning. The are in the dinning room before we wake to lay out on the table all the special little things each individual riders likes before a big day on the bike. Carmine is an expert in ensuring the finest prosutto and cheeses are on hand and also that my favored vanilla flavored soy milk is nicely chilled, just the way I like it! Simone brings a touch of her Swiss nature to the breaky table with freshly prepared bircha Muesli which simply sensational! I am not a fan of muesli at all but I eat simone's but the bucket load, it's the way she stirs it I am convinced! Along with this they ensure our individual ommlette's are ready when we arrive and off course anything else we want from the kitchen prepared. Basically the are on hand to ensure our little belly's are satisfied before we head out for training, it's very very fortunate for us to have this support.
Once breaky is done there is no rest for Carmine or Simone. They head straight for the bike room and prepare all the drink bottle with wide ranges of mixes for the days training. They also ensure all the correct nutrition is loaded into the follow car so we have the fuel to pedal for hours on end. Once we are bottled up and aboard our bikes at around 10am, the masseurs finally get some time to relax for a couple of hours.
Around 2 hours before we are scheduled to return Carmine and Simone start preparing for our afternoon routine. This involves having a post ride snack organized and ready in there "food room" and getting there massage table ready to rock and role. Once we arrive they are then full gas until dinner. An order is decided on what time for your massage and this takes around 4hrs to complete for all the riders. In between massages Carmine and Simone collect all our washing and have it washed and dried before we head off for dinner. That's pretty impressive isn't it? 4 massages and wash 6 sets of smelly cycling kit all within 4 hours!! They realty are absolute legend and have a mentality that the less we have to do off the bike, the better we will work on it, we really are looked after exceptionally well with the cannondale pro cycling family.
Once all the rubs and washing is done it's finally time for dinner. Here the masseurs work is pretty much complete however I forgot one thing! During the course of the afternoon both Carmine and Simone find time to find out what each of us would like individually for dinner and take the order down to the kitchen. Why do the do this you ask? Why don't we just order when we arrive? Well it's for our benefit as it means we never have to wait for our meal! It's always ready to go and it means we can eat and get ourselves back to our rooms for some beauty sleep as quickly as possible to ensure we recover optimally for the next days work. Yep carmine and Simone have without a doubt been the cog of the chain that really holds the cannondale pro cycling Tenerife training camp together.
So that's about enough for now on my time in Tenerife. I will report again very soon on all the goings of the final week of my stay at the hotel parador where I was left to my own devices. The cannondale clan all headed home with pending racing commitments but as I still have a couple of weeks up my sleeve and love it so much in tenerife, i decided to be a big brave boy and stay on at the parador all by myself!! Well kind off!!