17 June 2008

Epic Italy '08 Epilogue

Epic Italy ’08 Epilogue

I’m in Milan airport (Linate, not Malpensa!) as I finish this and feeling ready to go home. I’m pooped.

The red wine and grappa flowed and Julie even brought out a big round of smelly cheese from Pienza that Erin had acquired the week before this camp began. It was smelling pretty ripe by now and was awfully delicious.
It was a rather light meal and speeches were short too as we really didn’t bring any special prizes to give out this camp as we already had a problem bringing the things we needed to get through the camp.
The points showed Steve creamed us in the over-all, G-Man easily took out the KOM and I got another green jersey. Jo gets a special mention as she clearly out-trained everyone but Steve by a large margin. The woman can go long! It was only the race points that kept her from clearly scoring 2nd.

After dinner we moved into the center of town for a little wander through Verona. Quite a few people were out for a Sunday night and it was warm and dry which was nice. We’ve been a little short on warm and dry on this trip.
Randy’s moved over to the Hotel Accademia which is a super sweet hotel right in the center of town. If I ever stay here in the future that would be my choice of hotel.

At this point in time we’re still planning on the next Epic being in the South Island of New Zealand going north from Christchurch and finishing in Nelson. We’ll do a few new routes including a trip into Takaka and staying in Collingwood so we can do a long run on the Heaphy. I’ve always wanted to see that part of NZ as some of my multisport buddies have told me its one of the best parts of the country.

I’d like to say a special thanks to Ian and Julie for looking after us. Its an 11-hour drive for them to get here (and then back) and the amount of daily hours and driving looking after us has been a big ask. After having their help for the Pyrenees I knew we could only do this camp with their help and now that we’re planning the Alps next June or July we’ll have to wait and see when their schedule allows them to help us again as I wouldn’t try to do that trip without them.

A big thanks to Newsom who does almost all of the work for these camps now and I hope he’ll continue to do that as well as continue to tow us around on the bikes. I know he gets damn tired just like the rest of us yet still manages all of his on-road admin with grace and patience.

Thanks to Gordo for making it through one more camp.

Thanks to all the campers for sharing this trip with me. I’ve wanted to ride these mountains for over 20 years and I finally lived that dream. Italy is a fantastic country to be a tourist in and I’ll be back.

Big thanks to our sponsors:
High Five – fantastic range of energy supplements for training and racing.
HED - thanks for your continued support – its been 24 years for me now.
XTri – thanks to Vinu and Betsy for understanding what we’re all about.
Coffees of Hawaii – thanks Albert for your continued support. (I like my green jersey!)
Oomph! - Thanks for your continued support and fantastic apparel.
Blue Seventy - Thanks for your continued support and fantastic swim gear.

On the way over to, and in Tuscany I read a couple of books a friend gave me titled “Vroom with a View” by Peter Moore which tells of the authors trip around Italy on moped. Its light and fun and sounds like the type of books that make all the romance seem very attainable. These camps are a lot like that for me. I will often get out the atlas and look at all of the places I’d like to go and see via s/b/r and share the experience with like-minded people.
Perhaps as I slow down I’ll need to moderate the athletic part of my goals on these adventures but in the next few years at least I plan on doing things just the same as the previous 9 camps we’ve had. I expect them to be very, very challenging and this one has been. Although the entire trip was very rewarding and satisfying I wasn’t all that happy with how I was climbing or swimming on this camp, so I’ve got plenty to keep me busy preparing for the next couple of camps.

Train Hard,
Satiate the Need


Epic Italy '08 Day 8

Epic Italy ’08 Day 8 – Bolzano – Verona

The bike paths on this trip have given me a big dose of “stupeffatto”.
You don’t’ have to ride mountains if you want to ride in Italy. There is an amazing bike path system through all of the cities we went to and connecting them as well. Today we could have stayed on bike paths for all of the 170km from end to end today.
You also get a different perspective of the area you’re traveling through when riding bike paths. Without the cars to watch out for you can look around a bit more and the paths here are also generally away from buildings so you get some space and get a larger view.
Being a tourist on a bike is still the best way to see the world, unless of course its pissing down then a nice sports car would be my first choice.
The descents we did down to Assagio on Day 2 and down the Psa de Erbbe are best done on a bike. No doubt in my mind about that. Perhaps the fact that we rode up to the top before descending adds a lot to the whole experience but if for some reason (like old age for example!) I couldn’t pedal up these mountains I would still have a hell of a lot of fun being driven to the top so I could ride down.
Descending in the wet does reduce the thrill factor somewhat as you have to go a lot slower, and I would hate to shred my gorgeous new cycling gear with a fall. The winter cycling jerseys we had made for this camp are our best jerseys yet and I’ll recall this trip every time I put it on this winter once I get back home.

We started the day with a 4km spin to the pool just like yesterday. We had the 50m outdoor pool to ourselves again. Today I chose to wear my wetsuit as I froze yesterday.
Newsom did a set of 10 x 200 in his wetsuit on the 2:35 coming in mostly on the 2:25 which was bloody impressive considering how tired he is. I was content to just roll along with my paddles and get 3km done and get out.
Steve swam with no suit in order to get his 20fly done and then continued to swim without his suit and did say it was a little warmer than yesterday but I think he was mostly trying to encourage Jo to have another crack at that 200fly.
There was a “gruppetto” in the pool today over in the far lane! We usually don’t get a gruppetto on the pool but those guys were drafting and wearing their wetsuits and still just managing 2 minutes/100m pace. Very leisurely to say the least.

After swimming our support crew laid on another nice big snack for us – sort of an early lunch really. My bag of popcorn and beer went down a treat. We had quite a long ride ahead of us and I had the feeling it would be very steady. Every camp I try to end with the last ride being a group ride with the stronger guys pulling us along and today it was mostly that way. Gordo did get into full TT mode quite early in the ride into a howling wind so along the bike paths it was really bike race pace and a struggle to stay on. Poor Jo got spat off the back quite early and had a long day of quiet contemplation ahead of her.
We intended to meet up with the support crew again in Rivereto and finally caught up with them a ways past that at the 100km point into the ride. I was ready to call it a day there and probably should have. After changing my front wheel which had a broken spoke we hopped right back onto the G-Train and I smashed into the back of Anthony when not looking properly as I was trying to accelerate back onto his wheel. Thankfully I didn’t take anyone else down or get hit by a car as I went down. Only a gashed elbow with quite a bit of road rash to show for it and we were on our way again with Gordo making sure I was able to stay on as Steve took over the motor-pacing duties for the last 40km into Verona.
Steve was really throttling it the last hour + which was damn impressive after the week he’s put in. I think he’s finally getting fit! HA!
We did get a leisurely 15 minutes before arriving at the hotel which was nice. I felt pretty drained. Our crew had the food out again to greet us at 5pm and I needed quite a lot to get me going again even though I knew dinner was schedule for 6:30.
We quickly packed the bikes. Russell got the awards for fastest packing. He said he’s done it about 10 times already and it showed.
Randy’s titanium bike has those couplings you can unscrew to put the whole bike in a suitcase that’s the size of a bike wheel. I’m seriously looking at getting a bike like that as it fits into a nice-sized luggage bag that you would never guess contained a bike. With bike charges now at ridiculous levels that bike travel set-up is really looking like a great option.
We then showered and went into the hotel restaurant to eat and the red wine flowed.
Jo arrived a little late with a very, very tired smile on her face.

15 June 2008

Epic Italy '08 Day 7

Epic Italy ’08 Day 7 – Stelvio

Today started at 6:30am with a leisurely 50-minute run tour of the city of Bolzano.
The Austrian influence here is clear – almost all signs are in both Italian and German (Austrian?). There is quite a lot of new architecture in the municipal buildings too which we haven’t seen too much of this trip so far.
We took in some of the bike paths as well as the cobbled city lanes. There was a farmers market already up and running but for the most part the city was asleep.

After breakfast at the hotel we rolled the 4km to the pool but they weren’t quite ready for us so by the time we hoped in it was 9:45. This complex has 2 new 50m outdoor pools and the one we swam in was another super clean stainless steel one like Brenneco. It was a cool 24.5 degrees C though so most people decided to wear a wetsuit. I’ll be wearing mine tomorrow as I froze and barely made my 3km. Nothing special to report about this swim session! Everyone looked to be going pretty easy.

After a snack we headed out via the bike path system to Merano. Another 30km of magic bike path along a river but today since it was the week-end and a fine day there were a lot of people out. Very few helmets to be seen. We didn’t know you could take a bike path right to the base of the Stelvio and we were kind-of in a hurry so we took to the roads and did a little detour through Merano which probably cost us 20+ minutes. Once we found our way the road continued to climb for the most part the remaining 30km to the base of the climb where Julie was waiting for us with the van for another snack. We’d been riding for well over 3 hours to get there and I was already pretty pooped.

After reading about this climb for so many years I was really looking forward to experiencing it for myself and it really does impress more in person. With over 5,000ft of vertical gain at a constant, unrelenting gradient it wore me down pretty quick and when I finally popped out above the tree-line to view that last 20% I did have a little anxiety attack. It’s a hell of a lot more daunting to view that road after an hour of hard climbing. Its scary!
I knew I had the gears and had been fueling well so just tried to relax and enjoy the view as I went up. After a few more k’s I spotted Newsom just ahead along with Steven a little further up so I figured I was doing OK as they had pulled away well over an hour previously. I was gaining a little but was content to just keep it steady to not bonk before the top as I didn’t want to stop to rest and eat.

At nearly 9,000ft at the top it was cold! The bartender in who served me my café corretto (grappa this time – seemed appropriate) said it was 2-3 degrees C outside and it was snowing lightly so it wasn’t hard to believe. There were some little food carts outside serving bratwurst sandwiches on traditional wheat bread and we all huddled around one of them to top up the lunch Julie had set out for us. Hot food was needed! Anthony ate two of those suckers with the works – mustard, catsup, bratwurst, onions, sauerkraut.
They had a great German wheat beer there too in big bottles so a few of us had those. Gordo bought a souvenir hat that is very Gordo-like. It will be a nice trophy for the trophy shelf back home.
There were literally hundreds of motorcycles out there on the road today and that looks like a nice way to tour through Italy. Not everyone can ride up these monsters. We also saw a good amount of Porches, Maserattis and Ferraris up there. Looked like good fun.

On the original plan today I had wanted to ride down into Bormio and then up the Gavia but weather, lack of time and energy caused a re-think so we put the bikes up on the van and headed back to Bolzano. Jonathan had actually skipped the run and swim this morning to get a headstart and rode solo up the Stelvio and back. About 11+ hours on his bike today! Steve and Jo did descend down the mountain and were commenting on just how damn long it was. I didn’t have enough clothes to descend in that weather. You needed ski gear. Steven actually pulled out a jacket that I hadn’t seen him ride in before and I asked him why he hadn’t used it in the cold rain all of those days and he said he brought it along “just in case we hit some _really_ bad weather!
That made me laugh for the rest of the day.

At the hotel we had 5 minutes to shower before sitting down to dinner which was very quiet tonight. People looked exhausted and satisfied. The Stelvio really did deliver as advertised. What a ride.

Epic Italy '08 Day 6

Epic Italy ’08 Day 6

As I’ve said many times over the years I write these blogs mostly for the campers as its hard to recall everything you did and the places you went afterwards. It all becomes a blur. I’m sort-of at that point now trying to recall the last few days. I’m only trying to recall yesterday now and even that is a bit fuzzy.

It poured all night last night and we awoke to a cold, rainy morning and the prospect of starting out with a mainly downhill 55km ride to the pool wasn’t very appealing to me so I talked everyone into a van ride to the pool so we could swim and run before deciding what to do.
It was raining solid and 4 degrees C as we crested the summit in the van so everyone was relieved not to be out there on the bikes.

The swim - The nice 50m outdoor pool was closed due to the weather (taking the covers off on a day like this cools the pool down too much is what they told us) so we went to another pool – indoors and 25m.
Everyone was content to just do the minimum 3k. I managed a 200fly for a bonus point. Russell and Jo had a crack at it but didn’t make it!

The run – By the time we exited the pool it was dry and looking like it would remain that way.
After swimming we assembled for a 10km run race where there were race points on the line + ½ points for a guess your time competition. No one was allowed to wear a watch.
As it turned out Ian made the course a little short so Gordo took it out in under 30 minutes with Newsom second and me 3rd about 4 minutes back from G-Man. I actually felt pretty good running for a change and it’s the first time I’ve ran hard and not felt my right knee hurting in over 2 years. I did ache later on the ride, but I’m was still very encouraged that I might be able to run well again at some point this year.
It was good to see Peters run hard on the second ½ today also as he could barely walk a few days ago.

The ride – Starting from Brunneco the ride was shortened to 100km with one significant pass to manage – Psa d Erbbe.
That pass turned out to be a magnificent climb. Way harder than I thought it might be as I hadn’t Googled it to see the specs beforehand. Lots of time in my 30x25 again.
The descent down the other side was absolutely brilliant. You can see from the photos that the road could be mistaken for a bike path. It did have a few wet areas where water was running across the road but it was dry so made for a fun trip down. Once we got onto the S12 towards Bolzano it was more downhill and tailwind so the last 30k went by very quick.
The S12 runs along side a raging river which was nearly in flood due to all of the recent rains. Above the river the Autostrada runs for miles elevated on amazingly high pillars and through huge tunnels. Freakin’ amazing roads here.

14 June 2008

Epic Italy '08 Day 5

Epic Italy ’08 Day 4

We’re in Bolzano on Day 7 as I write this at 6am trying to get caught up. Doesn’t look like I will get there as its now 6am and we’ve got a run to do at 6:30 but I’ll get started………

Cortina would probably be my choice as a place to stay if I were to only choose one place n Italy to come to ride. There are a few other towns in the vicinity like Canazei and Arabba but they’re not quite as big so don’t’ offer quite the variety of shopping, eating places, etc. There’s also a lot of directions to ride in from here – all great. Too bad the pool is shut at the moment as we then could have not had all of our rides heading out towards Brenneco to start off with.

By now Steve has run away with the points and really put that part of the camp out of reach. At some point I’ll have to ask him exactly what he did so I can put it all down for the record as its been very impressive. On this camp there’s been no easy way to tack on for extra points. The running in Trento was flat but other than that all of the extra running and riding has been hilly and wet and after hours of mountainous training in cold rain its very hard to not go straight into a nice hot shower at the end of the rides like everyone else. Like all former winners of the Epic points competition he has really gone for it and my hat’s off to him. He would have been right there with any former winner of the Yellow Jersey competition. This time he gets a unique pink one which is cool.
Gordo looks to have lock on the KOM Jersey. We’ve still got quite a few mountains to cover but he’s still quite fresh and riding well. I’m not sure just how well though as I haven’t been anywhere near him to observe on the climbs except for the Giau.

Little mighty mite Jo is holding up OK too. She’s not missed any opportunities to pick up extra points where she could, so looks likely to be in the top 3 in the points unless she completely craters. There’s always the chance of getting sick of tendonitis when training as much as she is in the cold rain with so many climbs/descents but so far she’s holding up great. On Day 5 (tomorrow) she did another 2-hour run. Michael Peters was sitting in the lobby because he couldn’t sleep so he was up blogging and saw here walk straight into the big glass doors leaving the hotel as she set off on her run. So she is a little tired!

We hopped into the vans to get to the pool today except for Steve who rode there. I was happy not to be riding there as it was still pretty nippy out. It was dry though so a good choice by Steve as its mostly downhill to the pool.
I put on my paddles to get the 3km done asap so I could get going on my ride. I wanted to head into Austria a little bit as it was just right there and fairly flat to get there. Peters and I found the first significant town to stop for a beer, coffee and gelato and then headed back. Once again the sky turned black in the afternoon and we got hammered near the top of the pass and descended back to the hotel in a driving rain. That was a 90km ride for us and that was plenty. I still had my run to do.
Most rode straight back to the hotel after swimming but Douglas headed up the Laveredo on his own in that storm and Steve did a small tour of the rest of the Dolomites he hasn’t already covered! His ride reminded of all previous winners of the points who just go for it using all 12 hours per day each day available to train for points. He actually got kinda lost so ended up using a total of 13 hours today.

Another really nice dinner at the hotel tonight. They are making a real effort for us and the meals are plentiful. The red wine has been flowing a bit more lately too. Randy and Erin have been mostly responsible for that and I’d like to say a big thanks to them!

Epic Italy '08 Day 4

Epic Italy Day 4 – Cortina

We’re sleeping in Cortina for 3 nights, so we should get a few different routes in.
Unfortunately the community pool here is under construction so we have to use a pool that’s in Brunico 55km away. So the plan is to ride there and back today with a little bit of tacking on in various directions – that’s up to each person to decide.

The plan for today is up early to run (or not) eat, ride to the pool and be there by 9:30am to swim. We have the pool booked for 2 hours so there’s plenty of time to do what-ever people want to do today.

We mounted the bikes at 7:45 and it was pretty chilly! But at least it was clear. Newsom wanted to do some steady riding today and also wanted to get us to the pool in time so we thankfully sat on his wheel for nearly 2 hours. Since it was a net downhill by about 1,000ft. it was a pretty cruisey ride.

This pool in Brunico is really something. Its all stainless steel. Sparkling like new and warm and the sun was out so a really nice opportunity to catch a few rays. Since Steve was doing 6km a few of us had a chance to lay around like lazy farts on the warm tiles of the pool deck for a while before eating.

Newsom found us a really sweet bike path out of town all the way back to the town of Dobbacio 25km away and this trail really does have to be experienced to be believed. If you’ve ever done the bike trail over Vail Pass in Colorado you’ll have some idea but this one had quite a lot of firm dirt, crushed gravel, detours through little villages, along lakes, through little tunnels just for cycling through, bridges over the rivers, etc and sign-posted very well. We by-passed the “panoramic” bike bath route to Dobbacio too. Perhaps in another lifetime……….
Once we headed back up the pass towards Cortina it started to get very dark and rain was imminent. Most people decided to head straight back but Michael Peters, Jo, Steve and I decided to head up the Cime de Lavaredo which is a mean-ass climb finishing on a mountain top. It started to rain then the sky went completely black, it started pissing down and thunder and lightning (kinda far away…..) completed the picture.
This climb is considerably steeper than any other we’ve done so far on this trip. I was in my 30x27 for a lot of it during the last 5km which averages 14% with a few stretches of 18%. I did most of that last 6km at 7-9kph and had to work very hard to do that.
Luckily there’s a restaurant at the top and it was serving hot soup, beer and coffee. Perfect. They had a wood stove burning hot so we huddled around it making a huge puddle and flip-flopping our clothes on it so as to dry them without melting them. It did clear a bit so we did get some views before having to head back down. We knew we were going to freeze and with the wet road it would be hard to get down. Its tough to break enough to slow you down in the wet when its that steep. But we all made it down safe, rode over the Psa de Croci back to Cortina and felt damn proud to have done it.
Peters decided to tack on a bit more and ended up with 3 flats and had to call for help – very long day out there for him.

For others it was more of a “re-group day with “only” the run, swim and 110km ride with 2 passes.
Tomorrow is also sort of a “re-group” day with various options being discussed with the only real firm guideline to work around is the pool being available to us from 9:30 – 11:30.

Epic Italy '08 Day 3

Epic Italy ’08 Day 3 Trento – Cortina

Psa de Fedaia and Psa de Giau

Yesterday upon our arrival in Trento Steve and Jo went for a 2:40 run.
F…n impressive! By the end of the run we did this morning that’s approx. 40km since arriving 14 hours ago. Then Jo ran back from the pool after swimming! With a week to go that’s quite a bold move.

We ran home from the pool. Not much to report there. Or did we run to the pool???? I forget………….again…………..

Since we only had an hour in the pool there wasn’t really much opportunity to do a 6km swim for extra points so a few of us did “special” swim sets for points. I did the 12 x (100 IM, 150 f/s) set continuously with Newsom to get an extra point. The fly was not pretty of course but perhaps even more miserable than normal. Glad we didn’t do the 400 IM today as I felt like I was drowning.

Leaving Trento we had approx 2km on the flat and then the road went up pretty steeply. It was a sunny, balmy 22 degrees C already and the parts of the road that were in the shade were really, really nice! With such a long ride ahead I was hoping not to be too drained before we hit the main features of the day, but it was looking like it was going to be a very long, tough day.
Gordo and Steve took off early to put the KOM out of reach and the rest of us were content to ride moderate and keep the support crew close by. We had 3 vehicles on the road looking after us but with the groups so spread out it was still tough for everyone to go the right way. There are about a zillion roads here.
Gordo got lost and took a common sense approach and waited for us to come through with the support crew. Steve went the right way but was so far ahead that we thought he was lost so by the time he finally waited up to make sure he was going the right way he was parched and a little irritable!
Jonathan and Anthony were taking a more leisurely tour of the Dolomites today and would have been just fine if they hadn’t missed the turn to the Giau which wasn’t sign- posted well from the direction we were coming from. Our group missed it too and after circling back going out of town we found it. Those guys continued down that valley 13km (and I do mean down!) before realizing where they were and turning back. They ended up doing 15,000ft of vertical and 9:15 on the bike today. It gets dark pretty late here but they did have to be rushed through a very late and hard-earned lunch to get them to Cortina before dark!

Randy took a wrong turn in Canzei and took another pass towards Cortina. When he did eventually come upon another sign to the Giau enroute he decided he didn’t want to miss out on doing the planned route that everyone else was doing so he went all the way back down to find the correct route. So he got in a bonus pass! He was pretty damn tired when he made it to Cortina.

Both Fedaia and Giau are “fair dinkum” passes. I used my 30 x 25 on both and I felt like I was climbing OK. On the Giau I went by Steve in his 34 x 26 and he was barely turning it.
On climbs like these it really does pay to bring super easy gearing. These really are climbs to do on a mt.bike for 98% of the cycling population. The key is to not plan on doing too many passes in one day or back to back days of climbing like this unless you are super fit. Adding running to the mix makes it close to impossible to get over these climbs anywhere near your comfort zone. And we’ve still got steeper and longer ones yet to come.
As Gordo and I were finally descending the Giau into Cortina we were talking about how crazy it must be to be a pro cyclist. To have to race others down these passes in the rain for a living would be harder than racing up them.
Once we arrived in Cortina we needed to follow the signs through town heading towards Bolzano to find our hotel. Luckily it was dry for us at this point and a hot shower and dinner weren’t far away.
Before doing anything though I made sure I had a beer at the bar.
Great day.

At dinner tonight we got caught up on all of the wrong turns made and all of the wet clothes people went through. The laundry pile is enormous.

Epic Italy '08 Day 2

Epic Italy ’08 Day 2 – In Trento

Today we awoke in the city that’s home to Giro legend Gilberto Simoni. Its not hard to see why a kid could become a great cyclist very quickly here. The place is surrounded by steep mountains.

The run - We had a nice easy run to the pool with a bit of it along the river. Nice big bike trail and a running trail along the river and we saw a few fast Africans (looked Kenyan to me) out there. Still pretty quiet out by the time we got to the pool at 7am.
Randy was commenting to me on the run that the pace on the runs the last 2 days has been pretty decent. One of the benefits (or drawbacks depending on how you look at it) of a small group is there’s nowhere to hide if you get dropped. Plus it was hard to find the pool so no one wanted to get dropped and lost.

The swim - I managed a set of 20 x 100 on the 1:30 half decently with Newsom to get a bonus 2 points and was happy with that considering how I swam in the 2km yesterday. Others did various other sets for extra points.
I could get used to having a nice 50m outdoor pool all to myself. In Christchurch we only have indoor pools.

The ride today was a big loop that included plenty of vertical but no passes of note to those that follow the Giro. We did have approx 6500ft of gain though so no walk in the park. I tried to stay with Newsom for the most part today as I knew he knew the route and was happy to be delivered back to the hotel safe and sound. As we descended back into Trento there was plenty of traffic to deal with at 60-70kph which got the adrenaline flowing. Nice to have dry roads to descend on again today. Looks like it might be a bit wet for a while now…..

Huge dinner.
I couldn’t finish mine and had to get to bed before desert rolled around anyway as I was trashed. Hopefully Johnny will update you on the points as of today or tomorrow as I really have no idea other than Steve and Jo out-training all of the rest of us by a large margin.

10 June 2008

Epic Italy '08 Day 1

Epic Italy ’08 Day 1 – Verona – Trento

One of the main goals of the camp is to challenge everyone to s/b/r every day so we’ve set up out camp points competition to reward those that manage to do that.
Accomplishing that simple goal is not as easy as it sounds. Sleeping in gets more and more enticing as the camp progresses.

So here we are in Verona.
Last night Erin (my wife who is joining us for few days) Douglas Scott (Auckland, NZ cardiologist on his 2nd Epic) and I went into town for a glass of wine and a stroll. The city is stunning and very clean. I thought it might be more rundown but its immaculate.
The café’s were packed and we even listened to a full choir backed by a full orchestra outside in one of the piazza’s as we had some gelato. The full Italian experience! I would have loved to stay later but we have an early start in the morning. So lights out at 10:30.

Today ……..
We started at 5:30am with an easy tourist run around Verona checking out the sights, followed soon after with a swim at the 50m outdoor pool across the street, then breakfast, then a 9:15am roll-out to ride to Trento via the road along lake Garda.

The run – nice and leisurely. Since its Sunday here it was pretty quiet! But the sun was up and it was a balmy 22 C so it was very nice. Our support crew was there to meet us outside the hotel with coffee and snacks. Much appreciated! 15 minutes to shower and get to the pool.

The swim – We had a beautiful 50m outdoor pool all to ourselves. Long w/up and then a 2km TT. Since G-Man had swam in the pool the day before and told us how freezing it was most of us put on wetsuits. For those who chose not to wear them we gave them 2 minutes off of their time (6 seconds/100m) so Gordo then strips off his wetsuit! ????? Hmmmmm………
Newsom creamed us (holding 1:15/100m and with me floundering like I forgot how to swim G-Man was 2nd. I think that’s the first time at an Epic that he’s taken me in a swim event (other than a 50m sprint or a kicking race) and my days of easily taking him in swim races may be numbered! He’s swimming pretty good after a solid 6 months of swimming.

The ride – One of the rules we usually enforce on Epic when we are riding point-to-point is to have everyone have their overnight bag packed and brought down to the lobby prior to breakfast so the support crew can pack up the vans early enough to be able to support us on the road. Good rule and its been working well. That also keeps us from having a late departure for our ride.
The route today was intended to gently get everyone going on this Epic. A full day of international travel and getting the bikes together before Day 1 really doesn’t allow people to be fully with it on Day 1 so its nice to have a slightly gentle start. In January (or last January for that matter) in NZ we didn’t do that and most people were absolutely shattered at the end of Day 1.
We rode out of town which was pretty busy. Then we went along Lake Garda to Arco and then on to Trento with a short gradual uphill TT along the way at the end of the ride.
The lake is quite the tourist spot and since its Sunday there were zillions of people out.
Gordo kindly pulled us for hours into a headwind to keep the tempo up.
We only had a couple of near-death close calls and a 60kph descent through a curving 1km tunnel to get the adrenaline up. Other than that it was pretty relaxed! Erin pulled me over at about the 100km mark to show me her crooked handlebars. I put her bike together the night before and hadn’t tightened the stem at all! OOOOOPS!!! Sorry dear……..
Everyone else checking in on their loved ones will be glad to hear they’ve all arrived in one piece. Lucky for them I’m not their bike mechanic.
I’ll let some one else report the TT results. I’ll just say our only intrepid female camper Jo Carritt (spelling correct??) from the UK goes uphill damn good. All 45kgs of her!! This woman is suited to this terrain!

We’re in Trento 2 nights so hopefully I can get online tonight to post this as I couldn’t get online in Verona.

Epic Italy '08 Prologue

Epic Italy ’08 Prologue

We tried to run this camp last June but the impending birth of young Thomas Newsom and Gordo’s plan to prepare for IM Canada caused a re-think so here we are – finally – this year.
If you’ve read any previous blogs/Epic updates then you are aware that we choose the locations and times for these camps based mostly on my whim. I’ve trained in many fabulous locations around the planet but there are still many places left to explore. This camp is intended to fulfill my dream of riding through the Dolomites which I’ve never done. After the Pyrenees trip in ’06 with Ian Wright of www.pyreneesmultisport.com assisting us I knew this camp was certainly feasible. We’ve got Ian and his wife Julie along to help us and that’s put my mind at ease. We tried to get some one fluent in Italian to come along as well but didn’t quite get there so we’ll just have to see how it goes. We’ve also got super support crew massage therapist/mechanic John Ellis along too (his 4th time helping us) so it looks like we’re in good hands.

In planning the route I’ve sent John a whole bunch of routes from the map book and he then got to work finding us pools and lakes to swim in, places to stay and comes up with a practical route. Sometimes I get a little carried away as I don’t want to leave out any routes that are worth doing, but with only 8 days to s/b/r all day its impossible to hit all the good spots. So perhaps we’ll need to return for another camp at some point. Last week I was in Tuscany for the second time and I’m sure I could spend a couple of years riding there and still not ride every road. The sheer amount of roads in Italy and France astound me. They can lay some seriously great tarmac here!

Tuscany is certainly one of the finest places to ride in the world. The food and wine aren’t bad either! J Since we were there before the tourist season started the roads were incredibly quiet. That part of Italy has less traffic than we have in Christchurch.
Its hilly there too. Although there are no mountains the amount of vertical gain there is significant. Its all either up or down.
I’ll have to look around for some good pools there as it will be a place to have a tri camp one day. I did go for one ocean swim and it was still a bit nippy.

After seeing the profiles of some of the climbs here in the Dolomites and following the Giro Italia for so many years I decided to put on a triple chainring for this trip. I’ve now got a 30x27 as my easiest gear and I’m damn happy about it! I hope the others have also got an extra gear or two. Its fair to say everyone’s been warned!

We’re starting in Verona with a run and swim in the morning followed by a moderate ride to Trento. Hopefully we’ll get some dry weather this week as its been a little soggy here over the last month. It sure is green!

We’ve had out pre-camp meeting and are just off to dinner in the hotel here so I’ll end here and try to figure out how to get online at some point to send this.