Tuesday 17 April 2007

Training Camp Week: I ride hills with Squadra Coppi

Nelson County, Virginia

Every year my racing club, Squadra Coppi, has a four day training camp in the green hills of Nelson County, just west of Charlottesville, Virginia, on I-64. I drove up on Thursday to Nellysford, where the Acorn Inn is our base for the camp. After a rather longer trip than I expected, having missed the highway exit out of Washington, I arrived late in the afternoon. Although I had passed through several bands of rain, the weather now looked good. In the parking lot I met Chris Mayhew, a racer and coach from Pittsburgh, and he agreed to come on my exploratory climb of Wintergreen. Chris and Sean, two other Coppis, were in the Inn and they also wanted to come along, although they had already ridden the climb once.

The justly feared climb of Wintergreen

One of my reasons for coming to camp was to climb the big hill at the Wintergreen Resort since I plan to ride this on May 5th when the Charlottesville Cycling Club holds its annual hill time trial. The wind was blowing pretty hard when we left and I was pretty discouraged that I could not maintain the pace line well since my heart rate was jumping up to 172 bpm, more than when I climb the hill itself! The headwind and the lack of warm-up made it hard but I eventually recovered enough to start the climb. Chris Mayhew and Sean rode ahead as they are much better climbers, chasing after Chris Marrow who just blasted off before he turned around at the gatehouse. I felt pretty good doing the climb, checking out spots where I would be able to recover in May and other sections where I might pick up the pace. Chris M. and Sean met me at the top and we had an exciting descent, starting at 88 km/h for me. I felt great by the time we got to the bottom and I was able to take the lead on the way back to the Acorn Inn, holding a
steady 46-50 km/h due to the tailwind. So, first 43 kms in the bag, 930 vertical meters.

On Friday we decided to ride the longer rides that we usually do on Saturday as the weather was looking shaky for the weekend. I went with a rather fast group doing a 65 miler (101 kms), which went up the road to Montebello and then along the Blue Ridge Parkway before descending down Reed's Gap. I was the slowest of the group and found the climbing challenging, although less than last year. But then, it was 1600 m of up, so I guess I should not be surprised I found it hard going.

On Saturday I suited up, but within a mile I realized that I really did not want to do a 24 mile ride in pouring rain. There were pools of water on the road, so that was enough for me. I stayed at the inn and rode the trainer instead for 90 minutes. The rest of the time was spent socializing, watching cycling videos and getting a massage on Saturday night--some pain still in my right adductor. Chris Mayhew spoke to us about training and he had a lot of helpful hints. He also brought along a coffee grinder and a pump-handled steam espresso machine, thereby earning total style points.

My plan of riding a 50 miler on Saturday was obviously pre-empted by the weather, as was my plan to ride up Wintergreen a second time on Sunday since it was coming down in buckets. The drive back was pretty miserable, but at least there was no traffic.

I have booked a bed at the inn for the Wintergreen weekend (May 5/6) so I will be much better organized from that standpoint this year. I enjoy the family atmosphere at the Acorn Inn. The owners, Kathy and Martin Versluys, are very hospitable and the place is decorated with all sorts of interesting things from their travels around the world. Their son, Klaas, is in his final year of high school and as a project he just completed brazing a new bicycle frame for himself. Last summer he, his father and a friend rode all the way around Iceland and Klaas was the team mechanic for that adventure.

Giacamo mans the table and takes the bets

In spite of the poor weather, it was fun to hang out with the Coppi gang. In addition to getting coaching tips, having a massage, eating a lot of pizza and drinking a few beers, there was the Celebrated Electric Cycling Game, a fixture of every annual Camp Coppi.

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