It can be a lonely experience racing in Europe no matter who you are, but especially so as an Aussie or Kiwi. We travel thousands of kilometres by ourselves, to the opposite side of the world, to race usually alone, with little contact with our family and friends back home. So it’s been a great little oasis training camp here with mates in Italy.

Cameron Jones is a kiwi mountain biker, and he raised the idea to me when we both discovered we would be travelling to Europe, but the logistics boggled my mind so we set the idea to the side for a little. Until Cam Wright suggested Livigno, as he had contacts that could help with accomodation. So I sent Piper a message, and a Danish guy I met in America, Ian Millenium. Everyone was keen, and we all had a gap after the Les Gets world cup, so we made it happen!

Everyone reunited.
Photo: Piper Albrecht

Getting there

Now if you have read my blog from Les Gets, you’ll know we have been having car-salesman issues.. This week was no different, we had planned to come to Livigno on Tuesday, but were a little more realistic with our expectations this time so neither of us had packed by Tuesday afternoon. Instead I went for a ride with Thomas Litscher, who was kind enough to show me some sneaky routes around the area. I’ll be looking forward to some more training when we are both back at our home bases! Wednesday came and went also, finally 5PM rolled around and we got a call saying it was finally ready to go! Excitement! Piper dashed around, got the car, we packed in record time and were on the road shortly after. Unfortunately it meant another late night, and it was 11PM before we arrived in Livigno.

First day!

The day dawned early, and I was wide awake from around 6AM. However the other guys had adapted to the pro hours quickly, and weren’t up for another 2 hours, and another few hours before we were on the bikes. Once we were Cam Wright led us up into the valley, and up some ridiculously steep single track, across an exposed ridgeline, and through some snow to a phenomenal view over Livigno. The rain started coming in so we dropped down into the bike park and down some trails back into Livigno central, before climbing up the other side of the valley and back down bike park number two! An incredible start to the trip, despite some torrential rain, and even a little hail. We all packed it in for the afternoon, Ian cooked up a great feed (this was to become a staple of the trip), and we chilled out. Unluckily for me, I told my coach I had plenty of time here and so he has given me double days roughly 5 times a week. So I kitted back up and went out in the rain for round 2. With the nice roads and gradual climbs nearby I punched out a great session and I was back in time for what tasted like the best risotto of my life. Sorry Mum…

Navigating snow on the mountains.
Photo: Piper Albrecht

Day 2, a few of us went exploring up to the bike park, some views, and then a sweet “little” traverse above Livigno, down a little goat track where I tried my best to drop Cam Jones riding a trail blind (I failed), and back into town. It was nice to get a feel for Livigno, and see the wood carvings along one of the walking tracks on the way home. Some leftovers, a stretch, and I went to find the local gym. Midway through my gym session Matteo Trentin walked in, and even helped get some equipment out for me. It’s great having so many athletes in such a small town, as one of the training hotspots for runners, riders, swimmers and more, it creates a great environment for performance with those little boosts to motivation that are provided when you’re reminded how tangible the professional teams are.

Adventure up Stelvio

Saturday was a little easier for me, with just a few hours on the bike. Piper, Ian and I went out and did the reverse of what we had done the day before. Which turned out to be far steeper than it felt riding down!
After my “easier” day, we had all planned a big mission. To ride to Stelvio pass, and back on mostly single track… The Stelvio is famous in the cycling world, and has featured in many road tour races. We started off climbing out of the valley, up a steep walking track. A brutal warmup if ever there was one. Then we dropped down into some flowy single track, all of us hollering our way down. “We” decided to get our crash for the day done early, with Cam Jones and I taking a shortcut through a corner, and before I knew it Cam Wright was flying around the corner and straight towards me… Sorry Cam… Thankfully his skills are superb, and while he couldn’t avoid crashing, he rolled like a pro, even landing his bike upside down and came up relatively unscathed!
We all took a while to reset, before finishing the descent, down to the dam and along the side, a few more descents and climbs and we arrived at Stelvio. Up, up, and more up was the story of Stelvio, Ian set a monstrous pace and before we knew it we were relaxing at the summit with a snag and coffee.

Now for the trip home, Cam Jones had planned an adventure. We dropped off Stelvio before climbing back up another pass on some old school single track. Right up to the border of Italy and Switzerland, with some battlements and trenches along the top from various wars. Dropping behind the mountains into what felt like your own world, completely seperate from the numerous towns that cover Europe, with nothing but vistas wherever you turned was a surreal experience, made better by incredible trails. From here we descended down for some 10km, switchback after switchback, getting steeper as we went until we were fully exposed on what was essentially a clif, sliding around each corner on the skree slope. We arrived at the bottom pumped and excited, a brief stop to fix a puncture with a plug and we continued. Back to the first dam, and then we turned off, climbing past some castle ruins and then off the main road and back onto twisting single track. By now we were all pretty buckled, and entertained the idea that home was “just over the next hill” for a few hills, before realising that it wasn’t… Ian decided to skip the final single track and head home on the road. The rest of us finished with one final climb and a flowing section of trail back to the lake next to Livigno, and home. All in all a five hour day, 88km with 2837m climbing and 351 HR TSS…

That ride concluded our first week in Livigno with 24.5h training and 1250TSS. After burgers at the local, icecreams, and watching Italy play England in the Soccer we all passed out pretty early, (until we heard the celebrations throughout town later that night when Italy won).
Really looking forward to my second week here with the lads, finding some form!

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