Italy 2: Cycling + Ride Fuel

Cycling + Ride Fuel

Traveling is an amazing experience. It's even better if you can stay active during your travels!

Riding in Italy was an amazing experience. It was well worth the hassle of packing up the bikes, paying to check them, and lugging them through international airports.

Its pricey and definitely a pain... but soooo worth it!! Invest in a good sturdy box so your bike stays safe. 

Its pricey and definitely a pain... but soooo worth it!! Invest in a good sturdy box so your bike stays safe. 

If you’re an athlete, always try to train while on vacation. You will not only retain fitness, but you’ll get to see the area in a way most people cannot experience.  If I did not ride my bike in Italy, I would have missed out on so many sights. While it is always good to document your rides and record training efforts. Do not take your vacation training too seriously. It is a time to enjoy and welcome the distractions of a new place. On our rides, we rode hard but we also stopped frequently to take photos, try a new café, or just sit and soak up the surroundings.

During this trip I was lucky enough to ride up 4 mountains, 1 of them twice. We do not have mountains in Ohio. We have the occasional hill, but nothing comparable to an Italian Alp. In Baveno we were surrounded by these beautiful masses of land that reached to the sky. The first and second day we rode the Mottarone. The first time, very relaxed, just to get the legs moving again and take in the sights. It was the most breath-taking ride I have yet to experience.  There were switchbacks, colorful villas, cafes, trees, the lake, and even sheep being herded along the mountainside. Many photos were taken.  The next day the same ride was completed, but at a very intense pace. We split up at the base of the climb, which starts at mile 2 of the ride, and went all out for the next 13 or so miles.  Strava counts this as a HC segment; 11.5 miles at a 6% average grade.  The most difficult part comes towards the top. The grade just continues to steepen and your legs really feel the fatigue set in. The Giro d’Italia apparently included this climb a few years back. I can understand why; it is a climb that will make you proud of your legs while providing amazing scenery. On another ride going north east of Lake Maggiore we covered over 13,000ft of elevation in 61 miles. The most climbing in the shortest period I had ever been subjected to. It was brutal. The temperature was in the 90s and things just never seemed to cool down, even at the top of the mountains. The first climb, Segletta (strava calls it Paincavallo which I believe roughly translates to PAIN CAVE), was roughly 13 miles and around a 5% average grade. A nice big ring climb.  The type of climb you can settle into and enjoy without killing your spirit and legs. This would have been great except that it was followed by Alpe Gabbio, a 4.3 mile segment of switchbacks at a 10% average grade. This one hurt. The only savior to climb 2 was the shade and natural spring water at the top. Cold fresh Italian Alp spring water at the top of a climb will renew your spirit for sure.  Descending this climb, and all the climbs, was a tricky task. Italian roads are tiny, narrow and winding. They are two lane when you think two lanes would be impossible.  Tiny cars zip up and down the mountains.  As there are many towns and houses along the climbs, there are also many cars. You must hug the outside to avoid getting hit when coming down the switchbacks.  Overall drivers are very aware of cyclists. Cars zip by closely, but never in an aggressive way. No yells to get off the road and no honking. Anyways, back to this ride because there was still one more climb to take on. Who made this route?! THREE mountainous climbs in one ride?! I will not name names… but by the final climb Alpe Pala (Cambiasca on Strava), a beast of 5.3 miles at a 9% average grade. I was not in a happy place. I was hurting. Hungry, hot, tired… All of the above feelings were setting in. At the top, all I could do was resist the urge to throw my bike from the edge.

When traveling to cycle, it is essential to keep your healthy nutrition habits. Eating new foods, at different times, in different quantities can really have an effect on the body. To avoid bonking or feeling GI discomfort on a ride, try to keep as similar habits. Eat something small before heading out to exercise.  As breakfast was uncommon, the pre ride was a stop at a café for espresso and to snack on a granola bar. Before longer rides, it is imperative to get more calories in before starting. For these days, I prepared plain yogurt with buckwheat granola and fresh figs. Simple, yet enough to get one moving.  It is always a good idea to pack nutrition for your sport. While in Italy, I only saw one sport nutrition product available; Etixx. Do you normally train with Etixx at home? Not likely in the US. Athletes should avoid suddenly switching nutrition used for training as disastrous effects can occur. Pack your bags with granola, drink mixes, bars, chews and GUs. I packed my pockets with my typical gummies along with extra bars, just in case. After the rides, we rushed into the kitchen for a proper meal.  In order to fuel quickly and substantially, I created an Italian Toast recipe.


Top Tips for Traveling to Train

Pack your bags like you want to be ACTIVE! Include all your 'must haves' to train hard. 

Pack your bags like you want to be ACTIVE! Include all your 'must haves' to train hard. 

  • Do not let your watch take away from enjoying the new area. Forget about paces and soak up your surroundings.
  • Pack your nutrition. If you’re doing endurance activities, make sure to bring the products you are accustomed to consuming.
  • Stay as stable as you can with meal times and intakes.
  • Carefully monitor your hydration. Long flights and increased alcohol consumption will work against you. Carry water at all times and consider adding an electrolyte tablet.
  • Carry a map.
  • Have ID and cellphone with you. Notify someone of your planned route.
  • Plan to ride through an actual town or two in order to fill up with water. There might not be any gas stations or drinking fountains or other modern conveniences on your route otherwise.
  • When finished with your training, remember to recover and refuel.  

Italian Toast

This recipe was developed with local ingredients in order to refuel quickly with what was available. It's fast, simple, tasty and extremely satisfying! 

Serves 2

+ 4 slices toast (I used a local GF brand, use gf or sprouted if possible)
+ 4 oz charcuterie meats (hot salami, capicola, or soppreseta work best)
+ Handful greens (fresh rocket here)
+ 4 eggs
+ 2 T butter
+ S+P
+ 1 Tomato, sliced
+ 1/3 c Giant green olives, sliced/pitted
+ 2 oz Ricotta salata

Toast your bread. Meanwhile, 'fry' eggs in the butter to desired doneness of the yolk. Top toasts with the meat, buttery eggs, thick slices of tomato, soft delicious cheese, olives, greens and then season. Enjoy with a knife + fork! :) 

Tonno e Cipolla Pizza

Serves 1 +

+ 1 pizza crust (personal size, I use Udi's) 
+ 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
+ 1 tbsp crushed red pepper
+ 2 oz fresh mozzarella
+ 1 tbsp crushed garlic
+ 1 can tuna (tonno) in oil
+ 1/2 white onion, sliced thinly
+ S+P

Set oven to 375 (could also use the broiler).
In a small bowl, mix the tomatoes with the garlic, red pepper, salt and pepper. Spread over the crust. In a small bowl, combine the onions and tuna in oil. Mix with your hands to make sure all the onions get coated with the oil.  Spread over the crust. Top with cheese. Bake ~10 minutes. 

Its fast and uses pantry staples to get you refueled and recovered faster. 

Its fast and uses pantry staples to get you refueled and recovered faster.