Sitting here on an early Saturday evening, I just realised this is the longest I have spent in Livigno at one time. While in 2013 I came and visited for about 4 nights, headed off to race Dolomiti Superbike, then came back again for another four or five nights, this would be the longest consecutive stay.
It is also the latest in the season I have ever been in Livigno. I’ve been here in mid-June after the Alpentour Trophy in 2011 – that was probably too early. I have been here in mid-August 2010 after XCM World Champs. That was good but I was broken. Early July in 2013 was great, and August 2014 was wet – which is exactly how this late August – and now September – visit is shaping up.
But to quote my wife Imogen Smith, from her 2013 post 10 things you need to know about Euro racing, “What we would normally call mud, the euros call the ground.” So while we spent yesterday mooching around, reading books, going for a long drive and generally feeling sorry for ourselves that it was raining a bit and not as warm as we’d like – today we took a different tact. We would ride – even if it might rain!
We waited for the day to properly start (after 9am) and rugged up for a ride. Now, both Imogen and I have had one sort of head, chest or throat infection since about 20th July. Whether work has had us run down, or training, or stress from both – either way we’re a bit tired of feeling better, and then getting sick again. So while we rolled out with legs that felt amazing, we made sure to just turn them over gently.
There was fresh snow, to about 2400m, and the paths were a bit wet. But thanks to enthusiastic use of gravel on many of the doubletrack sections (and singletrack) there was very little actual mud. Anything brown was more likely to be cow or horse poo.
So while Imogen just gently turned the legs over up the Val Federia again, I hovered behind, a little anxious. When it was steep I would unzip my vest and winter jacket. Then maybe take my buff off. Then later I’d stop to put it back on – and zip up.
I was really concerned about getting too sweaty, and then getting too cold on the descent. I’ve got a bad history with cold, especially in this region, and alpine misery leaves a big mental mark.
In the end it was too much. We reached the agriturismo and I turned around, and Imogen marched onwards. Too reckless! Too wet! Too far from home!
I did a u-turn, and took the first singletrack entrance I saw, climbing back to about the same height I was at with Imogen, on a trail that started up the Chaschauna, but cut across the valley entrance. Old habits die hard, and I was still actually heading back towards Livigno…
In the end it did get wetter, I missed the longer trail I thought was ahead (I must have taken a wrong turn amongst some farm buildings) and I got back to the valley bike path, trying a feeble steady state effort up the false flat in the cold rain, with my buff covering most of my head. Imogen called me as I just finished, she hadn’t been able to cross the river, and was waiting.
So what was today’s benefit? Well we rode for about 90 minutes. We’re still producing red blood cells. Hills just feel like normal hills, and even 10% grades don’t feel that bad. So maybe we have some minor altitude adaptation? We have had 9 nights above 1500m, with 3 nights at 1200m in there too. So let’s hope we’re making some EPO naturally.
I did duck out for another short spin this afternoon, enjoying a plug away up the road before some low lying singletrack on the return. I don’t think there is a great training benefit to a waffling second session. But the mental boost is huge.
With two full days left in Livigno, we’re keenly watching Accuweather and monitoring health. Early nights are a staple and fingers, and many things, are crossed for improvements in sensations and sunshine. The thing is, we’re not pro bike racers. We’re amateur bike racers on holiday. And it’s easy to forget that now and then. Even if the weather is a bit dull today, we’ve been catching up on sleep, reading books, and I’ve enjoyed cooking my attempts at what I consider to be local dishes (done without any research). Sure, if we were in tip-tip health it would be better. But you can’t conrtol everything. We’re on holiday with our bikes in the mountains – and that’s pretty good.