I’ve been in Chambéry for just over two weeks, and I’ve loved every minute. So far, most of my time has been spent setting up my sparsely furnished apartment, adjusting to the team’s training bikes (I’ll let you know when I get my BMC Teammachine SLR01 for the 2021 season), navigating setting up a french bank account, phone service, and trying to pick up where I left off with my French language ability after racing with CC Villeneuve Soissons Aisne in the Hauts-de-France region in the summer of 2019. Communication has been easy so far, and I’ve progressed a little bit every day. The team staff and riders have been warm and welcoming with my arrival, and I’m grateful for their support.
I arrived in Chambéry, bizarrely, on December 31st. After a long summer of contacting teams across Europe, and an even longer fall navigating French visa bureaucracy, I was nervous that French-American borders would close by January 1st, in light of the large increase in caseload in both countries. The regional newspaper, Le Dauphiné Libéré, published a brief interview with me soon after I got to France.
This year I’m living in an apartment building dedicated solely to high level student athletes, or in French, étudiants et sportifs de haut niveau. The apartment building is fully funded by the town, and through some bureaucratic system, the French national government, so aside from incidentals and setup costs, I have zero housing costs, which is incredible. Luckily, I have a window facing the Alps, and although it’s cloudy most days at this time of year, it’s incredible to see such a massive mountain range only a few kilometers from my door. The entire team of fifteen riders is housed here, which makes integrating with and getting to know the guys easy. Meals are prepared by our team chef and dietitian Monday through Friday, letting riders on the team focus solely on training, school, and recovery.
The team conducted a suite of medical tests upon my arrival, including VO2 max and an EKG. The tests were conducted both as a baseline for team data, and for a Fédération Française de Cyclisme (FFC) protocol for all Division Nationale 1 riders to ensure my health ahead of the racing season.
Most days for the riders here look similar. Classes in the morning and training in afternoon. The guys are studying a range of things from sports science and physical education to business, engineering, and language. Eleven of the riders are French, plus an Italian, a Brit, a Japanese guy yet to arrive, and me. So far this semester, I’m taking an online Python programming course and will enroll in a yet to be determined online biosciences course later this winter. It wasn’t possible to enroll at Bowdoin College, my university in the United States, this semester, because its three course per semester minimum is too much given the six-hour time zone change and unpredictable training and racing schedules. I’m planning to enroll in the nearby Université Savoie-Mont Blanc this fall, but until then, I’ll be taking an assortment of online classes, some for credit at Bowdoin and some just to keep my head screwed on straight.
Coming off nearly a year and a half of no racing, I’m lacking a bit of my typical kick, and training so far has highlighted that. One of the biggest adjustments I’ve had to make in the past two weeks is the variability in our training rides. Back home in Minnesota, training tends to steady-paced solo rides, especially in light of the pandemic. Here all training rides are run as rotating pacelines, or relais-tournant in French. On endurance rides, we keep the paceline rotating at steady power, no matter if we are on the flats, climbs, or even descents. I’ve been adapting quickly to this format, but it was a bit of a shock to the system on my first ride with the team!
Chambéry, and the surrounding Lyon and Grenoble areas are a hotspot for professional cycling in France. Fifteen professional riders live in Chambéry alone. Many of them are former members of the U23 team so often join us on weekend rides depending on their schedules. Last week, among other professional riders on our ride, I had a nice five-minute chat (in French) with Nans Peters, a former U23 team rider and winner of stage 8 of the 2020 Tour de France! The talent and training pool quality here in Chambéry is incredible, and I can only imagine the lessons I’ll learn from riding more with them.
Because the team is based in Chambéry, at the foot of the Alps, the weather in the winter isn’t always perfect for road riding. It’s often below freezing, making road riding impossible, and often raining as well. So in January we use a number of training modalities while we wait for the weather to abate. A typical week could include road riding, cyclocross intensity, gym sessions, specific trainer and roller work, and cross country skiing at La Féclaz, a nearby ski station with over 140 kilometers of trails! Chambéry’s weather is so frequently on the edge of freezing that last week I was able to ride my bike to the ski area, followed by a long ski. The ride to the ski area had over 4,000 feet of vertical gain. For the cyclists here, it included a 15km climb at 7% grade, something I’ll need to get used to as a flatlander!
That’s it for now. I’ll likely have my next post up in two weeks. In the meantime, I’ll be training hard and smart for the beginning of the race season on February 28th! Feel free to sign up to receive email updates for new blog posts via the box at the bottom of the home page or blog page.