I always wondered why support staff and athletes eat at separate tables on cycling teams. It’s a common sight to see the riders huddled around a table, dark circles under the eyes, trying not to eat too much bread before a bland meal is served. On female cycling teams the vegetables are a coveted part of the meal and salad bars rule. The staff most often sit at another table, devouring steak and frites, beer and wine. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s a sight I’ve often seen when sharing hotels with Pro Tour teams.
One day int he Giro Donne last week, we occupied a big round table decked out in our lululemon gear. The table beside us housed the Rabobank team. Our director Jens sat at a small table near by, all alone. Kitty corner to Jens was Jerome, the director of the Rabo ladies team. All alone. The directors had no company because the rest of the staff was still working.
We laughed at these two guys because they had no company.
And now, here I am in Italy, north in the beautiful mountains that house the Stelvia Pass and myriad high alpine peaks. I made a joke tonight that the athletes and staff should sit separately. Only problem is, I am the only athlete here. With a slew of staff. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. It’s a gift to have the support I do. The problem is we are in Italy, and the food looks AMAZING. I say looks because I am not eating what my crew is eating. I’m eating healthy, easy to digest meals that are a part of bringing me to the race shape I get closer to each day as the Olympics draw near.
We’re at a hotel that believes in five course meals. Different every night. Rich, delicious looking food that the entire staff crew around me RAVES about each and every meal. A salad bar to die for that I am avoiding because of the water retaining reaction of too many raw veggies in the diet. Fresh bread that I don’t eat because of the wheat gluten. Meats, sauces, soups (yes, SOUPS that I am not eating because of all the salt!), you name it it’s here. Oh, and the deserts. They look good, too. A different one every night.
And then there are the lunch stops. The nice meals along the way after hours on the bike. The meals that I am not eating because of a recovery shake and then a lunch a few hours later made of simple foods that are, yes, easy to digest.
Peter, Dom and Chris enjoying a nice lunch….I had a coffee!
The Swiss chocolate because we are close to Switzerland.
The traditional Tyrolean cuisine that I have never heard of and will likely never taste that pops up here and there on the daily menu and looks so very interesting and delicious.
All of these things and there I am at the table, finished my one course of dinner that is really quite good but leaves me sitting when the others still have four courses to go.
The guys enjoying prosecco and pizza in the hotel lobby….I had water!
Yes, the glass of water was delicious….
I’ve taken to leaving the table when I’m done because it is jus too much torture for anyone to bear. Too much!
But….when I think of the chance I have to prepare for the races coming up in London…. When I think of how I feel being so energized and not being bogged down by five courses of curious foods. When I think of all the other times I have prepared for important sporting events and how the nutrition, the fuel, is so very important and how the cleanest and best food makes me feel so good, it doesn’t seem that difficult to simply watch everyone else stuff their faces.
And I’ve also decided that it really would be no fun to sit at the athlete table all alone. Especially since one of the ‘staff’ here is my husband Peter. Peter, who, by the way, has since arriving here gone off his gluten-free, vegetarian, non-cheese and dairy-less diet. He has transformed (or transgressed!) into a carnivore. His reasoning is ‘Italians don’t do vegetarian. I’m not missing out on this great food!’
Yes, that’s how good the food is here.
It’s a special place to ride a bike and believe me, I will one day return to enjoy the local cuisine, ride the Stelvio Pass day after day, hike up the surrounding mountains and drink the local wine. Yes, I will be back as a mere civilian and will live it to it’s full potential.
Until then, I’ve got bigger fish to fry. Yes, fish is good, fish is on the menu. Fish…mmm…fish…..makes me think of the fish with the cream sauce smothered on top that I didn’t eat the other night because of the cream and butter…..