France Camp, first and foremost, is about cycling. Food and friendship, however, are a close runner up.
Cycling up and down the mountains of the French alpes inspires tales of heroism and woe (the good kind), fosters comradery and a sense of community, and whets the appetite.
The France Camp dinner table provides both the remedy for ravenousness and the pulpit for tales. The kitchen, of course, is the source of its delicious delectables.
At the heart of the kitchen are Chefs Michael and Alex who enthusiastically combine their love of all things food and wine, to expertly prepare what I like to call, France Camp cuisine – mostly French dishes with an English flare.
Their daily interplay, occasional debates about the source or origin of the night’s creation, and their knowledge of food, wine, and local history, are a big part of the France Camp culinary experience.
I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the France Camp kitchen and hope that it entices you to come and ride, eat, and tell stories with us next July (click here for France Camp details).
If you’re in need of some new stylish and functional cycling and/or triathlon apparel, I’ve got you covered.
I’ve been using Squadra Cycling apparel for as long as I can remember. It’s durable, functional, fashionable and comfortable - all of the things I demand from my workout clothing, and it’s why I chose Squadra.
The tabs at the top of the store provide plenty of information about the fit and technology of the clothing, but I’ve included a few general comments of my own below:
The short sleeve jersey is very comfortable whether its 45F or 105F outside. For temperatures between 45F and 60F, I typically pair the short sleeve jersey with a base layer, arm warmers, and a wind vest. If you live in an area prone to cold weather (below 45F), in September I will offer a long sleeved wind jacket and a thermal vest and jacket which will provide significant added warm versus the wind vest, as well as protection from the wind and rain.
The triathlon apparel is comfortable, form fitting, quick drying, yet provides coverage from the elements. The fabric has a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) of 50+ and shields both UVA and UVB rays.
Click on this link to take you to the store: Riccitello Coaching Cycling and Triathlon Apparel. Apparel will be shipped to the address you provide. Do not select the “Will Call” option unless you want to personally pick up the clothing at Squadra in Carlsbad, CA. If you’re a France Camper, remember that I am providing you with a cycling jersey and shorts (but grab a functional and fashionable wind vest and arm warmers for the chilly descents!).
Should you choose to wear my clothing - I’m honored beyond words and look forward to seeing it on the roads and trails.
I know you’ll enjoy it and thanks!
We start each day Riccitello’s France Cycling Camp with coffee from a French press and a wholesome breakfast (except for the Nutella - which is not that wholesome but tastes very good) of fruits, mueslix, cereals, yogurts, breads, eggs. This is usually washed down with more coffee (when in France ... ).
Then we chamois up (French for shammy) and ride the famous climbs and descents of the Oisans valley in the French alps. To try and describe the quality of riding would be insulting.
Lunch is eaten on the bike (thank you Clif for your tasty Clif Bars and the sweet and savory Mojo Bars and your Shot Bloks and gels).
Most rides are followed with a snack and a nap.
Upon waking up to a view that never ceases to amaze, most campers will soak up some sun while lounging on the porch with a good book (or electronic version of a book). There may be a midday glass of wine or three.
Then come hors d’oeuvres - usually local sausages, cheeses, olives, cakes, tea, and such.
Appetizers are often followed by a hike along rugged sheep, goat, and cattle trails with views of Pic Blanc and the ever enticing 21 turns of l’alpe d’huez.
Then dinner - salad from your host’s garden, some kind of animal that was probably hiking on the same trail you hiked early in the day or pulled from the pure and crystal clear waters that rage down from the mountain tops (fear not, vegetarians - there are meatless options), pasta or rice, wine - and then desert - and more wine.
After finishing desert many campers gather at the village bar for a digestif (night-cap) and to watch the day’s Tour de France stage on the big screen (thankfully, there are big screens in the alps). Some play boules (bocce ball) with the locals. Others gather on the chalet porch for wine and to talk story.
Then we sleep, and dream of the next day in cycling paradise.
(I have a couple double occupancy rooms open this year - look here if you’re interested).
Listing New Year’s Resolutions has been a family tradition as far back as I can remember. My mom was big on the list. She would ask us kids (at least four and sometimes six, if you count the “steps”) to sit quietly and list ways in which we could better ourselves. I remember the hour or two that it took to compile a list of 3-4 resolutions seeming like a torture session. When you’re eight or nine, there are not a whole lot of things that you feel like doing or changing that will make you a better person.
One thing that many years of New Year’s Resolution lists makes me realize is that the older I get, the easier it becomes to make a longer list – at least for me, anyway. It’s funny, but shouldn’t it be the other way around?
Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve made a comprehensive list of New Year’s Resolutions. The last few years I’ve chosen to focus on one or two tasks usually associated with health such as: going to bed earlier/sleeping more, not eating as many “sweets,” or quitting chewing tobacco (I know – gross).
However, on the eve of 2014, it feels like a more ambitious list is in order. There are many reasons for this feeling. Among them, the milestone of celebrating 50 years of life, the contemplation of what 20 years of marriage means, and the knowledge and perspective that comes from 12 years of parenting.
But there’s a bigger reason. Resolve is an important quality and tackling a comprehensive New Year’s Resolution list strengthens one’s resolve. Over the last few years my resolve has faltered. The fear of failing to follow through on a long list has caused me to take the easy way out – the safe way out.
I wasn’t as afraid when I was younger because I had less to lose.
Life seems to work in cycles and for whatever reason (I’ll figure out why, later), I’m getting my nerve back. I realize that a long New Year’s resolution list presents conflicts – to work on one item, sometimes takes time and focus away from others. But that doesn’t mean I need to shy away from going big. So here’s my list for 2014 – The Year Of Resolve.
1. Be a better husband
2. Be a better father.
3. Be a better coach.
4. Be a better referee.
5. Be a better friend.
6. Be a better son.
7. Be a better sibling.
8. Don’t be afraid to try ideas/dreams.
9. Be kind(er).
10. Laugh more.
11. Eat more veggies.
12. Exercise more.
14. Go to bed earlier.
15. Live more.
16. Be a better businessman.
17. Listen better.
18. Be neater/more organized.
19. Read more.
20. Write more.
21. Get more sleep.
Happy New Year to everyone reading this. I hope 2014 brings you happiness and success and love.
I had the good fortune to train and race beside a few people whose dedication to their craft and work ethic were (and still are) second to none. It goes without saying, that these attributes featured in their palmares.
Thanks to Facebook, I’m reminded that today is the 50th birthday of one of my primary rivals, friends, and training partners - Mike Pigg.
Mike and I spent a few winters, training together in Tucson. When we weren’t trying to pummel each other in the pool or on the roads and trails, we endlessly discussed (debated) training and nutrition strategies. As it turns out, and what none of us liked to admit - Mike was often ahead of his time with regard to diet, nutrition, and training methods.
The main reason that we didn’t like to admit that he was ahead of his time was that it didn’t really matter what Pigg ate or how he trained. Mike Pigg was simply a winning machine - one of the best triathletes ever.
Anyway - here’s but one of my many fond Pigg memories.
Once - at the top of a 12 mile climb, half way through a HARD 120 mile bike ride, Mike and I debated what we would purchase at a convenience store if we were suffering from the worst bonk ever known to man and we only had a single dollar to spend. Keep in mind that a GW bought a lot more in the early/mid 90s than it buys now.
Pigg, sold on the virtues of a high-fat diet and therefore forced to stifle his insatiable, legendary, actually, lust for sweet foods - decided on a simple solution. With his dollar, he’d purchase a quart of whole milk. I remember asking him, “White or chocolate?” He told me white, because the sugar in chocolate milk was bad and caused his calfs to cramp. I wanted to remind him that his calfs did not cramp while he was kicking my butt around the running track a couple mornings ago (eight hours after polishing off an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey) - but I let it go. Instead, I just told him that his milk strategy was ridiculous and a waste of a dollar, and that when he called me, stranded in the middle of nowhere - delirious and craving cotton candy, that I would refuse to drive and pick him up.
Having grown up obsessively watching The Price Is Right, my strategy was a little more complex. With my dollar, I’d purchase two cans of coke. With the change, I would buy a handful of the single pieces of candy for sale at the counter (sugar was cheap back then, too). Mike told me that my sugar strategy was ridiculous, that I would re-bonk minutes after ingesting the massive amount of sugar, and that he hoped I enjoyed consuming “dead” food.
Like usual - I felt good about my side of the debate. And like usual - I expected to be “wrong.”
As fate would have it, forty cold and windy miles later, we had cause to test our strategies.
We staggered (literally) into a convenience store, twenty long miles from home, with zero left in the gas tank and an agreement to spend but a single dollar.
With his dollar, Pigg purchased a quart of white milk and chugged it in about nine seconds (he was very fast at eating and drinking, too).
With my dollar, I bought my two cans of coke and assorted small candies, drank one coke and then put the spare coke in my center jersey pocket, and scattered the candies in my outer jersey pockets.
Five miles later, Pigg was running on fumes, incessantly hocking up giant flemmy loogies, and sitting on my wheel (which RARELY happened). One minute after that I heard him ask, “Are you going to drink that coke, or just carry it around?” Having spent the better part of five winters getting my ass kicked by Pigg, I seized the moment and replied, “Yes, I’m going to drink it - eventually.” I then proceeded to dial up the effort (this was before power meters) to race pace level.
He asked about the coke in the center pocket of my cycling jersey, a few more times over the next 10 miles. I ignored his requests while dramatically popping sweet chocolate morsels every two to five minutes.
By the time we hit the outskirts of town, Pigg had offered to pay me $5 dollars for the can of coke. I believe we settled on $6. He chugged the coke in about five seconds, and said that after drinking the coke, he felt the best he’d every felt in his entire life.
Two months later we finished first and second in St. Croix. In each of our water bottles were four packets of sugar and two packets of salt, taken from the breakfast restaurant.
I like to think that on that day of suffering, I re-sold him on the virtues of sugar during a hard ride/race. I won the battle but he won the war.
And now my friend turns 50 - three months before me.
Once again - I’m second to Mike Pigg, one of the hardest working athletes triathlon has ever seen. And just like way back then - I don’t mind so much.