Israel Start-Up Nation cyclist James Piccoli has spent most of 2020 training and racing in warm climates. Currently riding the beautiful roads of Girona, the 28-year-old Montrealer is savoring his first year on a WorldTour team.
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There’s very little I enjoy more than working hard on my bike 🤩 here are a couple of highlights from the 36 hours I got to ride this week 🥰 . The form is coming too and I’m getting more and more motivated for the upcoming races with @israelcyclingacademy 😈. . . #grateful #bestjobintheworld @katushasports @factorbikes @4iiiicom @powerwatts @sciconsports @girocycling @bontcycling @blackinc @startupnationhq @orangesealed @maxxistires @ceramicspeed @farnesevini @swissstop @brytonsport #procycling #hustle #cardio #eatcleantraindirty
“I’m very lucky to have this opportunity,” he says, and he’s been working hard to prove himself. Coming off of a few 36 hour weeks in the saddle, Piccoli says he can be a bit extreme with training: “Paulo [Paulo Saldanha, Israel Start-Up Nation performance director] always comments some version on ‘Take it easy!’ when he sees my rides.”
Though he might not always follow his own advice (see sunblock and early season nutrition below), Piccoli has been racing professionally since 2014 and has gleaned some nuggets of wisdom riding at several training camps.
Ease into it
Travel can be hard on your body. “Especially if you’re flying or there’s a long journey involved, —which there will be going pretty much anywhere from Canada—you want to take at least the first few days easy,” says Piccoli. “You want to get your legs back before you do higher volume training.”
He suggests taking these first few days to get your bike—and your body—sorted out. “Get used to riding outside again after spending a winter on the trainer,” he says. “Get used to the feeling of having a front wheel that moves again and make sure your equipment is adjusted properly.”
Balance your rides
If you plan on riding every day for a week, make sure you don’t plan on making every ride a hammerfest. “I normally make a rule,” says Piccoli, “two rides a week where you’re just out there enjoying your bike. No looking at power numbers or average speed, no staring at the Garmin. Disconnect and get back in touch with the reason you’re doing the training camp. Enjoy life outside, stop for a coffee and savor the opportunity you have because you’ll be back in the cold pretty soon.”
Bring more food than you think you’ll need
Going from riding indoors and doing short(er) trainer rides, to long days in the saddle, it’s easy to forget just how much you’ll need to eat.
“Even pros do this,” says Piccoli, “at the beginning of the year I’ll go out on a big ride feeling great then by four or five hours in I’ll be crawling to the next stop.”
He suggests bringing more food than you would expect and planning more stops than you think you’ll need while you adjust to riding outside again.
Anticipate the heat
Piccoli has Italian heritage so he says he can get away without wearing too much sunscreen. He also notes, “I’m lucky to spend enough time outside that I have a good base.”
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Focused 👀 on our last few days of recon rides before the big show @tourdownunder 🤙🏽 . . Photocred: @mason_hender 🤘🏼 . . @israelcyclingacademy #fromwhereiride #cycling #procycling #debut @sciconsports @girocycling @bontcycling @katushasports @factorbikes @blackinc @ceramicspeed @maxxistires @orangesealed @farnesevini
As for those who are riding outside for the first time this year? “If you’re coming from your basement or the spin studio and going straight into riding for six hours in the sun of Tusan or California you need to think of sunscreen or you won’t last a day.”
Riding in a hot country can quickly take its toll if you’re not prepared, so be sure to be ready with hydration and sun protection.
Be smart about touristing
Travelling for cycling can also be a great way to experience another country. Cultural activities and walking around town are great extras that can enhance your trip, but be sure to plan them for days with lighter rides. “The more you ride the less you can do anything else,” says Piccoli.
It’s important to be realistic about your plans. Don’t schedule a post-ride hike or walk on the days you’ll be doing a particularly hard ride. If you’re looking for a local experience that day, decide on a restaurant where you can enjoy a big delicious meal instead.
Figure out your post-ride vibe
Some people like to be left alone to decompress a little after riding, while others like to chat and go over the events of the day. Especially if you’re staying with a group of people, take a minute to check in on yourself and feel out your level of social fatigue. Physical exhaustion can take its toll mentally, so listen to your body if all you want to do is relax in bed and read a book.
“It’s really personal,” says Piccoli. “Everyone has their own way to relax.”