Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pack Skills

As a pro, I’m getting in big miles — and I’m not talking only about the 20 days of racing I already have in my legs. I’m talking about the travel.

I've just embarked on a two-month trip. I left Nice last Wednesday after being home for two days after the Volta a Catalunya. And when I say home, I don’t mean my real home of Brooklyn, but my European home just outside of Nice. On Wednesday I arrived in Melle, Belgium, where Cervelo is based for the Spring Classics campaign. I’m not really part of the team that does the big classics such as the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, but it was nice to meet up with those guys for a few days, since I hadn’t seen most of them since the first training camp. From Melle we went to Maastricht in Holland for two days and then to Cologne in Germany where I am now for the Rund Um Koln. From here it’s back to Melle for the Schledeprisj then the GP Pino Cerami the following day. After Belgium, I’ll go to Milan for a Cervélo event, then to Rome for my Godson’s baptism, then Tuscany for three days before going to Spain for the Vuelta Castilla y Leon. Then it’s back to Tuscany for a week before going to Romandie and New York after that (yeah!) then across the States to the Tour of California, back to New York and over to Europe on June 1 to prepare for the Dauphine.

One of the things you can’t understand about being a pro, until you’re living the life, is how hard it is to figure out how to pack for all this travel. I have one suitcase, and it needs to be 20 kilograms or less because of airline restrictions. (Also, the masseurs on the team generally lug the suitcases around, so you need to be a little considerate of them.) I think for my first race I had something like three bags — with a yoga matt, the roller, coffee, olive oil . . . obviously a rookie.

Now that I understand a little more what’s going on, this is my entire packing list for two months.

For normal racing: three aero race jerseys, three race shorts, three race socks, three race gloves, TT suit and TT overshoes. I only bring three in case of crashes; I did all of Catalunya on just one set of clothes, since after the stage you give the masseurs your clothing and the next morning it miraculously arrives back to you clean. If the race number is in good enough shape to be left on the jersey, then you get really excited since you won’t have to pin it on every day for a week. I can also get away with this because we have Castelli as a clothing partner — the clothing not only looks really good, but it’s super functional. Some examples are our aero race jersey, which has fabric and stitching technology that can save about 15 watts compared to a normal race jersey, and the five-level base layer system.

In case it’s cold — and since I’m doing races in Belgium, Holland and Germany this week it probably will be — I also pack in two pairs of arm warmers, leg warmers and knee warmers and Belgian booties, and two caps. (Even though the early spring, I’ve started only one race with knee warmers. I see guys race in long sleeve jerseys, leg warmers, winter booties and all sorts of cold weather gear, but I’m not a rider who has a personal Sherpa to go back to the car, and anyway I’m generally not cold after the start of the race since my heart rate is close to max.)

For rain, I pack rain booties, rain gloves and a rain cape. Every rider has two rain bags, one that goes in car one, and another that goes in car two. (At big races, each team has two cars in the caravan.) In each of my rain bags I have spare shoes, a jersey, shorts, undershirt, booties, long sleeve jersey, vest, rain jacket, gloves, cap and glasses. It hasn’t happened to me yet, but I’ve been told that on terrible days of weather the riders stop in a tunnel or something and change.

For the training in between races — which at this point is basically coffee rides and the occasional long ride, I pack a thermal jacket, two long sleeve jerseys, two training jerseys, two wind vests, two jersey vests, winter tights, winter shorts, winter booties and about three different types of caps, although I always wear a helmet anyways.

Then there’s the clothing for when I’m not riding. This is where I’ve shaved the most of my excess. At races, we wear track suits most of the time. (Again, we’re lucky since our stuff looks great.) I pack one track suit, one sweatshirt, two polo shirts, two recovery tights from 2XU that double as underwear, three pairs of underwear, three recovery socks from 2XU that doubles as socks, one Northface winter/rain jacket, Diesel jeans and Nike shoes. I have that background selling fashion advertising, so I also can’t stop myself from bringing one outfit that is regular civilian clothing — that’s all Zegna Sport, except for a Mellow Johnny’s t-shirt I picked up in Austin last year and a pair of boots made by my buddy Alessandro Stella in Siena. Sometimes I just don’t feel like walking through an airport in team clothing, so the Zegna stuff is great since it’s super-comfortable yet fashionable.

All of this is folded neatly and sometimes bagged in Ziplock bags for easy access.

Outside of the clothing, there’s an assortment of Zipvit Vitamins and the roller for my IT band. That thing takes up a lot of space. I’m doing without the yoga mat, but I insist on having my shaving brush and heavy razor with me. You need to keep some sort of civility in life. Then there’s the big book I drag around just to impress people, which currently is the Clinton Tapes by Taylor Branch. And I have my laptop, iTouch and cellphone.

It sounds like a lot of work to maintain, but a fringe benefit of traveling so frequently is that, being home only two to four days between trips, the suitcase pretty much stays packed.