A Tuscan Winter

Winter in Tuscany may sound romantic, but if images of crisp starlit evenings, dainty rolling hills, or bright basking sun are painting the picture in your mind, you are thinking of the entirely wrong place. Two things happen: it’s cold and it rains. Frequently together and often aggressively on both accounts.

Three days ago it was about 7C / 45F and it was raining down buckets. I plead hearty New Englander and just don the appropriate neoprene and Goretex combination to handle the task. The task, of course, is to not lose a limb or smaller appendage of your body to hypothermia. A lesser man (namely my teammates, and virtually everyone in Italy apparently since I didn’t see a soul on the typically cycling strewn Saturday morning streets) would not brave the elements, especially when the calendar has hardly cracked December. But I plan on winning everything in sight in 2013, so excuses aren’t part of my training routine. Two words, my friends: game. on.

Two days ago was simply absurd, but goes without mention. Whereas yesterday was quite simply frigid. But complete with crystal clear blue skies, so I was pumped to stay dry even though the thermometer read well below freezing. (Oh, mind you that I packed for this three week trip to Italy having seen forecasted temperatures never dropping below 10C / 50F. Apparently Mother Nature doesn’t exchange notes with the friendly folks at the Weather Channel where I did my reconnaissance. But nearly five hours later and without ever breaking into a shiver, I call it a success.)

Today, however, was the most epic combination of both cold and rain that I’ve ever experienced. And that’s not hyperbole. Rolling out the door, the temperature was hovering around 3C / 37F. Meanwhile, the rain was truly indescribable. I’m staying at my friend and new Danish teammate Brian Vandborg’s house along with our Canadian amigo, new teammate, and lover of hockey, Xbox, and riding his bike fast, Guillaume Boivin. The two of them were absolutely floored that I was stepping outside – let alone attempting a ride. The combination of wind and pounding rain make the house a consistent 80ish decibels… minimum. All said and done, I still eeked out almost 2.5 hours despite dodging fallen trees, being diverted amongst roads due to flooding all throughout Lucca, contending with virtually black-out skies meet white-out rain, and nearly being blown off my bike perhaps a dozen times. Freakin’ nutty.

(And when you delve deeper and look at the temp on this ride, mind you the GPS was tucked safely under my jersey, under my raincoat. Nice and warm, nice and err… less-sopping wet.)

Let’s also celebrate my mere surviving today by giving you the coupon code: tedking2012 which will entitle you 10% off a Strava premium membership. There are some incredible things coming down the line from the Strava braintrust, especially in the premium arena. You want premium, trust me.

So hopefully this should paint the picture of Europe in the winter for you. Sure, Italy juts prominently into the balmy and majestic Mediterranean Sea, but go stare at a world map for a while. We’re flipping far north.

Anywho, 2013 team CANNONDALE PRO CYCLING(!) meetings kicked off last week up in Milan and we were greeted by pissing rain and being holed up in a hotel for four days. Which I suppose is efficient for conducting meetings, but I like to at least see sun, or at least know it’s there. Or perhaps see less flooding. And now tomorrow we are off to the start of a ten day camp in scenic southern Tuscany. I’m just going to guess that in 10 days we ride the same loop, hrmm… oh, 9 out of the 10 days. (Psst, shoot me a reminder in a week and a half and I’ll give you the update on how close my guess is to reality. We might even go 10 for 10!)

And now down to the real business: Food Porn.

Brian VB turns 31 today so we are celebrating by cleaning the house, surviving the impending elements, doing a massive round of laundry all before trekking off to camp tomorrow. So in our last moments of freedom we are hosting a dozen of his Danish cycling buddies and their family who live in town for a birthday dinner. I made a smashing pulled pork, roasted sweet potatoes with red onion, and deep ruddy red beets two days ago for our romantic dinner of three. Turns out it was such a hit that Brian asked I do it again. Birthday boy gets his wish! Given this gnarly weather of late, a heartwarming and hearty home cooked meal warms the soul.

And now, to backtrack: the best third Thursday of November in all the land has come and gone. Thanksgiving arrived complete with all the token fixin’s: a morning boost to the heart rate, hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, friends, family, schmoozing, wine, more hors d’oeuvres because they’re still out, more wine, throwing the football in our Sunda… err, Thursday’s finest attire, stuffing-potatoes-creamed onions-turkey-mashed potatoes-more stuffing-gravy-and-more-turkey-plus-celery to make it healthy creating a mountain on my plate, wine, a riveting game of smashing old pumpkins against a tree in the backyard, an aptertivo, watching the Patriots thump the Jets, wine, and watching the Campaign. This photo of dinner is blurry cause I’m in the early stages of a fine food coma. Ahh, just like the Pilgrims…

Of the ten desserts on the sweets table, my entirely homemade maple-pumpkin, gingerbread trifle was the hit to end all hits. T’was truly glorious. Again, just like the Pilgrims.

And simply for the sake of sharing more food photo-ops, I partook in an orphan Thanksgiving the week before while training in Palo Alto and created another rendition of my 2011 Thanksgiving dessert masterpiece, the Martha Stewart Mile High Pumpkin Pie. For something loco, like 30 people at this party, I decided to double up and make two pies. Despite all the self-discipline in the room, they were gone in no time flat.

Looking above, there are pies beneath that velvety smooth meringue topping, I promise. Just look at this for proof. And no, of course I don’t make my own crusts. That’s hard.

One last big meal tonight, then time for salad and team camp. Over and out.


  1. Becky B

    Don’t make your own crust? -10 points!

  2. Ellie

    Love, love, love that you cook! Those pies look delish – and the pulled pork was inspirational to me. Stay warm bubby. And yeah – the motto this year is win, win win! You got it – I know it.

  3. Martin

    Any tricks to keep your feet warm Ted?

    • iamtedking

      Hey Martin,

      Glad to hear you’re sucking it up and going for a ride when it’s cold. Of course this all depends where you live; if you’re talking about cold feet and live in Phoenix, AZ then you’re a wuss. If you’re talking about cold feet in Anchorage, AK then you’re drinking my sake, Kimosabe!

      Resolving cold feet will involve an investment, but frigid tootsies are a fast road to a miserable ride so I think you’ll find the purchase to be worth it.

      First, you need to find as thick, wool (or similar synthetic) socks that you can fit into your cycling shoes without having your feet go numb due to the fact that there is now so little room in your shoes. One pair of socks is totally affordable, but shopping around for a dozen pairs to find the right ones will set you back into the triple digits. So shop wisely, feel how thick they are (as in, don’t buy 1/2 inch thick snowboard socks), and hopefully try some one before you buy.

      Depending on where you live, investing in some mountain bike shoes is likely a great idea. They are usually slightly larger to allow those warmer socks plus you gain the benefit of traction and studs if you’re a winter, snowy-conditions rider. As a fringe benefit mountain bike cleats engage with the pedals easier if you’re fighting through snow, sleet, ice, and slush. But 9.9 out of 10 times you can work your road cleats/pedals with mountain bike shoes as well.

      The thickest, ugliest, biggest pair of neoprene booties are your best friend. They’re a brash effrontery to style, but looking good on a bike when it’s 17F takes less precedence than not loosing your digits to frostbite. Usually in the sub-$100 range, again they’re worth it.

      Waterproof shoe covers are a moot point when it’s actually raining. Sure it’s a good way to keep your white shoes white(r), but with water coming down from above and up from below (the road and your tires), your feet are going to get WET. Again, this means big, thick, ugly neoprene booties.

      If it’s dry and it’s absolutely frigid, I often slap one of those chemical toe warmer/hand warmer packs on top of your shoes and under the neoprene shoe cover too.

      Lastly, as for mere “tricks” like you ask, try to cover up any secret holes in the bottom of your shoes. Often there are more cleat screw holes in the soles of your shoes than are necessary to accommodate all the cleats out there. So either plug them somehow or make sure you have a durable, non-breathable insole to prevent cold wind from venting in and freezing your feet.

      Good luck!


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