Embroiled in doping allegations, Tadej Valvavec is struggling to find a team for 2011 and is linked to a smaller Slovenian team. But he’s got a sideline going, with a hotel in the Slovenian Alps near Pokljuka in the Triglav National Park. It’s one of the last territories in Western Europe where bears roam free. Not that far from the Zoncolan, the Slovenian hotel is close to Austria and Italy and ideal for year-round visits from visiting cyclists and cross-country skiiers.
The hotel is specially equipped with “hypobaric” rooms but I think this is a misunderstanding, rather the rooms are probably hypoxic meaning nitrogen is pumped into the rooms to reduce the oxygen level, simulating sleeping at altitude. The hotel is already at 1300m but with this a visitor can fool their body into believing it’s at, say, 3000m and thus generating precious red blood cells. It’s legal although banned in Italy by CONI.
This year Ag2r’s Guillaume Bonnafond used the hotel as a base to train prior to the Giro and last year Morris Possoni (pictured), then of HTC-Columbia and now of Team Sky, was a visitor. I gather a couple of other Ag2r riders have been there and already Nicolas Roche has been talking about altitude training for next year, don’t be surprised to see him dropping in, he’s been before for winter sports.