By this stage of the training camp, the City players are accustomed to their early morning bike ride and the challenge it provides but it doesn't seem to get any easier. Today was the penultimate day in Bormio for Phil Brown and his squad, and www.hullcityafc.net were up at the crack of dawn to accompany them on the 16km route - albeit in a hired Mini Cooper Clubman!
Brown was the early 'leader' as the Tigers wended their way up into the mountains but his ferocious early pace was to take its toll on him in the later stages of the ride. First team coach Steve Parkin - complete with baseball cap and sunglasses - preferred to take the consistent approach by bringing up the rear from start to finish. "Can you believe this?" he said as he pedaled away. "I'm trying to climb the Alps on a butcher's bike! I feel like I've been to the top of Everest and back!" The fact that Parkin arrived back some 15 minutes behind everybody else suggests that perhaps he did take a detour to Everest!
Nick Barmby occupied his now traditional place towards the back of the standings and was greeted by Phil Brown on his return to the hotel. "How about that Nicky," the gaffer said to a rather tired looking Barmby. "We've now done over four hours and 60km of cycling this week - you wouldn't have done that in Hull." The fact that the midfielder couldn't even summon the energy to offer a response gives some indication of how tough the bike ride is!
Phil Brown - happy with his efforts on the bike ride
Breakfast was followed by a couple of hours respite for the players before they were back on the training ground at 10:30am. Today was arguably the warmest since the Tigers arrived in Bormio and there were plenty of bare torsos on show, including that of the manager! As you would expect, the session was competitive with the emphasis seemingly on 11 v 11. There was plenty of sweat on show at the end of it all, and a fair dose of the usual banter flying around. Sat next to Kevin Kilbane, assistant manager Brian Horton joked: "You should have trained with us this morning Kev, you'd have enjoyed it!" That drew more than a few laughs from Killer's team-mates before he then took even more stick for his pale skin. Despite Horton trying to get another rise out of the Republic of Ireland midfielder, he wasn't going to fall for it and retorted: "I'm not going to bite at that one Nobby, I know how white I am! I just don't tan for some reason!" Cue more laughter before the players started to head back to the hotel for lunch.
With that out of the way it was time for more banter, this time at the expense of Radio Humberside's David Burns. Unbeknown to Burnsie - who was sat working away in the hotel reception area - he had 'lost' a button from the front of his shirt. Ever the quick-witted one, Jimmy Bullard quipped: "Put it away Burnsie, you're hanging out!" in reference to his less than, ahem, 'trim' midriff. Upon further inspection though, Burnsie discovered the button had indeed come away, rather than just opened, which led to even more quick-fire gags from Bullard and 'partner in crime' Ian Ashbee.
Ian Ashbee and Jimmy Bullard plan their next attack with Brian Horton
Meanwhile, young duo Tom Cairney and Ryan Kendall took time out to chat with CITY Magazine with team-mate Liam Cooper in close attendance. When asked how a game of tennis 'doubles' with Cooper had gone yesterday Kendall replied: "Don't even talk to me about Coops - he's the worst back court player I've ever seen!" Cooper 'returned serve' so to speak by assuring everyone close by that he's far more comfortable when playing at the net!
While his fellow team-mates spend time on the tennis court, goalkeeper Mark Oxley has opted for a different pastime. The hotel has an internet 'booth' in the reception and that's where Oxley can be found nearly all of the time between sessions, surfing the net like there's no tomorrow. Some would liken his fixation with the internet 'booth' to that of Doctor Who and his Tardis!
Young goalkeeper Mark Oxley in his tardis
At 4pm it was back to the training ground as the squad wrapped up the day with a fitness session. There's just one day to go here in Bormio and we'll bring you a look back at it tomorrow (Tuesday) night here at www.hullcityafc.net
[Main Picture - Steve Parkin - fit as a butcher's dog, but sadly on a butcher's bike!]