THREE weeks ago I was in Jamaica. This week it is St Moritz. After the horrible experience of my MRI scan, and my test race fast approaching, it is time to step up my actual bike training.

So my bikes are packed into a van and after 2 days travelling across Europe I arrive in the Engadin valley This is a place steeped in sporting history and the perfect choice for many elite athletes for their altitude camp.

You feel the buzz as soon as you arrive. The running track is full of athletes - our own Laura Muir and Jemma Reekie were here only last week - while on the roads you pass numerous Ironman athletes training for the world championships in Kona.

On the lakes, a mixture of rowers and kite surfers. I know instinctively straight away that this place is exactly where I need to be. A million miles away from hospital, it is the only ski resort I have ever been to which is full of designer shops and art galleries.

Anywhere I go to train, I always go to the local bike shop to make friends with the guys there. It is always good to get to bit of local knowledge on the best roads and times to go out.


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The Swiss Olympic team are based here and as I leave the shop I spot an Olympic statue with a list of the athletes who won medals when the Olympics were held here in 1928 and 1948.

But this venue’s real selling point is the fact you’re training at a height above sea level of some 1800m. Athletes have been coming here to get the benefits of training at altitude since the lead-up to the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico.

You can feel the effects of this altitude every morning when you wake. The best way I can describe it is that I feel as though I have been hit by a bus each morning and that I haven’t really had any sleep. My resting heart rate is much higher and it takes a few hours to get the body going.

But the benefits are worth it. The lower air pressure means that my body has to work a lot harder to achieve the same performance as it would on lower ground.

This in turn improves the transport of oxygen around my body and when I return to sea level I should get a boost in performance.

A good chat with my pal Noel Baxter, a former Olympic skier, confirms all the feelings I am having. I trust him as he has spent his whole life in these mountains and probably knows me better than I know myself sometimes.

At the time it feels brutal but the pay off is well worth all the hard sessions you put yourself through here. I am having to cram a year’s worth of training into 12 weeks.

The hard thing for me is not to get carried away with it all. It is so tempting to start climbing all the famous mountain passes here. But I have to remember I am training for a pursuit on November. These were the wise words I received from the team at Nike before leaving the UK and I keep that voice in my head each time I ride here.


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The first few days on the bike are great. I feel like I am where I belong, and I have left all the stress of tumours behind. When I look down at my legs spinning on my bike nothing else matters than just this present moment.

There is a beautiful silence from the mountains that tower above you on each side. Brought up in Aviemore, I have always found the mountains a spiritual place, somewhere time stands still. They are nature’s gift to us humans and something which we should respect.

I am riding along at 46km/h and I feel great, I feel strong. As Dr Steve Peters would say, my chimp is loving it, it’s telling me to keep going, reassuring me that we can go for hours at this pace.

The only problem is this massive tail wind and the fact the road is running downhill slightly. After 30km I decided to stop and check my map. I knew that I could keep going but then there would be the slight issue of how I would get home. Any cyclist will know this feeling of riding out with a tail wind, you feel invisible.

After a short conversation with myself I decide to turn around and it was a good job I did. It wasn’t long until I found out how strong that tail wind was.

I suffered all the way back to St. Moritz, loving every second of it. When I looked down, my Garmin told me my heart rate was 187 bpm. This is great news as it means I can push my body hard and not have neural spasms.

This is massive for me, as after surgery in 2016 every time I tried to push on in the bike for the next 12 months I suffered horrible spasms which left me unable to ride. So it is great to go at 187bpm and feel good - well as good as you can feel when your heart is beating through your chest and you can’t get oxygen into your lungs fast enough. Or when the lactate builds up and your legs start to give up. What an incredible feeling. I have missed this so much.