Tuesday, 26 February 2013

A New Beginning

A few weeks ago the Scud (Tom- my roommate) asked me a simple question that was rather entertaining in the complexity of the answer. Anyone who’s known me for long knows that’s not that difficult to achieve. Simple question = long winded drawn out answer. The question in this case, how many days have you slept in your own bed this year (2013)?
Hmm, Simple enough question... my response – well, what do you constitute “my bed”? Victoria? Derby? Or is it the bed I’ve spent the most consecutive nights? In which case neither of the former. So, the answer (to date) looks something like this..

Santa Cruz, CA – 1 2nights - Jan 01 – 12
Victoria, BC – 2 nights – Jan 13, 14
In Transit, Victoria – Vancouver – Airtransat - Derby – Mallorca  - 9 nights (4 different “beds”) – Jan 15 – 23
Mallorca, SP – 10 nights – Jan 24 – Feb 2
Derby, UK - 12 nights – Feb 3 – 12, 25
Champagne, FR – 1 night – Feb 13
road side motel, FR – 1 night – Feb 14
Trans en Provence, FR – 2 nights – Feb 15, 16
Erics House (Hyeres), FR – 5 nights – Feb 17- 21
La Pouzin, FR – 2 nights – Feb 22, 23
Dijon, FR – 1 night – Feb 24

So the Simple answer now would obviously be…er, Santa Cruz?? Most successive nights in 1 bed, Right? I suppose if you really look at it I have spent more days in Derby, my “home” bed then anywhere else this year but MY STARS it doesn’t feel that way!  I honestly feel like I blinked on a Tuesday in December and now its nearly March!! What the hell just happened??

I’ve traveled more (distance) in the last 8 weeks then I have in the last 2 years combined and have ZERO lounge status to show for it! Damn.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not for 1 second complaining, I have enjoyed nearly every minute of this journey thus far, but all of this globe trotting would explain more then a few issues I’m facing in my life right now. 1) Sleep pattern, if you’ve had it - you know – Jet Lag is a bastard. That was by far the biggest struggle I faced the first almost 2 weeks. (still think there’s improvements to be made in the sleep department) 2) Training consistency. It would be kind of comparable to trying to write a novel using only a laptop and having rolling black outs for 2 or 3 (or 5) days at a time. When it comes time to send in the first 3 chapters to the editor…there’s more than a few gaps in the content quality. My training as of late seems to be much the same.

This year, as I’m coming to discover, will be all about making the learning curve over here as ridiculously steep as possible! Not just the racing but life in all aspects is just a bit different than the norm I’ve become so accustom to back in the safety blanket of Victoria. Good thing I’m always up for a challenge and at this point Britain has proven to be a more than worthy adversary. I’m confident I will prevail but like I said I need to button up this change in lifestyle toot-sweet!

I’m really looking forward to the next few weeks “at home”  (term used loosely, only doing 1 day races that are within a days drive) to make a huge dent in this adaptation and really get the ball rolling with some consistency in training, sleeping, eating and everything else in my day to day life. Fingers crossed!

Oh ya, did another race in France on the weekend. Didn’t go so well. Interestingly enough though I think it was the coldest race I’ve ever done, not the coldest I’ve ever been in a race but it was around 0C for the majority of the 5 hrs. So that was cool. Lots was learned over my time down in France and I’m incredibly grateful to the team for the opportunity and have full intentions of marking a massive improvement when lining up for my next race en` Francais.

Home now, next up, “The Sones” this weekend.  More on that to come.

Stay tuned.

Here’s a few shots to summarize the last week.

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Out for a bueaty ride with the boys

Oh, look, Mark’Os adjusting his bike…again

Nah, I’m sure it’ll clear up as we get higher

Come on, this is fun! Right?

Totally worth the effort!

Another amazing meal from Virginie and Eric

…and Desert

there’s a good story behind this but all you need to know is there was pay back to be had…and oh did I pay. Thank you Sir!

DANGER. Macaroons. U-N-R-E-A-L.

What’s that you say, I have to spend 10 European American dollars to use my card??? Challenge accepted!

What??? Haven’t you always wanted a shower in the living room?

The kid ready for the (cold) weather

Yes, I did wear ALL you see in this picture of Sundays race…Didn’t get cold either.

After all that COLD just the picture of these warms me up! From the heart of Dhaka, Bring the heat!! (Courtesy of Ricki, for more on her, Heidi and their amazing adventures click here)

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Pain - French for bread

Tour de Haut Var,
Founded by the Japanese in 1904, they named it Haut Var, which of course in Japanese means Suffering for all. 
I'm fairly sure these facts are some what accurate. Well, either way the last part is for sure. The weekends events at the Tour u Haut Var were filled with dizzying highs and sobering lows.  I think the entire team went into the race with an open mind and an eagerness to not only race but to take something away from this historic event. Some of us took away scrapes and bruises whiles others walked away with a sense of relief that the work they had done the last few months has paid off and they were ready to get the show on the road. I was somewhere in between... I didn't hit the deck and was actually quite happy with my road sharing abilities with the others in the race. A stark change from the usual go it alone training I've been used to for the last 3 months.

I would happily go into the in's and out's of the race with you, explaining how the course profile was about as accurate as a Ouija board or that Saturdays sunny skys and 20C was much more pleasant then the 6C rain and snow cover passes of Sundays parcours, I could even go as far as to say while I did get dropped both days I was dropped AFTER hard man Jens Voigt (little victories)... but that would all be pretty boring so I'll save you the time.

these 2 are pretty much famous
Just for the record I would like to point out that I called 2 things out in my pervious post. The first being that Thor Hushdov happened to be showing up and he did not disappoint, winning the first stage and nearly taking the whole show. Impressive climbing from a pretty big unit. The second and far bigger thing to point out was the rock solid showing of Lachy finishing 30th on Sunday. Obviously this isn't a podium or a top 10 but to be honest, the world wasn't built in a day and 30th is a hell of place to start the season. With 2 more big 1 days down here before we head back to Britain I'm excited to see how much we can all grow before we're done. I know all of us have the hunger to show that we belong at these races and that could just be enough to make that final kick and turn that 30th into a 15th, top 10..who knows?...Big things come from small beginnings.

For now the majority of the team are staying with our teammate Eric Berthou and his girlfriend Virginie. They have a beautiful home and since arriving I have really taken to the French lifestyle, dinner at 8:30 WITH dessert! To bed around midnight, up 9ish. Big breakfast with fresh still warm french bread ( they may just call it Bread here), coffee ride..with a view, an afternoon nap, perhaps another coffee...aaand then we're back to dinner. This IS livin! Oh, did I mention that Virginie is a professional Crepe chef and asspiring restauranteur/gourmet Chef! Needless to say meal time back Britain will be a little bland! We've been spoiled for the 3 nights and I think some of the best is yet to come..incroyable.
Clockwise: Matt, Evan, Mark'O, Virginie, Eric. Cheers!

I suppose I should probably do some real exercise tomorrow if for no other reason than to justify the caloric intake! If pain is french for Bread then I have had A LOT of pain this week and perhaps it's time to buckle down and earn some real pain. There some mountain looming in the distance, I'm sure I can find some french Pain there...

Stay tuned
So France.

Guard dog on duty.

Blessed art thou?

View from the hill where we're  staying

liberating stones from the beach for the house rock garden.

Evan demonstrating his knife skills...impressive this early in the morning

a delicious yogurt parfait for desert?? Why not!

Sorry Toby, you're out, Dafeny is in.

Euro plugs att heir finest

Proof that we ARE in fact capable of doing our own laundry with out our Souniers!

The kid showing off our new team bike for the classics

Virginie was nice enough to take us motorpacing on our rest day...fml.

The perfect breakfast perch.

Clockwise from top left: Fresh Crepe, Coaco power, peach jam, Fresh Pain, crunchy nutella, Muesli, Hasbean coffee, homemade carmel, more fresh crepe, and the most delicious pancake ever!

"can you sign this photo I have of you from 9 years ago?"

Everyone should have one of these! A professional crepe chef

Friday, 15 February 2013

My first time

Well the day is finally here.

Today marks the ever-exciting first race of the new season.  Right now we’re set up in the start hotel in Trans – en-Provence, France. The big event? Tour du Haut Var. This is classed as a UCI 2.1. Basically means it’s a level that all teams can enter. Form Continental (Raleigh) all the way up to the big dogs in the World tour (tour winners, world champs, that sort of thing). The past few years my seasons have had a much different lead in. I would usually spend a few weeks down in Santa Cruz California training on the amazing roads made available right out the front door, from there the first stop has been San Dimas stage race in the outer burbs of LA. Last year I was 3rd in this race, pretty much the best start to any season I’ve ever had….but, Andy Schlek and Thor Hushdov weren’t pinning up either…So, ya it’s a little different this year.

The week or so between the camp and the trip down here has been full of its fair share of ups and downs. Things have really come along and I’m feeling a lot more at home in our new place. My knowledge of the roads is improving by the day so I’m no longer risking life and limb staring at my Garmin whilst weaving through roundabouts, in rush hour traffic, in the rain. I’ve found so amazing roads out there and I don’t think I’ve even cracked the surface , So that’s encouraging. On the flip side, The weather had yet to go above 5C and for a few of those days it was accompanied by gale force winds, rain and then snow. That in combination with still trying to fit in some quality hard training meant the risk for getting sick was certainly there…And wouldn’t you know it, walking 30 minutes in the windy, cold and rain at night after a solid days riding (in similar conditions) and I began to succumb to the usual suspects, throat tickle, energy drops, appetite disappears. F***! Perfect timing! At this point I kicked it into ful on damage control, I’d done the training, now the trick was to dodge this viral bullet and get back on the straight and narrow.  I’ll save you all the delicious details but 3 days, about a bottle and a half of Oregano oil and at least 30,000mg of Vitamin C later I’m back on track! I don’t think I’ve ever come so close to getting sick and actually not. Lesson learned. If raining. Order in!

24hrs.. apparently not. Thanks Tesco. I needed the exercise anyways.
I’m really excited for the race today not only because it’s the start of the season but more so because it’s my first race on this side of the Atlantic. I think we have a great team down here for these 2 weekends of racing and I’m sure we will leave our mark on the races. I’m particularly curious to see what my Aussie mates (Mark O'Brien and Lachlan Norris) are capable of throwing down. These guys have been training like demons in Derby (and not getting sick) and from what I saw at the camp they are more then ready to toe the line and get this while thing going.

Mr. Lachlan Norris

Mr. Mark O'Brien

I hope to get another update tomorrow after the race but we’ll see, I’m slowly learning that universal free WiFi is not the norm in Europe…even getting wifi in your home is a bit of a process. I signed up for it pre Mallorca camp, received an email yesterday that it should be up and running within the next 10 business days. 1Month turn around to flip a switch and mail a router out. Seems reasonable?

I'm growing this beard in protest of EE(tmobile) and their complete lack of efficiency in broadband services.
Alright, now for the fun stuff. A few things I’ve seen over the last week, in other words a few pictures to help make sense of the phonetic graffiti above.

John has become a common site between our house and the Aussies...LOTS of online line shopping! I'm just kidding...I have no idea what his name is.

good morning.

GOOD morning

I think Vancouver island should explore this option more seriously.  Cars on trains underwater...what could possibly go wrong?!?

Least feast before our grand depart to France, Beet Risotto in the works.

No Filter,photoshop or other alterations. This was one of our rooms on the journey down.

Team bonding

Found the beach.

It's not all hard work though, still have time for the little things.