When I started writing this post, I was sitting inside of our Spanish cottage waiting for the downpour to stop. The Basque country is known for its rain, but the damp nature of this area does have its benefits.
On Monday, my team arrives and we begin our Spanish racing tour with Durango-Durango, a one-day race notorious for its climbing. Then we will compete in the Bira Stage Race, a 5-day race also known for its climbing. I'll write about our time here in Spain later on, but this blog is all about the experiences we have had in England, Belgium and France!
We were really fortunate to stay at the team headquarters near Manchester. Everyone welcomed us with open arms and we will be forever grateful! The farm roads I used for training are steep with twisty descents. In a nearby desolate area called the Moorlands, it's unusual to see a car during a two hour ride. Team mechanic, Alan, showed me around a few of the days because I was so afraid of getting stuck out in the middle of nowhere!
Trip to London
While we were still settling in, it was a good time to take a trip to explore London. Mike had to be there for work anyway, and I just tagged along.
We stayed in Southwark for 2 nights. It is home to Shakespeare's Globe, Monmouth Coffee Roasters and, my personal favorite, the historic Borough Market.
We spent an afternoon walking around near the water and just enjoying the day. I can't wait to get back to London and do some more exploring!
We used some of the local spring classics to learn to work as a team and tune up the race legs. First was the Eddie Soens Memorial Race where the race organizers toss the men and women together for about 2 hours of fast racing around a circuit. The second race was the Essex TT, a part of the National TT Series. Both races with the team were a blast and got me really excited about the upcoming season.
After three wonderful weeks in England, it was time to move to Oudenaarde, Belgium. Located in the Flemish region near Flanders fields, this historic place is a mecca for bike racing. I loved it right away. Mike and I got there a little earlier than the team to get a chance to view the courses and ride the cobbled climbs. Getting there before the races gave me some time to familiarize myself with the roads and run-in to the climbs. Since I was about to race the Tour of Flanders, the biggest one-day race in the world, doing my research was key to having any chance of success.
If you'd like some details about the races, check out my Pajot Hills race report and the official team press release. I am so grateful for this experience with the team. Practicing positioning among 200 women on narrow roads through windy open spaces is priceless and I'll definitely be back for more!
We spent a day in France to break up the drive to Spain. I played passenger while Mike drove. He is a nervous wreck when I drive, but I still haven't figured out why!
And now that I've finished this extensive post, it's finally sunny in Spain. I think we may clean up the cottage and head off to the beach before this week's work begins. Thanks for reading and I hope to write again soon!
What has everyone else been up to? Leave a comment and update me please!