Reflections from Europe

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. 

Unexpected treat after dinner! 

Unexpected treat after dinner! 

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! 

England

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

Our view from the London Bridge.

Our view from the London Bridge.

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. 

I haven't been here since high school. So happy! 

I haven't been here since high school. So happy! 

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. 

A cool juice bar in Borough Market. I bought a lemon honey tea to warm up.

A cool juice bar in Borough Market. I bought a lemon honey tea to warm up.

Coffee and almond croissants at Monmouth Coffee Roasters. 

Coffee and almond croissants at Monmouth Coffee Roasters. 

"Pay at the counter before serving yourself." Using the honors system in a big city is a novel way to build community. 

"Pay at the counter before serving yourself." Using the honors system in a big city is a novel way to build community. 

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! 

Beautiful architecture is everywhere. 

Beautiful architecture is everywhere. 

Knights in the land of Kings and Queens. 

Knights in the land of Kings and Queens. 

Mike is looking very Euro in his overcoat and scarf. And yes, it was cold! 

Mike is looking very Euro in his overcoat and scarf. And yes, it was cold! 

UK Racing 

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. 

The start of the 40k time trial. 

The start of the 40k time trial. 

Among the 30+ women who participated, my teammate, Claire Rose, took the win! I finished 2nd with Ejay coming in 3rd. What a nice way to start our season.

Among the 30+ women who participated, my teammate, Claire Rose, took the win! I finished 2nd with Ejay coming in 3rd. What a nice way to start our season.

Belgium

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.

Oudenaarde during the evening hours.

Oudenaarde during the evening hours.

The men have been racing the Tour of Flanders for 100 years. 

The men have been racing the Tour of Flanders for 100 years. 

Mike playing soigneur for the day (handing out bottles, moving bikes, helping wherever needed)

Mike playing soigneur for the day (handing out bottles, moving bikes, helping wherever needed)

The team nominated me to speak at the team presentation. They are awesome. 

The team nominated me to speak at the team presentation. They are awesome. 

Our team car loaded up with spare Boardman bikes in case of a crash or mechanical.

Our team car loaded up with spare Boardman bikes in case of a crash or mechanical.

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!

France

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!

Breakfast from an authentic boulangerie. We stopped for coffee and got this instead. This baker didn't serve coffee, just bread, some of the best bread I've ever had.

Breakfast from an authentic boulangerie. We stopped for coffee and got this instead. This baker didn't serve coffee, just bread, some of the best bread I've ever had.

We stayed in an Airbnb about 1 hour south of Paris and 3 hours north of Bordeaux.  

We stayed in an Airbnb about 1 hour south of Paris and 3 hours north of Bordeaux.  

A view from my afternoon stroll. 

A view from my afternoon stroll. 

We were the tourists who stopped the car and took pictures of this. I mean, it's not every day you can walk next to a 1000+ year old castle on the river!

We were the tourists who stopped the car and took pictures of this. I mean, it's not every day you can walk next to a 1000+ year old castle on the river!

Stretching after being in the car all morning.

Stretching after being in the car all morning.

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!