Sunday, 24 February 2008

A week on the Cote d'Azur

The weeks are starting to fly by now as the start of my season fast approaches. If you read my last update you will know that I have just spent the last week with my team at a training camp. Like Americans, the French don’t usually holiday outside their own country, so for our training camp we went to France and specifically the Cote d’Azur. Oh what a week it was.

We started off on our 1.5 hour flight and then 1.5 hour drive to our hotel where we stayed the night and then spent the next day messing around with new kit and bikes etc. After all this was thoroughly sorted and we decided we had enough kit and clothes for a week, we got ready for the 4 o’clock start the next day and our 7 hour drive to the south coast. Most of this was spent sleeping, snoozing or dozing until we finally started to notice the weather getting warmer. Once we arrived we were shown up to our bungalow/villa things, did the usual unpacking job and then went out on the bikes for about an hour and a quarter.

The rest of the week was spent training....obviously and lots of it. Sunday we did a 3.5 hour ride with a self- timed TT effort at the end, I had a problem starting my watch at the start so I probably didn’t win by as much as everyone thought I did. The next day I podiumed in my first 3 races of the season, unfortunately I was 3rd every time and they were only 8km mock races in which the group was split into 3 teams. Tuesday was spent merrily riding up hills for 5 and a quarter hours with the Auber 93 team who were staying close by. I sat in for the first 140km and then ripped it up at the end, oh how they laughed. The next day was spent recovery riding in the morning and then a few more hours in the afternoon with 2 x 30 minute efforts in 3 teams simulating a break. But after the first one, most of the team hid from the coach so they didn’t have to do another one, obviously I didn’t know what the hell was going on, so blindly followed. Our “easy” day consisted of a 3 hour ride with some “Force”, basically riding up a mountain in your biggest gear for 5 minutes at a time. We spent Friday having another jolly around France for 5.5 hours and then on Saturday, a short ride with the TT effort again only properly timed. I finished 3rd that time...

Once again the views were pretty spectacular, but a lot of the time I was too busy munching on my stem to notice. We were based in a place called Les Issambres, about 20km east around the coast from St Tropez, we saw plenty of other teams out there training, most with following cars. Although some of the main roads (of which there are plenty) are quite busy, it’s possible to find some great quiet roads with nice climbs and descents. The weather was hot, but not shorts hot although we did spend one afternoon on the beach, so I might recommend it as a potential training camp venue.

The team were interesting to say the least and serious is definitely not the word. On the rides we’d ride through towns and villages scaring the hell out of everyone we went past and, needless to say, the hotel waiting staff didn’t like us by the end of the week. But if you put a bunch of 19-20 odd year old guys together, that’s what you get. The evenings were spent mauling Tom at Rummy or mauling everyone else when we played Dame de Pique (Hearts) and generally chillaxing and looking forward to eating.

The thing I enjoyed most about the week was the food, and especially the breakfasts. French hotels warm the milk up, which makes it really nice on the choco flake thingies they serve. Never had warm milk on cereal before, it’s great. The thing I enjoyed least about the week was the pain the lower half of my body had to experience; we did just under 30 hours and 900km over a 7 day period, my longest ever week.

Pictures of my week in Issambres can be found here:

While we were there we had a couple of meetings to discuss things like how to race, tactics etc. We were also given our main race calendar for the season which was pretty hilarious. Our 2nd and 3rd races are apparently extremely tough, with the 3rd being a 180km UCI 1.2 race, Paris-Troyes. Bearing in mind I have only ever ridden 180km once, I think I have a good chance. It’s a very good but very tough calendar, which see’s us racing all around France, doing several tours including the Essor Breton and the Tour d’Alsace and also two Coupe de France races.

Next week is my first race, 120km 1, 2, 3 + junior categories. Going on how all the team was riding during the training camp, I think we have a very good chance of getting several good placings, we need to so we don’t all feel bad about the placings we’ll be getting in the next race (if indeed we get any placings). This next week I’ll be recovering and sorting out an apartment and it may be a while before I get an internet connection up and running. So until then.

A bientot.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Limoux and the foothills of the pyrenees

After much deliberation, it was decided I needed to get away from England and it's unique weather in pursuit of a somewhat sunnier climate. So I decided to go to Limoux in the south of France for a couple of weeks training for the obvious purpose of preparing my body for the lifestyle.

I stayed with my team mate, Tom, in the house that is usually used by the New Zealand under 23 outfit in the summer, so it was pretty much fitted for the purpose. He had been there for 2 weeks already and had stayed there a few times before, so knew the ropes and roads. The days sort of went along these lines:

  • Get up at whenever - from 9.00 till 10.30 mostly
  • Eat breakfast - a bowl frosties, muesli or quaker oats followed by toast and if it was a serious day, a banana. A cup of tea or coffee was also consumed during this important period.
  • Get changed into cycling kit
  • Ride bike - anywhere between 30 minutes and 9 hours (never more than 9 hours)
  • Get back, shower and make lunch (some kind of pasta with some kind of sauce with some kind of meat).
  • Rest/recover - this consisted of several things: reading a book, messing around on my laptop, watching TV, drinking chocolat chaud (thats hot chocolate for all you none french talkers) in the local cafe, reading a book, playing cards, sleeping, acrobatics (rare), reading a book and reading a book.
  • Eat dinner (some kind of pasta or rice with some kind of meat with some kind of sauce)
  • Do some more resting/recovering
  • Go to bed
  • Repeat
Obviously a stenuous lifestyle. Me and Toms conversation usually constisted of arguments about who was better at certain things, most of which I won apart from the bad ones like whos the fatest and who smells the worst. Obviously Tom will argue to the contrary but you know who's right. The rides were great with the average ride time being about 3 hours. The scenery at times was nothing short of amazing, to the south you could see the snow capped pyrenees and on one ride to a place called Lagrasse, the views at one point where so good I just wanted to stop and admire them for a few minutes. We didn't, but only because there was a great descent ahead of us. The weather was chilly but sunny in the first week and then heated up in the second week, I even wore shorts on one ride!

During the 2 weeks I was required to wear a mini ECG machine, as over the past two seasons i've had episodes of heart palpitations where it pumps very very fast (up to 230 bpm) for a short period of time. During the palitations my legs feel very fatigued like they have already done 100 miles, luckily it has only occured twice in races amazingly both of which i finished. Anyway I got it checked out by the doctor and he said it wasn't anything sinister (Sudden Adult Death Syndrome was what I was worried about) but said to find out exactly what it was I had to wear the ECG monitor. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the palpitations rarely happen, so I only was able to record one episode and this wasn't extended. Oh well maybe better luck next time.

Anyway, news from the team came regularly via e-mail from both the DS and the coach guy. During the weekend I had before, we were told that if we doped we'd be thrown out of the team. Obviously this is a very good thing and if all new Espoir teams are doing this, then cycling might have a future afterall. To reinforce this, the whole team are having dope tests before the season starts. I can't afford drugs anyway and wouldn't know where to start if I wanted some.

I am flying out to Stuttgart tomorrow night to be picked up and taken to Haguenau. We will spend a day there and in the early hours of Saturday we will begin the lengthy drive down to the cote d'azur for our 7 day training camp. I am sort of looking forward to this as it will be good training and it will be good to get to know my team mates better and start speaking some french. But I am a lazy person when it comes to training so i'll be glad when its finished and the racing starts. It will also be interesting to see how many of them can hold onto my wheel as I power up the climbs while holding my breath pedaling with one foot and riding no handed. I dropped Tom several times in Limoux using this technique, I'd recomend it to anyone.

Some more pictures of our stay in Limoux can be found here:

Bring on some more sun.

until next time, aurevoir.