Saturday, 27 April 2013

Whirlwind tour of Belgium and traveling home (Day 6-8)

Day 6
After a late sleep (7am) we were up and ready to explore Brugge! But first breakfast. One would think that at 8am there would be place for food but alas, a local pub which was the only place we could find open only served coffee so we had that and checked out of our hotel and started our exploration of the city.

The square which had been empty except for tourists the day before was suddenly transformed into a market! Fruits, veg, flowers, meat, fish, herbs, breads and cheese filled the square! We grabbed pastries for breakfast (I had a nice custard pastry) and continued our meander through the city and into an old church. This building was amazing! It had a stunning statue made of solid silver that must have been an easy 2m high. Add that to the ornate stained glass windows and other decorations and this was quite a sight. This church also apparently has a container that has some of Christ's blood and every 5 years they have a procession where this comes out and a reenactment happens.

After our church exploration we continued our journey through this amazing city! Personally I find it such a stunning place because of the old architecture and the fast that they discourage cars in the town and encourage bicycles. In fact, you have to be careful to avoid being knocked over by a bicycle!!

After Brugge, we headed to Oudenaarde to see the Museum of the Ronde van Flaanderen. This place was SO cool!! A history of cycling in the area but also I suppose a cycling history since they had bikes and kit from the old days to the new days. We had fun looking around and even got on the idt to race an old pro up a hill on a simulator. Was so cool seeing now the sport has changed. The tour appropriately ends in a shop where naturally we bought stuff kit and stuff.

After feeding our cycling brains, we headed for a bite to eat (we had asparagus with eggs which is a typical dish from this area) and then checked into a hotel for a spontaneous night in Oudenaarde (have run out of fresh clothes but I suppose that is tomorrow's problem). We then took a stroll through town to explore this town. It's quite different to the other towns in that its slightly more modern yet it still has the old town feel in most of the buildings. The streets are in general wider than the other towns. Oh! And there are plenty roadies in this town.

Tonight we ate another local dish: Frittes and mayo. We enjoyed this take away style and had it whilst sitting looking at the museum and after went to grab a beer.

Thus far, the last time I had water was Sunday. Literally. In the last 3 days I have had more coffee than I have had in 6 months and I have only had 3 glasses of fruit juice from Monday to today. The rest has been beer - and no, I am not an alcoholic, its just how it's worked out. Especially when beer, water and coke all cost about the same!!

The other thing on my mind: how the heck am I gonna get all the stuff I am buying into my bag!!!

Tomorrow we are off to Gent and then back to the chateau.

Day 7

After a solid night of rest at an awesome hotel in Oudenaarde called De Zalm (if you are ever in the area and need a hotel, try get a room here), we had a yummy breakfast followed by a quick walk through the market and then we hit the road to our last city, Gent.

First impressions of Gent.... The buildings coming into town are very much more spaced out and the town itself is quite medieval. It even has a castle. It's quite a cool little place but is little. The cathedral is awesome though!! There was even a dude playing a harp. Gent is quite a cute little place and made for a nice end to the hectic sight seeing. We also managed to grab a few gifts for ourselves and others.

When we got home we had a bite to eat for lunch and then headed to town so I could get a few things for KD and so we could find the beer we wanted to return with. We managed to get quite a few goodies!

When we got home we kitted up and went for a ride into the town of March. It's a really cute little town with some nice cobbles and a little climb. It felt so surreal riding after 8pm and still having sunlight! As we turned around we realized we would have to pace home. Whilst pacing, Andy decided to stop suddenly to take a pic of the moon rising. So glad I looked up when I did cause I had to quickly maneuver around him!

Dinner was spent around the table chatting about the trip and enjoying some more Belgian beers. This was followed by 2 hours of packing. Not kidding when I say it took this long! And... We may have to repack because we got so much stuff whilst on our trip.

Ok, time to get some shut eye before our ride tomorrow.

Day 8

Can't believe we are flying out today. Woke up this morning and headed out on the bikes to the little town of Hotten where there is a Commonwealth War Memorial. Was a bit chilly but with the scenery one hardly noticed and before we knew it we were in town and looking at the memorial. It's pretty sad seeing how some bodies are of unknown soldiers. I wonder if they have family and if their family knew where they were lost in battle. Interesting thing was that there were not just low ranking guys killed en mass but also senior officers. It's actually sad how many people were killed all because of 1 mad man.

After looking at this sad sight, we mounted our bikes and rode back to Baillonville where we had a hearty breakfast of croissants, yoghurt and sweet rolls before packing the bikes for the return to Johannesburg.

After saying our good byes to my uncle who spoilt us rotten, we put everything in the car and returned to Brussels National Airport for our return flight.

After booking bikes and bags, we went for a quick beer before waiting for Quinton from Decca to deliver something that needed a priority delivery to SA. Parcel in hand, we legally exited Belgium and then went to spend more money in duty free before going to our gate to wait for our flight.

Flight to Istanbul was totally uneventful and went by fairly quickly thanks to the gift of sleep.

Then came the long wait for our next flight!! We started with a walk through the shops and naturally got a few more items. (Space was becoming and issue and my bag bulging.) Being dinner time and having time to waste, we grabbed a Turkish meal, beer and a cold drink. Service was super slow but we eventually got our food. However, whilst waiting for my food a strap on my bag broke. Then, as I put my food on the table, my other strap broke! Argh. Now I had a schlep to deal with so I got a trolley and we went to chill at the terminals. After relaxing for a bit, we decided to go find a plug to charge our phones and I decided that a new bag was worth it instead of hassling with a broken one. Found a really nice bag and managed to get most of my stuff in there (cept for my Tin Tin dog and a few ornaments which I put in my shopping bag).

We then got a plug and enjoyed watching Japanese people and their inability to read pictograms which resulted in them putting trolleys on the escalator walkways and well, the result when they came off them!!

Flight was on time for boarding and the highlight for the passengers was an air hostess getting engaged on the flight. Fortunately the rest of the trip was sleep filled and before we knew it we had landed in JHB.

And so ends holiday part 1. I am now off to the Lowveld for a bit of chilling in the bush. And, later today I am taking my Ghost out to fly down the Strydom Pass. As far as I am aware, this is a first road bike ride down the pass. Need to wake up first but think the short ride will be good for me.

Post trip thoughts...
Belgium is an amazing country!! The scenery is stunning, the people are special and its both dog and cyclist friendly. The cycling in the country is also amazing! In the north, its rolling hills but also has some decent cobbled climbs. The south is climbers territory! There are some amazing climbs out there.

Language wise, the Flanders area (north) is fun cause you can speak Afrikaans and the Wallone area (south) is French so you can get used to saying "Bonjour", "Pardon" & "Merci" a lot!!!

My favorite city was definitely Brugge because of its warmth and how insane it is that you can get run over by a bicycle!!

The trip really was amazing and am sad its over but... I am already thinking of ideas for next year!

Pics: lace map; old chateau; Oudenarde; Gent; town centre in March; somehow fit all this in my bags; Commonwealth War Memorial;

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Smallest City and Lace Capital - Belgium day 4 & 5

Day 4. Monday.... Normally the alarm goes off and its that urgh, Monday thought that we all have. Not today though for me. Today we were going to explore Liege! We set out to the river, then took a gentle walk to the Citadel. It's quite amazing how even in the quiet streets of the city one will find a war memorial for both world wars. I mean, here we were on a random side road and here is this world war 1 memorial to the locals who had died and added on was the names of the guys from ww2. At the top of the hill we saw the monument and then walked around the grounds before heading down through town to the train station - which is absolutely amazing!!! It really is something to see.

We then headed back via a pet store I had seen (I wanted gifts for my little KD) and then to a souvenir shop which was sadly closed. Back at the hotel (after walking 13kms) we had a coffee with my aunt and uncle and then set about getting luggage and fitting everything into the car (which was quite entertaining) before heading to Baillonville where we unpacked, swopped car and then headed to Du Buy which is the smallest city in the world. This really is a fascinating little town but its kinda tiny. We enjoyed a yummy lunch at this town and then meandered back home before heading to Bastogne.

Bastogne hosts a pretty amazing memorial to the Americans. I found it quite eery and somber. Looking out on the battle fields you could almost picture where the battles were fought. After this foray into the sad but victorious history of this area, we headed to the circle in Bastogne where the Liege Bastogne Liege race turns at. To all of our surprise there is a little monument to the race with its history and all the winners with their nationality. It must be such an awesome achievement to have your name up there but I wonder how many people actually know of the existence of this little treasure.

We ended the Bastogne experience with, you guessed it, beers and sausage. This time we all were light weights and picked low alcohol beers - I had a yummy cherry beer that tasted like wine and not beer.

Impressions and strange things: people stop at zebra crossings here! Cannot get used to that. There are cyclists everywhere!! And my best: people take their dogs everywhere. (KD would so love it here!) I also am wondering if they have water because all we seem to drink is coffee or beer. And, believe it or not, we are eating well after. 8:30pm and I am not grumpy or hungry. Think its cause of the sun being out so much longer and also because we have been so busy.

Tomorrow we are off on an overnight adventure. Going to be fun!!

Day 5: Slept so well last night! Head hit the pillow and I was out. After a yummy breakfast of croissants and yoghurt, we set off on a walk around the chateau, then to the local church - interestingly enough there used to be a door between chateau and church but one of the chateau owners had horses who used to go into the church so the town blocked the door. The chateau was quite interesting since we got to even see the basement area which is expansive and interesting.

After our tour of the chateau and imagining what it would have been like many years ago, we set off to Zottergem. But first we stopped in a town called Gerhardsberg to see a famous Flanders climb called the Muur van Gerhardsbergen. This is an insane cobbled climb and we were able to walk the last bit. It was pretty awesome standing on this hallowed cycling ground. Anyway... So we went to Zottergem where we found a place to have lunch and of course a beer (I swear there is no water in Belgium, just beer). After the yummiest burger, we set off to find the Decca cycling clothing factory. Decca has the most comfortable cycling clothing and for a lady, their stuff is insanely comfortable and practical.

We were welcomed to the factory as of we were old friends and given a grand tour of the facility. Personally it was pretty awesome because I have a background in print and design so I know the basic technologies so seeing it applied to textile was fascinating! Also, it gave me new appreciation to see how much manual labour goes into each item. When you buy Decca, know it was made with expert hands! Not a fully automated system. Then, hearing about the technology and how much thought goes into the design, really makes you appreciate just how awesome the kit really is. Whilst having a coffee, we learnt just how many awesome cyclists wear Decca. But, all good things come to an end and to was time to leave the place. Not before buying a piece of Decca kit I haven't seen in SA (yet).

After Decca, we headed to Bruges where we found a hotel to spend the night and then headed out to explore a tiny bit. It's a stunning town with amazing architecture!! I love architecture photography and I am having such a blast in this town!! Oh and we found a lace shop. I am tempted to go back there for placemats but I don't really have a dining room table... Dinner was beer and waffles followed by more exploring.

I am getting frustrated at not having data but I suppose the break is good for me. I am currently having a "Belgian water" in reception whilst using the free wifi that's only available in reception.

Until my next wifi moment....

Monday, 22 April 2013

Liege Bastogne Liege - the pros

So today was the big day! The pro tour version if yesterday! By cycling terms, our day started late with a 7:45am breakfast followed by going to see the start.

The start area is an amazing place! Spectators, busses & bikes everywhere!!!! After seeing a bit of the rider sign ons, the attractive sight of the clothing stall caught my eye and we went and spent a small amount of money there on stuff. Useful on and off the bike stuff....

Then it was game on! To see riders and rider buses. It's amazing how it varies from big teams with tons of money (like Sky, RadioShack etc to smaller teams) in bus size - from camper vans to massive buses with awenings. There was certainly not a lack of teams either but you could see who the popular teams were by the number of people standing around their busses. One highlight for me was seeing team Agr2 le monde! They are such a cool team cause they are sponsored by Bryton and use the same Bryton as me! I must be using the right device if a pro team uses that device.

We then meandered to the start area to look at the mavic support cars and to get a good spot. And good spot we got! They came zooming past us! Right there. Was awesome.

We then darted to the bus where we were taken to Houssonloge where we stood around for the riders to come past (this point is 30km into the race). After a fair wait the breakaway group flew past us! Yikes those guys fly!!! Then 8mins later the peloton flew by. Then it was an uphill sprint to the bus where we were taken to Manhay (46km into the race) to catch them again - this time we just got the main peloton as we had missed the breakaway.

Point 3 was the town of Houffalize which is 115km into the race but hosts a nasty climb. This time however we had time to chill as the cyclists were only due past us an hour later. So we grabbed lunch and took a slow walk up to the Panzer tank and then to a spot on the climb. This climb is a stunning short and sharp climb!! It's amazing. I would actually love to ride it. The bunch came past us even closer this time! Was so awesome seeing their speed and to be so close to the action!

After that we sprinted back to the buses to go catch the riders at Houfalize to see them go up another big climb. This time it was a section that had a bit of cobbles at a point so we positioned ourselves at the cobbled section and waited. When they came it was so fast and I don't think I could have gotten much closer to the riders had I even tried! (I have included a pic of Alberto Contador from Saxon Bank for you to see.)

After that adrenaline rush we were off to see the riders at Cote de la Redoute, a short but steep climb. If you were watching that day on tv you would have noticed it! A steep climb with a really narrow bit, oh and half of Belgium standing on the sides with motorhomes that had been there for days. The atmosphere at this point was amazing!!!! People cheering and going wild - was like a World Cup atmosphere. You could see where the riders were based on where the chopper was and soon enough they were starting the climb and the spectators started going wild! The riders started coming past us at a speed and once again, they were right by us (as can be seen by the blurred pic of Andy Schleck)! We stayed an extra few seconds at this spot to watch the non climbers battle their way up. The climbs were starting to hurt the riders and only the strong could make this hill look flat. The others had expressions which I am sure are not unlike what we must have had the day before.

With that legendary climb over it was an uphill sprint back to the bus and then a mad dash to the finish line in Ans the crowds there were insane so to get a view one had to get creative... I spotted some kids sitting on the platform of the big spectator screen so we jumped up there and watched from our perch. Once again, the atmosphere was insane - I will upload video when I am back from my trip - and it's hard to describe just how insanely hyped people here are over cycling.

With the blink of an eye, the race was over and we were all jabbering about the race.

The evening ended with us packing bikes for the next part of the adventure and then enjoying a dinner in town where we even enjoyed a local drink called Peke which is a gin type drink that's got a fruity taste - am definitely buying a bottle of that to take home!

This will likely be the last blog post for a few days due to not having wifi from today until Saturday so apologies if I go quiet on Facebook, Twitter and Blog. Am available on SMS though.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Race day

At 5am the sound of the alarm went off like a bomb! Got up, brushed teeth, washed face, got dressed and headed down to brekkies where a selection of cold meats, cheeses, cereals, eggs, bacon, breads, fruit and pastries awaited us. I filled my stomach with everything it needed and a bit more and then waited for race numbers. Mine was fortunately there but Andy's was not so he headed up to get bike etc and I waited for his number. By the time he got back there was still nothing so I got ready and we then waited for the number which happily came and we could all leave from the hotel to the start.

The start is quite odd by our standards in that there is no real start time. Provided you leave between the allowed time, you can start when you want to start. After a pic or 2 I set off into the unknown that is this race. First striking thing was that people were stopping for red robots!! The cold was a bit hectic though. On downhills I really froze! It was insane. Going through 1 town I understood why - it was 4 degrees!!!

Without incident, (other than dropping my windjammer when I wanted it off and then having to quickly fetch it) I got to water point 1 where I had a quick photo stop and grabbed some of the yummy food on offer.

The next bit included a pretty suck climb which only really had 1 highlight which was coming across another South African. We then cruised along meandering hills to the first of the major climbs of the day... Rosier. This was a nice stead climb which the person I was riding with and myself just cruised up at a happy pace chatting away. The next climb, Masquiard was not as bad and we once again just cruised up it. Then came Mont Theux which isn't that bad but for some reason my gears started having issues (blaming the cold) and I couldn't find a comfortable gear so was forced to just suck it up and use the gears I had. Fortunately for me there was lots of beautiful downhill after that before the next climb and a water point as well where I could get my gears tended to.

The guys at the support were amazing! They sorted my gears out quickly and I was able to chill for a bit before starting one of the epic climbs of the race: Cote de la Redoute. This is a spectacular climb!! Sad thing is that there were people walking it. At the top, I stopped for a quick photo opportunity (to prove I had been there) before going down the next bit towards the next climb which was Cote de Colonster.

Colonster was actually boring and not that fun. It was a long drag that didn't end. But, like all bad climbs it ended and I was able to get a bit of downhill rest before the last big climb of the day: Cote de Saint Nicolas. Saint Nic was a fun climb!! In fact, so fun I would love to do it again. Short, sharp and fun with a distance of only about 1.4km but with a decent gradient. After that stunning climb, it wasn't too far (only 1 more climb) to the finish. After 7hours 12 mins, I was done with the race. I collected medals and tshirts and then a beer.

Was a really cool ride that was fun with cobbles, fun with climbs and fun with meeting other people. My bike was a dream bike that between it and my bunny doing all the work, I just got to sit there and chill. My Bryton saved my bacon as it told me exactly the distances which ended up being such a motivation!

It was cold today and despite the layers it hit me at times. The max temp was 19 but with am average of just over 9 and a min of 3, its a cold day out!!

Now that the race is done and dusted, I am treating myself to. 2 or 3 weeks of recovery before the next training block begins. But, fear not! More travel blogging is on the way over the next few days.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Flight to Brussels and Day 1

So Andy and i got to the airport insanely early and had a teeny tiny 2 hour wait for the check in to open but, considering the long flight, that wasn't so bad! After getting through passport control, we headed to the Visa Slow Lounge where we had cold drinks and food and relaxed a bit.

The actual flight to Istanbul was uneventful and we both watched plenty of comedies on the inflight tv and got fairly ok sleep. Think I slept for 3 or 4 hours. Only interruption was at about 1 them calling if there was a doctor on board and a few passengers going to back of plane. It obviously wasn't too serious since when we got off in Turkey there were no ambulances etc waiting. The food on the flight was pretty good, dinner was beef stew and brekkies was the standard scrambled eggs.

We arrived in Istanbul just after 4am South African time and we killed 2 hours walking and sitting around before our 3 hour flight. The airport is not that exciting and has the usual plenty of shops and nothing much else. Before long our connecting flight to Brussels was called and we boarded. The flight to Brussels was uneventful with both of us sleeping most of the way except for eating breakfast.

At the airport, I ended up getting a very chatty Flemish Passport Controller who asked plenty questions about South Africa in Flemish!! Yikes, I had to listen carefully. Sad thing was that as friendly as he was, he didn't stamp Bunny's passport.

After disembarking, getting luggage and booking luggage into storage we went hopped on a train and went exploring. We started with the Grande Place which is stunning with its architecture!!!!

Andy then took me to an awesome little shop! Yes, you guessed it: Tin Tin. Spent a bit of money there on gifts. One of which is a pretty awesome gift for someone... Then went and explored the central part of Brussels with its stunning architecture and sights. Rain forced us into a pub at lunchtime where we enjoyed a sandwich and a beer. I picked a beer based on its name - Kwak - and it ended up being so yummy with a cool glass!

After lunch we headed off to explore some more before heading back to the airport. I really should have had my Bryton with today cause we walked mega distance! At the airport we grabbed food and drink at an airport supermarket and had a bite whilst waiting for sports tours. Once they arrived and we were on the bus, we both crashed into sleep for another hour or so. I personally was asleep before leaving Brussels and woke in Liege.

After booking in, we built bikes, hooked up to wifi and got our lives sorted. And now... It's time for some much needed shut eye before race day.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Almost time to depart

So, I had these great ideas about doing a blog post a week before I left but, time seems to have run away from me and I seem to be suffering from writers block so here is my attempt....

Why Belgium? Hmm... Well, why not. Belgium hosts the oldest of the cycling classics and is a country I have vague memories of from when I was 6 years old so it just seems right.

Why a big race instead of a touring / slow adventure? I don't have the answer. I think it had something to do with the influence of the person I am traveling with. I had never thought of doing a ride anywhere but in Africa but Andy took my sense of adventure and helped me expand on it and showing me thst food and adventure is not limited to SA and I think with my new fitness and drive, it was a good fit.

So what preparations did I have to do? Well, I had to get fit and start enjoying climbing. I now love climbing and oddly enough on Sunday Andy mentioned a climb he wanted me to do and I got a big smile on my face and got excited!! I couldn't wait. I felt like a kid on Christmas. I am perhaps not as strong or fit as I would like but... Are we ever happy with our fitness? I also had to adjust my mindset. I have become more focused and oddly it has affected my home life. I see that because I have to be more structured with my fitness, I have had to become more structured and organized at home. Personally, I feel I have grown as well. I am more positive and focused and I think I have learnt a lot about myself.

I have spent an insane amount of time over the last few months on my bike and have racked up more kms than I have done in ages. I have also met and become friends with some fantastic people.

The packing... A friend once said to me I have obsessive compulsive list disorder. It's true of this trip again. But the list saved me again because once a merry time ago, I went away and forgot my wallet at home. Think I have everything this time - and possibly a bit more. I have taken my favorite Gearup cycling bag and packed my stuff in it. It's not a big bag but it is my traveling bag so it adds a sense of comfort. Packing tip: get duplicates of shampoo, deo etc so you don't have to pack those last minute.

I also have Rex packed. Rex is my bunny who goes on all my adventures with me. A race is not an adventure without the bunny so he is with me. When the going gets tough in a race, its having Rex that can sometimes be the difference between laughing or feeling horrid. I know I am gonna rely on Rex on Saturday. Just hope I can get an extra stamp or 2 in his passport!

How about flying? I enjoy it. As a student, I loved flying in and out of George which is an insanely short runway surrounded by mountains on one side and the ocean on the other... In fact, for a 737 its the shortest distance it can land! Haven't flown in or out of Europe since I was 8 so don't know how I am gonna handle the length of the flight. Part of me thinks I am going to enjoy it since I usually settle in the second half of local flights, then part of me is worried about how well I am going to handle the long flight with not moving around a lot. This is the great unknown!

The funny or random thoughts in my brain are the best... We need to see the main cathedral in Brussels cause this is the host of 1 of 3 embarrassing stories from when I was 6 years old that I know of, so it will be cool to see this place. Then, I have these memories of what my aunt and uncles home looked like when I was there and I keep wondering just how much is spot on.

So, tomorrow Andy and I are off on this adventure... I can't wait!!!!! But, I know this would not be possible without some rocking friends who in their own small way have motivated me. I cannot forget my colleagues who are manning the fort whilst I am away. All the best guys!

Then, last but not least my family. Mom and Dad you are always there got victories and down days. I wouldn't be able to do this without you. Thank you. To Gareth and Danielle, thank you for playing driver for me. You are gonna be part of a road cycling first with my strava segments!!

Thank you to Jason and the team at Ballistic bike trading for the opportunity to ride for you guys!! I know I am racing for a winning team on an awesome bike! And in Decca kit which is made in Belgium (a factory which we fully intend on visiting)! Thanks for welcoming me into the Bryton family.

I know I have forgotten some people but I have writers block so sorry, but thank you

Next post will be from the road!

Monday, 1 April 2013

A Big Weekend in the Saddle

So this weekend was the last chance I could really test my fitness before I leave for Belgium and to be honest, I have been petrified of my fitness and lack thereof so this weekend was a good test.

Starting on Friday, I joined Graham, Francis and Daniel at Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve for a 1 loop ride. We ended up doing a really really nice ride around the reserve and I felt good - matching the attacks from the guys and ending the ride feeling I could have done more. Good sign. I had dinner plans so as tempting as a 2nd lap was, I needed to get in the kitchen and cook!

Saturday's ride was also a fairly short ride (80km) with the guys but the boys were feeling fresh and we did a lot of attacking so it was by no means an easy ride!! After leaving the guys, I went and found a few more hills and then enjoyed my afternoon of chilling and just being a human. Sunday, I took the day off to chill with friends and just had fun.

Then came Monday. The big test. I joined up with a friend who occasionally rides with me (Russell) and a Club Bryton USN rider from Heidelburg (Arno) and the 3 of us set off into the hills of Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve for a 2 lap extravaganza of fun. The wind hit us and did not relent but we fought on like fierce warriors and we kept going on. My Ghost and I cruised up the hills and I felt strong. Arno and I did the extra loop and whilst on it we found a poor triathlete with gear issues so we stopped and assisted before continuing up the next hill and to where Russell was waiting for us. The next bit was rather uneventful with us passing a few others who had issues with their bikes (honestly think people were just hiding from that crazy wind). At the end of the loop I was feeling stronger than when I had when I started so after a bit of cold drink some chocolate and bottle refills, Arno and I set out on lap 2 whilst Russell loaded his bike and got ready to follow us for the lap. To make it fair on Arno who was on an mtb, I decided to slow myself down and ride a bit in the big chainring. Was kinda fun messing with my legs that way. We got over hill 1 successfully and a certain hill which scares me (where it was reported to me last year that someone was told to go down the climb to push me cause I was so slow) approached and I thought it could be fun to try see how far I could get riding in the big ring. So up I went, legs in a touch of pain but it felt good!! I got up quite easily, grabbed a coke from the car and waited for Arno but slowly we realized there was a problem and then came the news from others: he had chain issues. I saddled up and went down to find him to find my new friend walking with his chain in his hand. At the top we loaded his bike on the bike rack and Russ decided he would ride with me for a while so he got his bike off and got ready to ride. The next bit is kinda flat so we attacked each other a bit and had some fun. Fortunately the wind had also calmed down a bit so we were able to attack the downhills a bit more so that was awesome. Then came the climbing again and I decided to muck about again and just stay in the big ring. Russ rode with me for a fair bit and in fact past where I thought he would ride and eventually got in the car to be my support. I was alone. Me, my bike and my bunny.

Riding alone is like therapy and is actually really hard cause there is no excuse to ride slow. So... I kept on torturing myself. The one hill is a meanie and I plodded up, Russ and Arno came up in the car and blocked the wind for a while and I was able to focus on my climbing whilst they chirped me about being a monster and being insane. It was SORE!! So, I attacked. Kinda dumb considering I was the only one riding at that stage and I know my car is faster than my legs. But, it felt great to attack my legs. The last hill came kinda fast and I kept my mission of big ring up and kept riding. The top came and I felt GREAT. Legs felt like they could go on for a bit longer although they were sore.

Was happy with my ride and with my fitness. So, after a week and a bit of being grumpy about my riding I finally felt good again and think I am ready for my big race.

So what was the difference? Well, think my body needed a bit of tlc which I gave it last week and now it is running on all cylinders!! This week I am going to klap a bit of idt interval work to fine tune the engine and then do a nice fun climbing ride Saturday before slowly easing off to just spin the legs and get them ready for the big race. Race day in 19 days so 1 week left of hard work before the hardest work ever: rest.

Oh and we got the visas so its just Forex and packing. I can finally smell the trip.