The "off-season" as defined by the Oxford dictionary - (noun) is a time of year when a particular activity, typically a sport, is not engaged in.
It's a slightly different definition than the one you'll find in the Liz Hatch dictionary. For me, it's a time to let loose! To drink those beers you didn't drink during season; to stay up late dancing with friends; to have dinners with family; to lay on the couch watching crappy TV; and to maybe take a holiday and still fit in a bit of work.
However, this year my off-season has been my absolute busiest, hands down, but the biggest news I have is an exclusive tidbit for Cyclingnews readers. I've signed a contract with a new team for 2010, and I will be racing for Lotto with Rochelle Gilmore amongst others.
I'm highly motivated, and with my new team being Belgian, it's a bit of a homecoming for me. I started racing in Belgium as an amateur - I loved the people and the country, so I could not be more excited. The roster has changed a little bit from last year but I can see they have added some great riders, and I am looking forward to racing with and learning from my new teammates. It will mean new challenges and different races from the past couple of years. They say a change is good sometimes.
But step back to the last time I dropped in to say "hi" to Cyclingnews. I started my off-season in Germany at EuroBike, the mother of all bike industry trade shows. I left there feeling like something the cat dragged in, but it was a really positive experience. I left with new contracts in hand, such as becoming one of Lazer Helmets' "factory athletes". I couldn't be happier to work with Sean van Waes, Peter Steenwegen and everyone else at Lazer. After that, I drove with a friend to Austria for a few days of relaxation. Austria was certainly one of the most memorable places I've been in my travels. I fell in love with the country...so beautiful. There are no words to describe what a wonderful place it is.
After leaving Austria, I returned to Italy and packed my bags for two short days in Antwerp for work and a little play. I'm always thrilled when I get a chance to go back to Belgium. For whatever reason, I always feel comfortable there. A quick flight back to Lucca gave me two days to pack my belongings back into my trusty rusty suitcases (which need replacing after this year), and then the great European exodus began. Trains, planes and automobiles, and I landed in Miami to spend some time with my family. This year, instead of going back to Northern California where I called home for two and half years I am basing myself out of South Florida. I know I'll be gone most of 2010 in Europe so being as close to my family for as long as possible is high on the priority list.
While recharging for a few days with my family, some easy bike rides with my dad followed by pints at the local pub were just what the doctor ordered before getting back on the plane to head to Las Vegas for InterBike. Now, I know plenty of people complain about Vegas, how much they hate the place, wish InterBike was held somewhere else, etc., but I love it. I look forward to Vegas and InterBike as it's a good opportunity to catch up with friends and sponsors you've missed for most of the year in a fairly relaxed environment. However, it is exhausting. I think I slept 10 hours in five days. Yikes! Time for a vacation.
This year, I took a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with my cousin Kelly. We met up in Mexico City and then flew the rest of the way there together. When we landed the skies were blue and clear, and the heat was welcoming us to do nothing else but lay by the pool. If only we had known ahead of time that wouldn't last... We woke up the second day to dark clouds hovering above and rain. Those lasted ended up lasting the entire trip thanks to Tropical Storm Patricia. Typically, it rains only 15 days a year in Cabo, so the streets were totally flooded. Downtown Cabo looked like Venice, we needed boats! Or a couple nice guys who didn't care about their shoes to shuttle us across the rushing water!
Cabo was not what we expected, but we had a great time together regardless and made plans to meet up in South Beach, Miami in a few weeks. I flew home to Florida for three days and then got on yet another plane and made the cross country trip to San Francisco, for four short days to film some footage of me on the bike for a project a friend of mine is working on. By this point, the travelling was becoming tiresome, so I was glad this would be my last trip for a few weeks. Time to get into the gym and start training for next year.
I cannot wait to dig into it. Wish me luck!