After three months at my home away from home in Colorado, it has come time to move on to my second base for the season in Freiburg in the south of Germany near the border of Switzerland.
My first week was spent in LA, but since then I have spent plenty of time acclimatising to altitude, as most of the races this year have been above 8000 feet. The highest point in Australia is only a bit over 6000 feet, so racing at altitude is a bit of a shock to the system for someone coming from Sydney.
Staying with everyone from SRM has been fantastic; Uli has made it feel like a home away from home, which makes such a difference. Uli is such a great guy and not surprisingly he has many good friends always stopping by to say hi or stay for dinner. Being part of a home sure beats four months of building up bikes in hotel rooms. We even had a pet for a while - well, we had a cute little deer that came and spent a few hours in the backyard.
Aside from all the great people, the riding in Colorado is incredible. Some of the rides take you along the sweetest singletrack through beautiful scenery. It's also nice to not always be looking out for snakes like riding back in Australia. One thing I have learnt though is that if you are out on a long ride that goes into the afternoon, then you can expect to get caught in some afternoon showers. They seem to be quite common; an arid hot morning then a blast of rain, with some hail if you're lucky.
There were a lot of great times in the Springs, but one of the more special moments was when Leslie and everyone from SRM threw a surprise party for my birthday. When you're on the road it's very sweet when people make you feel so welcome. Then the next day I woke up to find a surprise waiting...overnight they had 'Pimped My Ride'. So when I went downstairs, my first glimpse was of my super light DT Swiss wheels weighed down with lots of brightly coloured spokey dokeys, not to mention the sparkly streamers, bell and everything else. The streamers were a bit much, but that day I kept the wheels as they were when I went out training. It was also nice that everyone came around for a farewell dinner on my last night in Colorado. It was such a special send off and I'll miss everyone and all the fun trails.
Then it was back on the road for my flights to Europe. I knew something was strange when I checked in at the airport in Colorado Springs. The check in guy told me he could only print one of my three tickets, but considering he initially didn't believe that you could travel with a bike box, I put it down to him being new on the job.
Four hours later when I arrived in Chicago things started to become much clearer. When I went back up to the check in, the first thing I saw were hundreds of sandwiches, drinks and biscuits on trolleys, then I saw all of the people. It turns out British Airways had just gone on strike and 70,000 people around the world were currently stuck. So in transit, with necessary patience and no luggage, I waited along with everyone else. I soon realised it could be days before it was resolved so I decided to be extremely flexible and take any available flight with any other airline to anywhere in Europe. The queues were ridiculously long so I was given literally 30 seconds to decide if I wanted to take a flight headed to Kuwait. It was refueling in Geneva, Switzerland so I could hop off there if I wanted.
It was all extremely rushed; it was getting late in the night and this was the last flight out of Chicago. It was either this or chance my luck in Chicago with no luggage. I have to be honest and say I was a bit nervous when I saw police standing onboard next to the airline staff who were welcoming passengers - however it was actually a very smooth flight. When I finally arrived in Geneva it was still busy with queues of people trying to reroute their flights on other airlines, so I opted for a rental car and started the long drive. I ended up with a pretty fast car and it might have been fun had I not been so tired, but I did eventually arrive safely in Germany. Watching the news later I realised it was definitely a good idea that I had taken that flight when I did, because it would have been a lot of time spent bike-less in a hotel.
So I am now getting settled into Freiburg. I'm about to head out on my bike and I can't wait. It's incredibly green and the riding looks like it will be fantastic, but again with the rain...all of this rain is making the drought back in Australia seem a distant memory. My SRM team is based here and so I think our team manager Marc Hanisch has many rides planned.
Until next time, have fun on your bike,