Mary and I are currently near the end of a month-long RV expedition in Europe. Our travels on this go round will include passes through Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland. We crafted this trip around attending the final two races of the World Cup series with a primary goal of competing in the Mountain Bike World Championships that will take place on September 3. Mary and I are both honored to be representing our country in another World Champs, this one taking place in Champery, Switzerland, on a decidedly technical mountain bike course - something we have been looking forward to for a good while.
We feel very lucky to be up to making such an ambitious trip so recently after Mary was in the grips of Lyme disease. Having brushed up on all the Lyme disease literature that we could get our hands on in the past weeks, we were scared s###less and prepared for the worst. Thankfully a host of determined efforts made for a quick/accurate diagnosis that removed all the guess work out of why Mary was feeling so terrible for the past few months and allowed us to take the necessary steps in getting her healthy.
Being an athlete and living a healthy life style seem to have been two of the main contributors in Mary's being able to battle the Lyme disease so efficiently - of course this is not to take away from the effectiveness of the six weeks of heavy antibiotics that she just finished plowing through. Our rest and recovery time, forced away from the racing action, was the most difficult part of our season on many levels. It was a big lesson in patience and a huge learning experience in general.
We are super thankful that Mary has regained her health and even be to the point where we are able to get back into the racing! Being sick did however leave a bit of a hole in the mid season training plan as was noted when returning to Europe and jumping back into the final two races of the World Cup series. Racing on antibiotics and without the proper preparation is not by any means the easy or rewarding way to get back into the swing of things. Although we feel that staying positive and making every effort to compete to the best of our ability is the proper way to get back into form for the long haul.
Our European travels have included reacquainting to RV living from our preferred European staging area in Igolstadt, Germany, up to the SRAM headquarters just north in Schweinfurt. Here we had the honor of previewing some of the latest technologies that SRAM is currently perfecting which will no doubt make a significant impact on the world of high performance mountain biking. We also had the pleasure of hitting the trails with some of SRAM's resident rippers for a demonstration of how well some of these prototype products are working out in the real world.
Our first race specific stop was World Cup #6 that took place at the fledgling venue in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. The highlight there was an outstanding course riddled with technical challenges and true mountain bike specific terrain. The Czech fans came out in force making this one of the most festive well attended venues we have seen in our travels on the World Cup circuit! The race for us was more about getting back into the swing of things rather than a chance for a great result and we were happy that things went as well as they did. Mary finishing a 35th and me a 65th was not an all time best but with this race finished in some semblance of success we felt cleared to go on to the next competition with the confidence that Mary is indeed capable and perhaps more happy than ever to race her bike!
Val di Sole, Italy and World Cup finals was the next stop, with only six days in between races we barely had time to recover, let alone train. The Val Di Sole course leaves no place to hide as far as fitness with the main feature being steep leg busting climbs. This venue could hardly be any soul mountain biker's favorite but it clearly stands as a worthy test of fitness. The Val di Sol area lacks rival for Alpine beauty with the impressive Stelvio National Park shadowing historic Italian Villages specializing in outdoor cuisine and espresso and all connected by fantastic bike paths - really hard to find fault here!
We spent the next week in all out RV style diving into the Alps north and west of Val Di Sole. We rolled the up some ridiculously scenic/ disturbingly small roads - really stuff that may not be all out prohibited to drive with such a large rig, but probably should be! We took the opportunity to take on some fantastic road training on some uber classics that we have watched the Grand Tour riders tackle year after year. We now have a better understanding of why the organizers choose these stunning routes and a greater appreciation for the difficulties of what our skinny tire brethren go through.
We made the best of what was a crowded August situation by staying away from the packed campgrounds while giving the fitness a (hopeful) bit of a boost by sleeping on the tops of mountain passes - the highest elevation we could find. Saying that these places are radical does little justice to the incredible reality - these nights are some of the jewels we will remember for sure. There were however more scary moments than I would like to admit to our RV rental friends. The prime example being socked in by a powerful snowstorm atop a 7000 foot pass that we were only just able to summit in perfect conditions the night before. Sometimes the best laid training plans can backfire as we ended up not doing much more than hiking around and building a snowman for training that day before following the last snow plow down of the day - still waiting to look back and laugh at that one!
Next up is the world championships, our highest priority race of the season though by no means the end of our racing for the year with cyclo-cross on the horizon and some other mountain bike events still on the radar as well. We are looking forward to catching up with many friends and competitors who make it from all corners of the globe for this prestigious event. It is always a mix of high emotion and expectations for the race itself but also a great chance to catch up with some remarkable people and set up exciting plans for future worldwide missions. A tremendous opportunity and a tremendous honor to be a part.
Mary and I have found ourselves traveling and living with an extra undeniable appreciation for what have. This renewed perspective comes form a realization of how lucky we are to have our health and to be able to be able to go about our business as usual - A good reminder for us to appreciate all we have and that if a situation is not right we often have the power to change it. We try and remember these things every day.
Wishing you the same!
M n M