Pack the bags for Portugal

Building form for British 'cross nats, remaining World Cups and Worlds

After the disappointment of crashing in the GVA Trofee race in Loenhout on the first lap whilst at the front of the race I've made a conscious decision to not do this in my remaining races.

Thankfully the Portuguese government has been very helpful in providing the perfect opportunity for me to improve both my reaction time and swerving abilities while out training here. They have clearly freshly imported packs of wild rabid dogs to the countryside just for my benefit every day. So beware, people, if a dog gets loose on a course in the near future I'm sorted!

At this point I should also mention my slight 'spatial awareness issues'. Spatial awareness is basically your mind knowing where body parts are and where to place them next so not to fall over/bump into/drop things. Somehow when standing in line to get this useful skill, I must have got bored and moved on because my brain is something very special. I spend my life walking into doorways instead of through them and poor Stef is always getting clipped by my lack of body awareness. This issue doesn't help me when avoiding the dogs, not one bit.

The perfect example of this is a training session in Averbode, near where I used to live. There is a massive man-made beach with sand dunes at the edge. It's completely open and a huge space. Stef told me to ride down the dune, jump off before the one signpost in a 200m space, run around it, jump back on and sprint up the dune. A simple task. I rode down the dune, jumped off and ran around the sign post. Unfortunately I ran straight into the signpost, clipping it with the front of my saddle, before ricocheting backwards. I did think I might have got away with it until I looked up at the top of the dunes and the boys were lying on the ground rolling around with hysteria.

So as you may have seen, I am currently in Portugal training. No, I'm not rich and having chosen this career path, as a women I don't imagine I ever will be (if only I was good at tennis). However, there is an amazing discount holiday place in the UK called 'Teletext Holidays'. Peter Kay, the British comedian, did a very funny sketch about Teletext in his 'Top of the Tower’ DVD, which is so real it’s hilarious.

When I was a kid you used to have to sit through the entire continuous roll of holidays on the TV text, never quite finding the pause button in time to write down the phone number when you found the holiday you wanted. Fortunately, with modern technology they are now on the web and the process is made simple and still ridiculously cheap. So I saved up some prize money, studied locations, booked it, packed and...off.

Having stayed in a similar place last year, and with daily checking of the weather forecast, I roughly knew that it would be good training with mostly dry days, no snow and above 15 degree Celsius temperature. I wasn't quite expecting the 18 degree Celsius with clear sunny skies we have had nearly everyday. It makes a massive difference to be able to actually do the full week's training without the weather deciding you have to use a turbo. Although with the training Stef sets me sometimes I'm grateful for the bad weather, ha ha!

Apart from the training, what other exciting things can I tell you about Portugal? Well there are a lot of dirt roads, a bit like Canada, but they have bends in them. As a 'tourist' I'm pretty careful to check the map before I go out. However, on our first day it appeared the locals aren't quite so careful. Recent storms have left water levels really high, and previously crossable trickles of water have turned into torrents of water. Glad it wasn't me that got a car stuck in it, and also glad we had a camera with us to catch the moment on film.

The coast is really pretty and there are a few castles around. The countryside is beautiful and really unique. I think the hills were either made by giant moles in the Jurassic period or a small boy designing Portugal based on the 'set terrain' function on Sim City 2000. Not being a geologist I'm not sure if one of my two theories stands any scientific reasoning but I do believe that the giant mole theory is the most logical.

We get back to England on Thursday and have the national championships on Sunday in Derby. It’s always good to race back in England and I can't wait. The championships are a really important race, and I'm always very proud to wear the jersey. It’s been an honour to have it on my shoulders for the last five years and fingers crossed that’s where it’s staying. I'm in good shape, and building really well towards the big goals of the season which are the two World Cups that follow nationals then the world championships. So a pretty important and hectic time, really, but a good block of top-level racing.

‘til next time

Helen

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