Getting back into the swing of racing in Europe was smooth from the get go. Good thing since the trans-Atlantic flight from the location of our US National Championships, in Granby, Colorado, to Munich, Germany, followed by a 600km drive to make it to Champery, Switzerland, in time for the following weekend's World Cup was a tall order.
Along the way to break up the travel, we made the decision to spend a rejuvinating 24 hours bathing in Boston's oxygen rich air at the place of our friends from Seven Cycles. The next leg brought a blisfully underbooked overnight flight to Munich in which we were somehow able to convince the airline agent that our bike bags contained nothing more than normal oversize (and therefore not to be charged extra for) luggage. We boarded feeling lucky and the luck continued as we managed to acquire a full row of seats each and were able to spend the better part of the journey almost as horizontal as the big wigs in first class!
Off the plane, the heat wave engulfed us as it had all of the Munich area for the past weeks and really helped to bring out the uncomfortable side of the jetlag. We arrived for our RV rental and found that our friend Michael, owner of www.rv-rental-germany.com, was having a tough time keeping the RVs on the road. The latest issue concerning the couple that was returnig the rig that was to be ours. They had managed to smash a significant hole in the passenger side making what was supposed to be a quick turnover into a day of waiting for repairs.
The drive to Champery (Switzerland) for the World Cup brought some self-inflicted craziness as we somehow thought it would be smart to make our way on backroads rather than the highway that was under construction. We slowly picked our way through the Bavarian countryside past a sea of lush green trees planted in tidy rows, acres of hops and kilometers of produce tended by impressive modern farm implements and tractors often on the roads in greater numbers than cars. On and on ... through clean and orderly towns, ancient churches, and castles, all seemingly built to last and impressively retaining their structure and charm through hundreds of years of weather and use. All in all, probably the type of scenery that people in Germany trip over daily but for us it felt like a real cultural experience.
The Champery World Cup was all we could have hoped for - a beautiful venue, great camping and a race course ranking amongst the best we have had the pleasure to compete on. The added bonus was the rain coming at just the right time for the whole place to remain a tacky perfection riddled with complicated roots and rocks for race day.
Mary and I both had pretty solid rides. I ended up 42nd with lap times more on the mark for a top 30. Unfortunately in true World Cup fashion, I found it all too easy to lose a lot of time in the 180-man rush for the first singletrack. The extremely technical course really made a huge difference for me in being competitive with the top guys. Mary really rode well as she has continued to throughout the majority of the season, taking on more of the course in the saddle than most of the top women. She finished a tight 12th just a minute or so out of a top six and only four minutes off the win.
We only managed enough time in Champery to get in a recovery spin, a load of laundry and to study our atlas to figure another "scenic route" over the Swiss and Italian Alps that would keep us off the major highways and give us the chance to check out some untrodden territory across what looked to be some of the more breathtaking paved topography in the world.
This three-day journey turned out to be a bit more epic than we had intended. On the good side, we crossed three major and fantastic passes riddled with sections of roads that made us laugh out loud (or cringe) with the absurdity of the switchbacks, narrowness or sheer beauty of the landscape. On the negative, tunnels built for horse carts and towns with one way streets with two-way traffic forced our barely moving RV within inches of houses, pedstrians, bridges - often with Mary's head out the window measuring the room that I had to the guard rail in inches.
I even managed to tap the driver side mirror and fold it flat a couple of times against oncoming traffic. For sure a destination route for motorcycles and bicycles... but these roads should NEVER be driven in any sort of larger sized vehicle for damn sure!
We made it to Val di Sole in Italy very happy to not have any more dents in the RV than when we started. Town was going off in a typical triple World Cup venue fashion and finding the campgrounds way too full of families out on a summer vacation and World Cup racers and fans we opted for a flat spot down by a secluded section of river and parked it for the weekend as it seems you are able to do without persecution across greater Italy. We found the cross country course in Val Di Sole to be much improved over the World Championships course that we had competed on in 2008. The major obstacle here was the climbing for sure in the form of a relentless barrage of short, super steep climbs that added up to make it one of the most muscularly challenging courses we have yet to compete on this year.
Race day came and went in a dusty plume leaving Mary and I feeling like we had good rides but were both less than satisfied with our results in what was our final opportunity at a European World Cup for the season. I would argue that Mary was great with another 12th place and being just three minutes off the win, it seems that she is well within range to find this type of time over the next weeks as we get into the all important finale of our cross country season.
I finished the same as my plate number - 82nd, not great but not so bad and a testament to really needing a good start position to have a good result when the field sizes are so big. We never really seem to be altogether satisfied with results but rather than a negative this seems to be a good thing, like fuel for the fire searching for that personal satisfaction keeps us coming back for more.
We scheduled a tight timeline for our return to the states in order to have a week at home to decompress, get in some training and to sort out the logistics and equipment for the final round of cross country racing for 2010.
Even though we had our work cut out for us prepping up our camp trailer that had endured a winter as a mold spore petri dish community and mouse hotel, Mary and I managed some fun and relaxation aside while back on the east coast.
At the top of the list were a few early morning paddle board sessions and a trip out with my dad to catch what turned out to be a dinner of sea bass and scup for the cookout that Mary had planned for some of our closest island friends and family. Its amazing how a week at home can seem like longer, though it still went way faster than we would have liked it to.
Before we knew what happened, we were headed out the driveway once again skimming trees with our 46-foot van and RV trailer, headed to the ferry for the first step of a four-week road trip including a Canada Cup in Bromont, a week of dedicated training in the Green Mountains of Vermont, the World Cup finals in Windham, New York and on to Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec for the World Championships. It feels good to not get on a plane.
Hope your summer continues to roll on smoothly!
Mike and Mary