So it's holiday and what does a bike rider do on holiday? Well, plenty of things if you are based in a foreign country and have a lot of people you 'promised' to visit in your home country on the three weeks you have free once a year. Although it never quite runs as smoothly as you want it to and you end up scheduling for a good month before hand (I have previously mentioned my slight...let’s call it...organised side) it’s always good to catch up with the real world.
As all good bike riders should, I started my time off the bike with a little bike race two days in at the indoor race in Hasselt. It's a really fun race so we couldn't not go plus Stef’s sister and family were out visiting us so it was good for their boys to see what 'auntie Helen' does without the usual distractions. Yes, I did say boys. Stef’s sister and her husband have three boys: a six year old, a four year old and a one year old.
When the Sporza commentator suggested that the Koppenberg cyclo-cross was 'too hard' for women he clearly hadn't factored in just how tough women are. Having to give birth and then look after three boys all under the age of six, I could only imagine that would easily make a little bike race a walk in the park...or a cow dung-covered hilly meadow in the Koppenberg’s case!
I'm pretty sure iPhones are a wonderful invention, however I don't like them. More specifically, I dislike the application where you can press random buttons to create repetitive noises such as ‘no way’, or ‘shut up’, or my particular favourite ‘bingooooo’. Whoever invented the application clearly hates children and feels people who decide to have them should suffer the consequences.
I don't have children, however I still had the pleasure of being woken up at 7:30 a.m. every morning by the b...b...b...bingooo button under my adorable nephew's little fingers for the entire week. Lack of sleep aside we did have a really fun week with visits to the aqua park, atomium, a million parks and football grounds and plenty of panokoeken before we headed back to the motherland a few well-rested days later.
Back in England we had a few publicity things planned. First off was at Look Mum No Hands, a really cool cafe in central London. It’s a bike cafe where you can have your bike fixed while you eat/drink and look at arty bike things.
Last week we had a specific night for me and Ian Field (my housemate). It was really interesting to chat to people who love 'cross as much as we do and we raised over 400 pounds for World Bike Relief from a raffle and eBay auction of prizes donated by our very generous sponsors. Everyone seemed to have a good night. It’s always good to just hang out not having to think about tomorrow's training and everything that goes with that such as what you have for dinner and when you go to sleep. Plus, I was able to wear my new birthday shoes which were stunning.
The next day we headed off to Norfolk, where my parents live, for my 30th birthday party and another bike ride. This time the ride was to publicise Black Bikes, a very cool bike shop in Sheringham run by my brother. Despite the slight drizzle 25 people turned out for the 50km ride, although the bribery of cake and tea at the end may have countered the weather. Thankfully, being on holiday I was able to try all of the cakes on offer alongside copious amounts of coffee completely guilt-free.
When I was kid we used to go on holiday all the time in VW camper vans. I remember they were massive and there was always so much room to run around. I realise now size is purely a perception as we had to stay in my parents' camper which turns out is smaller than a child’s bed. The only upside being with the temperature dropping just below zero each night the close proximity kept us warm!
Another great ‘Saunders’ (that’s my maiden name BTW) tradition was that my poor dad had to make me a birthday cake in the shape of whatever I requested every year. Potentially the best cake ever made was the tiger head while the fairy castle finishes a close second. This year, after cake decorating semi-retirement, dad was re-employed by yours truly to create a Ratatouille (from the Disney movie) and Harry cat (my mascot) cake back in January. I thought having given him time to create the masterpiece it would be spectacular. I was not disappointed although a little freaked out when he had taken the cat's body and the rat's head to create a sweet and sticky mush of calories. It was truly amazing and tasted like heaven. Even my brother’s children found it so sweet they couldn't eat a full piece.
While in Norfolk we visited the dinosaur park. Obviously this was purely for my nephew and nieces' benefit. As unbelievable as it may sound Norfolk still has dinosaurs although now they are all kept in captivity for their own safety! We spent hours running around in the woods with the dinosaurs and the neanderthals (locals) and even managed a game of crazy dino golf before we had to leave.
The highlight of the trip by far was racing my brother to the top slide of the life size Dicraeosaurus (yes I Googled its name) with my little niece Millie shouting 'come on auntie Helen there’s loads of room' and my brother wedged against the smallest of the 4 ladders in the legs.
Now we are back to civilisation (down south) at Stef’s parents' house (and real beds) for the rest of the week before heading off to Italy to start training and being a bike rider again. They live near Hitchin so I've had my hair cut, teeth pulled out and eyes tested all in the town. Turns out the manager of the hairdresser's has eight Konas and keeps his body armour at work for inspiration in the coat cupboard. The dentist has done the Cape Argus and my optician rides a Kona to the pub. Genius.
I've still got some friends to visit and being close to the previously mentioned nephews I have a lot of auntie Helen duties to carry out including building a Lego castle so I will be busy. My road season starts on the 24th of April and already I can't wait to start racing again, sad as that may seem.
It feels good to really want to get back on the bike although some of the desire may come from the anticipated sunshine in Riccione. I promise to update throughout the summer with tales from the Horizon Fitness road team as when you put together 12 girls in a team in a foreign country there’s always carnage.