My summer, defined by season rather than the weather, has been filled with exciting things. When I stop racing in a muddy field I take up my second love, road racing and change from hanging out with boys to gossiping with girls instead (not at all stereotypical, honest). In the summer I end up latching myself on to the Matrix Fitness girls, a UK women's team run by the ever so versatile husband. I carry out a mentor role for the young riders and hopefully help them follow a good path to professional racing.
Early in the year we had a holiday in Malta (no bikes) swiftly followed by a three-week training camp in Limoux (pain) followed by spending a few months in England for the Johnson Health tech criterium series and few other random races.
It’s really fun to hang out with girls for a change and this year they were blessed with the presence of the lovely Gabby Day. If you have never met Gabby Day you are missing a treat. Not only is she lovely she has the very best stories in the world, which she just drops into conversation as if they happen to everyone every day; like falling down a man hole cover, for example.
So not to encroach on Stef's parents house all summer we spent a lot of time staying with my brother, Greg in sunny Sheringham, Norfolk. He lives with his girlfriend, Kay who has a slight phobia to eating anything outside of the 'yellow' food group. As they both work full time we took on the cooking duties. Approximately two meals into our stay, and Greg labeled me a one women vegetable campaigner as he had never eaten so much "green stuff" in his adult life. Kay held out for about a week before hunger finally got the better of her and she allowed green and red into her diet. They both said they enjoyed us being there, but that’s easy to say once we have left ha ha.
We also spent a week living in an actual real life castle. It was built in 1615 and was the last fortified dwelling to be built on the Scottish border. Short history lesson: Scotland and England hated each other, we may have occupied them and done mean things so their hatred was fair enough. So we built a wall, which didn’t really work as each country just jumped over it and stole and broke stuff for a few hundred years. Thus leading to lots of castles being built (none of the above is accurate in any way). This one had a spiral staircase made the other way because the defending knight was left handed. Fascinating fact for you right there, which actually is accurate.
Anyway the castle was awesome except there was no internet or telephone reception; Great for team building but not so great for eight under-21 year olds who are actually addicted to their mobiles/internet/texting/boyfriends. This did lead to some pretty interesting/dangerous window leaning antics to get a reception.
To keep the adults entertained there was a full size snooker table (Stef annihilated me every game) and a ping pong table. Which leads neatly onto the question if it’s ping pong from one end, is it pong ping from the other?! Turns out Harriet, one of the girls on Stef's team, was actually a table tennis ninja in a previous life. I didn’t win many of those games either.
Shortly after the castle we went out to Brittany for the Tour De Bretagne Feminine, in a very pretty touristy region of France. I say it's pretty, but while racing you mostly see blood. It was crazy hot (finally) but a really fun event and great to spend more time with the girls. A particular highlight being the team conversation on things you should worry about more than osteoporosis: you probably had to be there.
Tindley, another girl on the team, gets very excitable before bikes races and with this being her first ever UCI race she was 'stressy' to say the least. On day two somebody masking tapped up her bike levers, water bottle, crank, jersey to her chair and shoes. It was a plan to give her something to do until the race start and a kind of distraction technique. She saw the funny side ... eventually.
The rest of the season sped past as always. I won a race, went on the cycle show wearing a funny t-shirt, and waved at the queen while lapping past Buckingham palace at an evening criterium.
Now I am in the French Alps for some altitude training for the ever looming 'cross season. Once again I will be starting in my second home, America and I am beyond excited although it only seemed like yesterday that the last season was ending. You know you love cross when you get pre-race nerves just booking the hotels! Promise to update soon.