Mary and I had the challenging yet awesome opportunity to spend three weeks in the RV mobile and without the stress of World Cup obligations in southern Europe. After the prior three weeks spent contesting the opening rounds of the World Cup races, with professional trucker type mileage in between, we were tempted to head to some remote beach to relax, maybe catch a few waves and just take it easy... . Instead we pointed the RV in the direction of the highest point we could find to begin some elevation training in order to arrive at our best form for the next World Cup in Andorra.
Although 6,000 feet is really not that high, we knew that racing in the Alpine conditions and elements was going to be an extra challenge, and we were ready to pull all the stops to prepare since this was an important race for which to be on form. We decided to leave Spain and make our first-ever trip to Portugal, eventually spending the better part of a week in the Serra da Estrela mountain range training on some radically small and unpopulated roads and driving up to the still snow-covered peak at night. We burned quite a bit of propane and some extra adrenaline with our late evening drives as the wet spring weather had us dealing with more snow and hail storms than star gazing at the top of these exposed gnarly peaks. There were some moments that made us question our tactics but were rewarded with some incredible mornings at the top of several mountains as well as what we felt was at least some benefit in the form of extra red blood cells thanks to our thin air sleeping efforts.
We can't say whether it is all together legal, frowned upon or what, but we managed to just " pull over" for the night at the highest places we could find without any more problem than just driving up some dark twisty road in a hail storm in a big boxy RV. We definitely don't recommend trying to elevation train in your vehicle as it initially made us pretty grumpy and cost us a lot of sleep. But we got pretty into it and eventually slept our way from central Portugal back across Spain while competing in two national level races along the way, and we didn't spend a night below 1600 meters. We would come down during the day to charge our computer, service the RV, stock up on supplies or find a place to pirate a wireless internet signal, and often return to our night-time roost. We'd also get in our training on the bike during the day.
The next weeks were dedication to high elevation sleeping, some arctic level leg soaks, parking lot yoga routines and living on the road as best as we could in an effort to arrive at what we hoped would be our best form on the bikes. We made our way back across Spain sticking to the high mountains and radical training opportunities north of Madrid, focusing on bigger road miles and trying to ignore the sweet dirt off chutes in an effort to better focus on pushing the pedals. We still managed to do a bit of fun mountain biking and sample some local wine and a few select wheels of exotic cheeses without straying too far off our dedicated race program.
The week before the world cup in Andorra we attended a race in the small Catalonian town of Sant Lorenc de Morunys an outpost of civilization in the middle of the Vall di Lord, (quite possibly the most beautiful region of Spain we have yet to encounter)! Unfortunately race day turned out to be an absolute washout rain had stalked us for our entire trip offering us more than our share of wet rides and drives but the weather here on race day was bordering on biblical. It was the type of race where you ride your hardest, but keep on getting colder and eventually loose contact with your senses as you go. Ouch!
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