After a thoroughly enjoyable off-season of 10 days in bed, a chest x-ray for suspected pneumonia, followed by the world’s strongest antibiotics, three weeks had flown by and at the end of March it was time to get back on the bike.
I did also get to use a voucher I won at Valkenburg world cup for an overnight stay and two spa days, in the fancy thermal hotel at the top of Valkenburg. It was a really lovely place and the restaurant was awesome. Rather than repeat our relaxation for a second day, we decided we’d spend the second day exploring the town instead, which included getting to see the caves underneath the Cauberg and they were really something special. At Christmas time they have a market in the 72kms of tunnels. One day I will definitely visit this place at Christmas.
The only problem with starting your base training when you live in Belgium is basically, that you live in Belgium. Don’t get me wrong I love where I live it’s just that march is possibly the worst month of the year here. There is sunshine, however it’s covered in a fine layer of misty grey cloud. This gorgeous (I'm lying), murky grey damp chilly layer of cloudy grossness (it's a word, honestly) and epic winds was exactly under what I started back training after my off-season and thoroughly enjoyable it was too! (Again, I'm lying).
I'm pretty sure anyone who watched any of the spring Classics can actually attest to the weather. It turns out rain only falls sideways in this country, who knew?
A lot of people visit the country for very short periods and experience the one glorious day we have each week and never believe the rest of us when we tell the epic weather stories. This year however the Flanders sportif riders got the full experience first hand. I’ve never actually been in Oudenaarde at the time of the tour of Flanders until this year, and it gets a bit crazy. We normally pack our bags and leave town but with Stef’s team in the race this year, we got the effect of Flanders fever. With friends also staying over, who had friends meeting them at our house, our street became the 'British' car park. I've never heard so much English spoken in the Belgian supermarkets and never before have so many people had to leave their shopping, walk to a cash point and return to pay for their food as only Belgian cards work there. I know it’s 2015, but it’s a real thing here. I must admit though I did take a little too much delight in winding up our friends before they left about how cold and wet and grim their day was going to be. I was right but they enjoyed it all the same.
After two weeks of Belgian weather, and motivation at an all time low, it was time to go to one of the most undiscovered regions of France, Limoux. It’s really so beautiful there with so much varied terrain, mountains, castles, gorges, warm weather and days and days of glorious sunshine. It’s perfect. If you follow me on twitter you will have seen my cracking hand tan lines photo. With 5-6hrs each day, I found more roads than I even knew existed and was in absolute heaven. I can not be alone in planning a ride based on looking at a map and thinking wow that’s a really wiggly road I want to go there. I occasionally got lost and ended up making Baz and Mel’s four-hour ride nearer five and a half but they forgave me......eventually. Although, I swear when Mel 'accidently' snotted on my lever that there was an underlying tone of revenge.
So what do you do on camp other than ride? Well, eat, and recover. For me that’s TV time with my feet up. Do I admit now that I MAY have shed a tear when Jim died and Melinda was trying to deal with losing him in Ghost Whisperer? Should I also admit at this point that I was so unbelievably disappointed in the end of season three of Veronica Mars, and that I actually paid £9.99 for the Veronica Mars movie on iTunes whilst here training? As you may be able to tell suggestions for netflix series are always welcome.
I love this place so much that Stef and I have bought a house down here from which we plan to run cyclo-cross training camps in the near future. I really want to share this amazing place with everyone. So watch this space.
After a brief return to Belgium, I am off to England for a week before flying back to my beloved Limoux. With the Aviva Women’s tour of Britain being a month later this year than last I have a great opportunity to be fit for it and hopefully able to throw down some 'Wyman' moves. You will have to come cheer me on to see what they are. (Disclaimer: I believe this is exciting, I can not determine in advance whether others feel the same). Promise to report back soon.