This not literal, obviously. It would be a little uncomfortable and lacking in certain things, living in a suitcase. However I have spent the time from my last blog pretty much on the road.
As most people would fall asleep if my blog described in detail everything from the last 6 weeks I will summarise for you. From my last blog I was in Baltimore. Well I won both days there, travelled up to Vermont, won there, then Rochester, won there, same old, then Gloucester where I won twice then flew home. Oh there was also an evening race somewhere in there, won that too. Then drove back to Belgium, raced Ruddervoorde, won that, drove to the Czech Republic, raced the World Cups, didn't win them damn it, drove back to Holland, raced there got 2nd and more cheese, then Koppenberg, 2nd again, then drove to Italy where I am now. Succinct enough?
At this point I want you all to take the time to pinpoint on a world map all those places so you can appreciate the local culture in the next stories I'll be telling you. I highly recommend Google, who it turns out covers 2/3rds of all internet searches (When in countries who dub their TV programs you end up watching a lot of documentaries on BBC world!).
So after our great experience in Baltimore we went on to New York with our good friend Mike Garrigan who had picked us up in his A-Team style van, also known as a paedophile van by most of the American public and Wezley by those that loved him like we did. Not only did Wezley have enough room for all our bikes and stuff but Mike had taken the middle row of seats out so me and Ian [Field] could totally relax in the back.
Three days in the New York area, including a trip to the Big Apple itself, and it was time to board Wezley again for the next leg of the trip to Vermont. Having driven for a few hours we decided it was time to stop for some food, only to find there were no services before our turn off, so we took our chances in a local village off the motorway (or freeway to my USA friends).
We set off down a little road in the middle of nowhere and this tiny little petrol station (gas stop) appeared in what can only be described as the desolated village from The Hills Have Eyes. It didn't have a toilet so me and Ian were sent to the village store that apparently had one. After about 100 metres we both chickened out as it was just too dark and scary, although we did think we would return to the van to find Mike and Stef's bodies massacred with their heads speared on the pump nozzles.
If it was a horror movie you would be shouting at the TV, "Don't separate you're safer as a group". Fortunately it was ok, although we did leave in a hurry after checking the van hadn't been infiltrated by any mad axe people.
Vermont was cool. I think it could best be described as ‘vegan'. Take your own interpretation from that but it was a cool, relaxed place and the race was fun in a beautiful spot on the edge of a lake. We only stayed a couple of days as straight after the race we hit the road again for a six-hour drive to Rochester for the next day's race. If that wasn't tough enough after Saturday's mud-fest, Rochester was on the side of a wacking great big hill and in 32°c heat. I've never fed in a 'cross race before so I did it every lap cause I could!
Our next stop and final destination of the trip was Gloucester. Once again we were staying in host housing, this time from a lovely couple called Dave and Christie, in another spectacular house on the coast road to Gloucester. We went to Salem in the hope of spying some witches but turns out they were busy and the town looks just like any other so just did another non-violent drive by.
At the race we got to hook up with Dave, the Kona mechanic and Barry, who was doing the race too. The crowd there was really enthusiastic and as always without prejudice so they cheered just as hard for me as their own which was very cool. That night we flew home arriving the next morning in England.
Back in Belgium I spent the first week with a bit of a glazed look until I finally came around enough to race in Ruddervoorde. I don't know how the American 'crossers do it all the time, just flying in for a race then back. It was for them that I had to get my arse in gear and win so the world can see the level of competition is high across the whole country. It's not just Compton and Nash, there is a whole heap of cyclo-cross talent in the races I did, biting at their muddy heals.
Next road trip for us was the Czech Republic. We had booked a place to stay for the week in between races just inside the Czech border. As much as the country has changed since joining the EU, the road network is still not always great so by being there we were able to train in Germany if needed.
The house was lovely and the local town in Germany was equally as lovely. It wasn't until the last training ride where me and Ian rode up to the village 800 metres away that we realised how nice our house was. It was very strange, just like this small village had been stopped in time, every road turned into a dirt track and there were just wild animals and people sitting on the streets next to houses that hadn't been touched since the early 1900s. Very bizarre.
After the Czech Republic we were back in Belgium for another week to race Nacht Van Woerden in Holland followed by the infamous Koppenberg cyclo-cross, which this year was disappointingly like a bumpy road race, although it still makes for great photos.
The next day I set off for Italy. The boys (Stef and Jamie) left directly from the Koppenberg 'cross to drive there so they'd be there ready to pick me up. We were based in a lovely house on the side of a hill down a tiny little steep road that I don't think Stef enjoyed riding up at the start of our ride. Having said that, during the 900 metres of climbing in 2 hours on a ‘flat' route he didn't complain once! I should say thanks here to Jamie's mum for putting up with us.
We are now down in Lucca for the European championships. Having ridden the course today I would say its going to be rather fast and furious with no much stopping. By the time you read this I will have finished in 8th place. From here we are off to Monaco for our Kona van to have a service ready to take it driving again. My next race will be Aspere-Gavere where I'll be looking to put right the mistakes I made last year.