I am back home to Boulder now. Home is relative though; ask any bike racer how quickly hotel or host-house becomes home. Maybe it’s our sub-conscious trying to make us feel at home and comfortable in foreign places, but rarely do I find myself saying “I’m headed back to hotel”. Where I lay my head at night is equivalent to home.
My 6-weeks didn’t go according to plan. Seems my plans are as ever-changing as my homes. After Offenburg I went to Belgium for about a week, the plan being to scope out a Belgian home for the winter and to race 2 UCI MTB races, Averbode and Malmedy. Unfortunately my knee continued to haggle me and I wasn’t ready to race these. However, Brugge and Ghent were beckoning my visit, neither of which I had seen since coming to Belgium in the winters. Oudenaarde seems to be booming with ‘cross riders and also holds the infamous Koppenberg and Kluisberg and that area is really grabbing my attention for the winter. Tim and Jos come out of hibernation in the summer, all happy and tan and they took me on mini-rehab rides. Post-ride was icing and a Tim Harris mustard poultice concoction. I believed in it. But you didn’t hear it here…I don’t think it worked.
Back to the UK to see the best cycling doc in the UK, Doc Roger Palfreeman about my knee. He got me on track with rehab and the knee improved little by little each day. However, by the time I was packing my Mojo for Italy in the hope of racing Marathon Worlds I had only reached a ride of a little over an hour. While the knee was improving day by day and I was able to ride pain free more minutes each day, it was clear that racing 5 hours would be the bad sort of pain to cause further damage. With Nationals coming up in July and a big ‘cross season planned Simon and I decided to pull my name off the start list. All was not lost though; how many times have I been taping my bars, fidgeting with saddle height and tightening new bolts before I can warm-up for CrossVegas? I’m lucky Ibis sent the Hakkalugi ‘cross frame over and we got that all dialed – it fits perfect and is a wicked little rocket.
It was difficult jet-setting to see the race begin and end without being in it. But I also know there are worse places to be unable to race than Italy! Simon and Dan had been to the Venice and Dolomite area the year prior for Maratona dles Dolomites, so I was sure to have a good tour guide! Simon and I flew into Venice and spent a day there which was unreal pretty. Luckily I hadn’t seen the Venetian in Vegas to spoil my expectations! I learned that a gondola is a boat in Italy, while it is a ski lift in Vermont. The clock towers, paintings, cathedrals, quaint twitchels and bridges seemed endless but each was a treat to the eye in it’s own unique way and begged me to stop for a photo. It was a good place for retail therapy, cappuccinos, gelato and pizza too!
From Venice we ventured onward to the Dolomites, stopping first at Tre Cime di Lavaredo in the Sexten Dolomites. This used to be the border between Italy and Austria, so the area continues to be German-speaking. It was a short hike to see the 3 peaks. We timed our trip perfectly as within 10 minutes of finishing our walk it began to hail. I felt sorry for the climbers we saw on the peaks. The weather moved in wicked fast and fortunately for us, we were able to duck into the café for a hot chocolate…not the case for clinging to a rock face.
About 40km from Tre Cime is a small village called Arabba in the Veneto region of Italy. Close by are many of the prized climbs of the Giro, including the Giau and Marmolada, and even a Fausto Coppi memorial on the Pordoi pass. Coming from the heart of Arabba, the Pordoi pass is an 8km stretch of 33 switchbacks, something proper!! Spent a couple days in Arabba drinking good coffee and eating amazing food. But we couldn’t find coconut gelato in Arabba so we moved onward to Montebelluna, where Marathon Worlds were taking place. Before indulging in gelato we had an amazing tour of Selle Royal and I was able to see how my Fizik Antares saddle is really made. Hand-made with love and attention; it gave me a new appreciation of the saddle I choose.
Montebelluna was not jagged peaks and insane passes in every which direction so I was able to spend a bit of time on my bike. This was bittersweet because finally my knee was improving, but the course looked like a prize…a prize I couldn’t make my own. I had to keep things in check; graduating to a 2hr pain-free ride would not equate to a 5 hour race at the end of the week. Keep the chin up, bask in the sun, enjoy some sight-seeing away from staring at numbers and the hotel ceiling with my feet up! Yes, it was painful to be in such amazing country with the Crankbrothers and Ibis tools to shred, but that little frustration fire was just building and building.
Life very rarely goes "to plan" so it becomes more about making the best of every situation, whether along the planned path or off-route. In the last week my knee has improved in strides and my competition hunger is ripe! Since moving to Colorado I have raced Firecracker 50 in Breckenridge every year. This race is amazing, the promoter Jeff Wescott has turned it into something massive, and it shows as the field limit of 750 riders fills up within hours of the registration opening. I’m lucky to have a spot and am very much looking forward to being on a start line again! It will be a good test of my knee, and should be a good indication of late summer form leading to Nationals in Sun Valley. Hopefully the next race report you read will be a goodun.