It seems like a life time ago that we (that’s the ‘royal we' i.e Stef) were packing the car and heading off for the first world cup of the season in Aigle, Switzerland. Ten days, eight countries and two races later we are on our way home to Oudenaarde. Having tasted local delicacies along the way I can say hand on heart my favourite food is still Italian. Not wanting to write a blog entirely about food, although one of my favourite subjects, I will include the odd incident which hasn't coincided with mealtime for those trying to diet.
Being a bike rider I do have to watch what I eat, however the quantity is rarely limited thanks to the training. So when Stef suggested we head to Italy to stay at the Mpire Cycling Centre with Jamie and Valentina for the week between the 2 races, I had my own Homer Simpson moment with piles of pasta and bruschetta pictures in my eyes! Fortunately I wasn't disappointed.
After the race in Aigle we re-packed the tardis, a.k.a. a Vauxhall Astra, much to the amazement of a few random Belgian supporters and remarks of all of that goes in there? Where do you sit? Before heading off to our Italian training base in Rimini.
Our first treat came when Stef cracked and had to take a toilet break at the first services in Italy where there was a Spizico pizza, heaven. It should be mentioned at this point that post race toilet breaks are considered a weakness on a long journey in our world. Having regularly done 5 or 6 hour stints with no breaks, a mere 2 hours is considered poor form. With the level of competitiveness in the car it’s pretty common to take this to a level of just below bladder infection before finally admitting defeat. Do not try this at home children…….it is an art form and only preformed by highly trained individuals and never before a race!
Jamie Burrow (our friend who we stayed with in Italy) is an English ex-pro road racer who rode for US-Postal before riding as team leader for Amore-Vita. Having lived in Italy for 15 years he is basically Italian with a London accent and a really nice bloke. Part of the reason, other than the food and the training, to go down there was to check out his new training camp centre and hotel in Riccioni. Despite telling us he was 'unfit' he still gave me and Ian a good battering up the hills, which there are a lot of, whilst showing us some of the most beautiful views of the region. The famous Novo Colli (9 hills) sportive is based in this region which we seemed to find by accident on a couple of rides.
It was great to be able to train in good weather and try new things like an 'aperetif'. Here we go back to the food, so soon you ask, well yes but wow it was good! After work in the evenings the Italians go to the local bar on their way home to meet friends or new people or just to chill, the same as any other country except with their alcoholic beverage there’s the most spectacular buffet free of charge and with no limitations (we tried to eat it all they just brought out more). It was truly amazey, an experience never to be missed if you ever find yourself in Italy at 6pm on a week night!
So from Italy we headed back up north, this time to the Czech Republic, for the 2nd World Cup in Plzen. Last year the boys had stayed in a 4 star hotel in the outskirts of town right next to the Pilsner Urquell factory. They spent the next 3 weeks going on about it on their return. I was not disappointed with our 2 bedroom suite for a ridiculously low price just 10minutes ride from the course.
The Czech Republic is quite a strange country, with lots of beautiful old buildings with dilapidated shoddy concrete tower blocks and the new department stores built in between. It seems in places that in order to smarten up the city they have tried to build new developments but forgotten to knock down the worst buildings next door. There really is an obvious wealth divide with locals either living in falling down huts or driving Porsches. It’s very bizarre, however the people are very cool and incredibly friendly.
Now we have a really busy week coming up with a night time race in Woerden tomorrow followed by Zonhoven Sunday and the infamous Koppenberg cross on Monday. There’s no rest for the wicked. Till then.