Monday, May 11, 2009

Wow, so here I am here in Europe all of a sudden. The past moth has been a completely insane. I have been racing almost every weekend, and struggling to get unpacked before repacking, find time to study and train. I have been tutoring chemistry, physics and stats students on top of all that. I made it though somehow, and I think I managed to come out of it strong and pretty fit for this trip, and I managed to pack up just about everything I needed too, I am impressed with myself, as egocentrical as that might sound.
But anyways I found my way to Kirchzarten, Germany, after 40 some-odd hours of travel. A little village with the stereotypical uber narrow roads that wind up the hills to obscure little villages that somehow stick to the steep hillsides, and high passes over which roads disappear into the depths of the next valley and its isolation. This place is incredible. The trails wind through the Black Forest, totally disorienting me, until I am totally convinced I am lost and which time I always pop out onto something very familiar, and close to our home here in this place. I am surrounded pretty much 360 degrees by the Black Forest and its high ridge lines (the sky is bigger in montana). Today we went out for a recovery ride after racing all weekend (which I will get to) and climbed for 1:30, on one of those little switch-backing roads to nowhere. We rode essentially to the top of the valley, and made it pretty much to the snow line. The ride down was just crazy fast, we were moving at 40 mph easily in places, just bouncing down this old single-track sheepherders trail though open fields and ducking into deep forested gullies. Just out of this world.
So the racing is stupid fast, thats the only way to describe it. But at the same time, just the most fun, masochistic stuff I have ever done. Saturday we drove down into Switzerland (a short 30 min drive) and raced the Swiss Bike Racer Cup in Solothurn. We arrived around 1:15 and raced at 4, so in the meantime we planned on checking out the course. Robbie Squire, Trevor Downing and I went out, got totally lost because of poor directions by the swiss (actually it was our lack of ability to convey a simple question, which I will talk about in a few). So it should have taken us about 20 min to do a lap, but in the midst of the womens race happening and getting lost and going for a few short hikes, we showed back up at the car after an hour with everyone getting worried about us. We got yelled at by a bunch of swiss people and had plenty of fingers shaken at us because we were on course when the women were racing. 
We got to the starting line, I had a good warmup, so I was feeling confident that I might finally be able to put together a good race this year. I pinned it hard for about 10 minutes, and was racing with Tad Elliot and Mitch Hoke in the upper 1/2 of the field (this is a field that has multiple current and former olympic and world champions in it, and a lots of guys who can place top ten in the world on any given day), so I was stoked. But with my luck this year of course things couldn't last. I started getting stomach cramps. I had to slow down (a lot) and just kinda rode tempo for while because I was about to boot. I eventually got lapped by the leaders (Nino Schruter), I think it was on lap 6 of 9. Once I got a coke on lap 7 my stomach cramps went away for the most part, but all I could do was damage control (the theme of my season) and try to keep what I had. I finished up 46th, which isn't great, but considering the jet lag and my stomach I can't stress too much about it. The course was totally cool. We started in the middle of town, under this huge old arch and continued to race through city block and neighborhood until we hit some dirt which accounted for about 40% of the 5km course. It wasn't like anything in the US. So we got home late after the race (I think I finally got to bed at about 1130) and none of us were anywhere near recovered. We had to get up and race again the next day too. 
So sunday was a low key local race which the US just dominated. We rode to the venue (about 45 min) getting lost along the way, and receiving more blank stares when we asked for directions (this seems to happen a lot to us). We previewed the course which was just up on the hillside through some dude's field essentially. It had a steep, short climb and then a flat/rolling section with a fast decent and another doubletrack climb. It was 2 km long and we did 10 laps. Once we got racing this took about 6 min per lap. I just got dizzy going in circles so fast. But although I had totally sore,crappy, flat legs, I did well. I powered through this one hour race and ended up 10th (yes 10th in a Euro race, sweet huh) I got payed out 25 Euro, which was awesome. But even cooler was that Tad won, Robbie was second and we had 5 of us in the top 10, and the Germans were stoked on us being there. People are so gracious here, and they love that we are racing. They think its so cool, and I agree.
We are such a bunch of dorks here. We are all stuck on facebook constantly, and none of us know and German. We go out for dinner and just struggle to get through the ordering process, but all I can do is laugh. We have no idea what any signs say and are just trying to keep the asshole factor to a minimum. When we were in Switzerland I tried to buy some water with my debit card, but couldn't read the screen at the checkout, so I just pushed buttons over and over until something worked. I just got a stare from the woman working that asked "are you that stupid?" and yes we probably are for doing this sport and putting up with its lifestyle, but we love it and ignorance is bliss.  I will get some pictures up soon.

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