Adam Tranter learns what professional women?s cycling involves on the Swift Racing training camp in Limoux, France.
It?s actually been a few days since I?ve attended to my blog, my last one was written on Friday but published on Tuesday, apparently there was some racing and real news going on. So I?ll try to recap.
The weekends seem to be somewhat eventful here in Limoux. Every weekend there is a carnival where French people dress up with masks that resemble something from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It?s all well and dandy, until they chuck a huge amount of confetti over you while you?re drinking coffee. It must be one of those cultural differences again. I think I?m now barred from ?Le Grande Café? judging from the tone of voice from one of the waitresses there. Apparently it?s okay to throw confetti over you, but if you leave and clutter the recently swept floor, you get a load of abuse in French.
As part of my new European lifestyle of excessive coffee (now consumed elsewhere) and fresh French waffles, I?ve also taken up stretching under the guidance of qualified physiotherapist, Helen Wyman. I can almost touch my shins and now have to sit on a gym ball while using my laptop. I think it?s working though.
Sunday?s ride was the best yet with most of the team doing four and a half hours in the hills surrounding Limoux. The ride covered part of a stage from the Tour de L?Aude women?s race. With the temperature hitting 21 degrees, it was great riding conditions for the team, even if we did get a bit lost.
The team were treated to a BBQ on Sunday evening, at the New Zealand team manager?s house, just outside the centre ville. Jamie Oliver may have had a heart attack if he saw the ingredients of our ?Eco Burgers? ? Oh well, 51% of it is meat, and they worked out at less than 20 cents per burger.
A tip for you, never share anything with cyclists. I bought some degreaser from my second favourite place in France, Decathlon. I used a bit and then granted permission for a select group of riders to also use some. I went to use it again and was greeted with a spray full of air. Stefan went to get some more, but apparently Decathlon don?t open on Sunday or Monday. While Sunday now appears to be the busiest shopping day back in the UK, parts of France seem to just stop altogether.
We?ve started taking photos of people carrying baguettes around Limoux. ?The Baguette Files? will appear shortly on the Swift Racing website, highlighting the novel ways French people manage to transport their baguettes. If anyone has any similar pictures, we welcome you to send them in.
Monday also brought some decent weather, with some of the riders who were feeling fresh pedalling to the beach. I?m told that it?s one of the nicest rides possible, and you get a nice lift back in the mini bus. That is unless you want to do an 8-hour training ride. Stefan Wyman did the unthinkable and actually rode his bike with some of the others, who got a bit lost and ended up doing a longer-than-expected ride.
I think the weather is trying to tell me it?s nearly time to go home. Today (Tuesday) we had some rain, sleet, snow and some gale force winds for good measure. Funnily enough, there wasn?t much cycling going on but it?s Helen Wyman?s birthday so there was all that singing, cake eating and present opening malarkey. Most of the girls took a trip to the local beautician, who probably hasn?t experienced such a volume of customers for years. The girls then did that thing where they pay someone an extortionate amount to paint their nails.
It?s been a good day on the food front; I?ve found a Pick ?N? Mix outlet that doesn?t involve a person coughing on your purchase, the wide selection of Haribo is also excellent value for money. I?d almost forgotten that eating 300g of sugar gives me migraines, but I think it was probably worth it. We were also treated with some nice Mexican food at dinnertime.
We then ventured out into the town square in the evening for le café and chocolat chaud. I?m not convinced the French have quite clocked onto the art of retail business yet, within the space of a small town square there are three pharmacies, four Tabacs, five Cafés and four Boulangeries. I?ve made the effort to visit every Café within Limoux and have finally found one that sells a proper Cappuccino. The French usually like to give 10% coffee and the rest is made up of squirty cream. The only downside to this Café is the ownerless dog that chases you while barking upon entrance and exit. Its annoyance is on par with the nomad?s excreting donkey. Once you?re in, you?re in though.
But the problems in Limoux aren?t solved by Community Support Officers. Everyone just smiles and goes about their business, except of course for the old people that stare.
People often just stop in the middle of the road in their cars to talk to pedestrians, this happened earlier with a Taxi driver and a queue of traffic stuck behind. My instincts expected a flurry of expletives and excessive horn use, but as I walked further, the Taxi driver just sat there laughing for a good few minutes. No one cares here.
Not bad weather for early March