Back in Basque Country

Dear Friends,

Gillie and I arrived back in Basque Country on Wednesday 15th Aug after completing the 3 week Altitude Training block at Sierra Nevada.  For the last time we awoke before 3am to start the journey. We hit Madrid at 8:00am smack bang in the middle of rush hour, the only thing was – no rush! no traffic, no people around. It was like driving through a ghost town. On our previous trip we saw plenty of traffic, this time no traffic! We stopped on the outskirts after we passed through Madrid for a coffee, not many people here either. What is going on? must be a holiday, that’s what it is, a holiday. The closer we got to Basque Country the more excited we got, it was like coming home. The desert of Southern Spain gives way to the green of Basque in a gradual transition, and Madrid seemed to be the dividing line. As you head south of Madrid the more arid it becomes, as you head North the greener it becomes.

We were itching to stop at some random Basque village and get something to eat and drink, and breath in the Basque’ness of it all. The random village we entered was Mendaro and what do you know, it was piccolo festival day! We felt very much like we were intruding on a private wedding, or function of sorts. Villagers were out in the finery and gathered in the square, feasting and drinking. Gillie and I headed towards a small bar for a drink. All of a sudden an elderly group of men entered the bar, lined up some glasses and started pouring cider in the Basque fashion, they drank, the town bell chimed and they left. One guy spotted us on the way out, pointed to his watch, spoke to us in Basque and motioned us to follow, which we did. Into the square we walked where the sports were beginning. Traditional Basque sports that is,  wood cutting – chainsaw v two man long saw, stone lifting and running. It was fun, we laughed a lot with the villagers and the competitors alike!

Basque Sports

Basque Sports

Church at Mendaro

Church at Mendaro

We arrived back in St Jean de Luz to be greeted by Bruno and Ines at our home away from home! Thank you Bruno and Ines for your friendship, hospitality, warmth and humor. Meeting you has been a highlight of this adventure. The night after arriving we were treated to the spectacle that is Cesta Punta the Basque game played on a Pelota Court which is very fast moving, the ball can travel at 330km/h.  It was a very entertaining night, watching highly skilled sportsmen preform at a very high level.

Bruno, Ines & Gillie at Cesta Punta

Bruno, Ines & Gillie at Cesta Punta

Cesta Punta

Cesta Punta

Several days after arriving back, Gillie and I parted company of sorts, (Gillie has since gone to Ireland before we catch up again in London) I moved into the Australian Para-cycling Staging Camp with fellow team members Nigel Barley (Handcycle H3), Carol Cooke (Trike T2), Alan Downes (Team Masseur), Jenni Banks (Handcycle Coordinator/Assistant Coach) , Dan Brent (Mechanic, Clarence Street Cyclery), this is where it all starts to take shape. The rest of the Para cycling team were staging in Cardiff, it was decided that we would stage here as the conditions were favorable to the Brands Hatch course and neither of us ride track which is in the early part of the games.

Rest Day washing

Rest Day washing

Spanish border, Basque Country back road

Spanish border, Basque Country back road

The cycling through Basque Country is special. The scenery is simply beautiful, very green, rolling hills. Basque farms and small villages. The way the cars treat you, wide berths, I haven’t had a toot in anger and the encouragements from people hanging out of cars has been phenomenal. On a couple of occasions people have come up to me after a ride while I am having coffee to tell me they saw me out on the road, and they were the ones hanging out of the car shouting encouragement! The other cyclist on the roads, mainly middle aged men, who speak French, Basque or Spanish – no English – no problem  – we all speak the language of cycling -gesturing, pointing, nodding, handshake, smiling, laughing.

Basque House

Basque House

Basque House

Basque House

Port Saint Jean de Luz
Port Saint Jean de Luz with Larun in the background

On Saturday I leave Basque Country with very fond memories and head to London, the Paralympic Village and competition! Wednesday 5th – Time Trial and Friday 7th – Road Race. It is my understanding  the races or highlights will be telecast on ABC 1 or 2 I race in the Handcycle H4 Classification. More information on the games can be found here http://www.london2012.com/paralympics/ on the Australian Paralympic Team http://www.paralympic.org.au/ on the ABC coverage http://www.abc.net.au/news/sport/paralympics/ Until next time! Cheers Stu

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Centro de Alto Rendimiento

Dear friends,

I have been holding out on this post until I had a chance to climb the Veleta, the peak above Sierra Nevada Ski Resort in Southern Spain. We had this chance today… which I will tell you about later, but first, we’ll take off from where the last post finished.

We left Pau on Saturday 21 July and headed back to St Jean de Luz. Very excited about catching up with Bruno and Ines again, and introducing them to Gillie. As hoped/expected, we all got along really well again. Bruno and Ines are very special people and we are very fortunate to have got to know them. We had 4 days in Basque country where I had the chance to take Gillie on my favourite Basque route, this time avoiding the tunnels and the police. In addition to our riding expeditions we spent as much time as possible hanging out with our new friends and absorbing as much as possible of Basque culture.

On the Wednesday 25th July we started early on the road again to make it to Sierra Nevada by about 2.30pm. I was immediately inspired by the sheer size and beauty of this mountain range. We found our way up to the Centro de Alto Rendimiento (C.A.R), our home for the next 3 weeks. It is a pretty impressive facility situated at 2320m above sea level. Complete with a 50m Olympic swimming pool, full sized outdoor running track and multiple indoor gyms and courts. Everything an athlete would want in a training facility. For those from Aussie, picture the Australian Institute of Sport but as one building at altitude! Of course everybody speaks Spanish, including the majority of athletes in residence… except us! So we get by with ‘hola’ (hello), ‘muchas gracias’ (thank you very much), ‘cortado’ (rippa strong coffee with a little bit of milk), ‘cafe con leche’ (also rippa strong coffee but with lots of milk), and of course the obligatory smile!

C.A.R

C.A.R

View of playing field C.A.R

View of playing field C.A.R

I could not be in a better place for this phase of preparation. Hence this is an opportune time to send thanks again to those who have supported me in this. I would not be here if it were not for your support.

Looking in at the pool

Looking in at the pool

In preparing for competition at the highest level and being here at CAR, I am surrounded by inspiring athletes. Members of several of the Pro cycling teams (Astana, Rabobank, Greenedge) train up here, and there are also several paralympic teams from Brasil, Venezuala, Turkey, Spain, Ecuador, Croatia, training in cycling, athletics, and swimming. I am especially inspired by the young guy from Turkey who train’s in the pool twice a day, lap upon lap of freestyle and backstroke, and all with no arms.

Sierra Nevada looking towards Granada

Sierra Nevada looking towards Granada

It took me a couple of days to get used to the rarefied air up here, but since then training has gone well. With a mixture of sessions down in the valley at 750m and some back up the hill in the first week, we have now progressed to training mostly at altitude. The biggest challenge we have faced in being here, has been to find appropriate training locations. On the mountain the options are up or down. Thanks to the staff at CAR we found some flatter training locations around Granada. Whilst exploring these areas we have found some friendly little villages and a beautiful lake to swim in.

Embalse de Quentar

Embalse de Quentar

Ever since we arrived, I have been asking Coach Ben Partick “when can I ride the hill?” The Veleta is the peak above Sierra Nevada, and the ride starts at Granada (700m) and finishes just below the peak (3400m). The last 10km of the ride is on barely sealed, narrow, exposed road. Over the last several weeks I have had great success in smashing climbs. Today I can say quite calmly that the Veleta smashed me. Under the Way We Roll Rules (stu) , I now have to come back and do the Veleta again some day! We rode 30.1km and gained 1734m in altitude, but had to relent (for the benefit of the rest of my training week) with 10kms to go (and 900 vertical meters) at the last of the fully paved road and boom gate. Tail between my legs we returned back to CAR.

Looking towards the Pico de Veleta

Looking towards the Pico de Veleta

Abandoned astronomical observatory, Sierra Nevada, Spain

Abandoned astronomical observatory, Sierra Nevada, Spain

We have another week here before returning to Basque Country when I will reunite with several members of the Australian Paracycling Team for final staging before London.

Thank you once again for the support, this has been the very best of preparation for the task ahead of me.

Until next time.

Cheers

Stuart Tripp

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The Tour de France

Dear friends

Sorry it has been so long since my last post update… but I have been very busy. In a way I have come full circle as I am now almost back to where I published my last post. Now in Pau which is only 130km from Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle . In that circle though I have had some great times. Firstly just before I left Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle I had a random encounter with Bruno and Ines, a couple out biking on a Sunday afternoon who I met whilst having coffee at the hotel. Later that afternoon by random chance I run into the same couple in a town 20 kms away. This time we exchanged names and contact details. Two days later whilst thinking about getting in touch with them, Bruno rocks up as I am having coffee at the same hotel! I ended up staying with them the night before I headed to Switzerland, and now in a couple of days I time I will introduce them to my wife Gill and we will stay with them for a couple of nights.

I started my big travel from Saint-Jean-de-Luz at 3am, with Bruno escorting me to the motorway. A big day of driving to Switzerland but I made it before nightfall. Another random chance happening, the freeway leading to Zurich on a Friday afternoon was grid locked so thought may as well take slow scenic route than slow motorway route. I turn off the freeway and end up passing along a road that looked really familiar… it turned out to be the same road that I had done the time trial on for the Swiss round of the EHC in 2011. Although I took the slower scenic route, I was very happy to get to Karen and Gerald’s just before dark. It had been a long day.

View of the Rigi

View of the Rigi

View of the Rigi

View of the Rigi

I was really counting the days down to meeting my beautiful wife Gillie who was flying into Zurich on the Monday… and Monday couldn’t come around quick enough. A couple of hard training sessions and some exploring and two sleeps later and it was Monday and pick up Miss Gillie I did. It was so awesome to see her… my greatest support.

View of Lake Lucerne from Vorder Lutzelau

View of Lake Lucerne from Vorder Lutzelau

View of Lake Zuger from Cham

View of Lake Zuger from Cham

Our week in Switzerland was a consolidation week from a training point of view, it was all about getting big kms in. The little town Walchwil is beautiful, perched on the side of the mountain and over looking Lake Zuger. This was one of our favourite rides. Karen, Gerald and daughter Violetta are old friends of Gillie’s and were awesome hosts for an athlete in training. It was really special place to be for that period with plenty of rest and recovery between sessions and loads of motivation from Karen (who is 8months pregnant and kicked my ass twice up big hills). Like all great places when travelling, we soon had to move on. This time to start our ‘five bergs in five days’ adventure.

View of Lake Zuger from above Walchwil

View of Lake Zuger from above Walchwil

Street view old town, Zug

Street view old town, Zug

We left Switzerland heading for the French Apes via Italy. We got lost a couple of times, went through the impressive Mont Blanc Tunnel which connects Switzerland and Italy, went over some cols, and arrived in Bourg St Maurice. We had three nights here and on the first day started to get our climbing arms and legs in. The first col was the Col du Petite Saint-Bernard,(Climb information) rumoured

Col du Petit St Bernard

Col du Petit St Bernard

View coming down the Col du Petit St Bernard towards Bourg Saint Maurice

View coming down the Col du Petit St Bernard towards Bourg Saint Maurice

to be the mountain pass that Hannibel took the elephants over and my first ever col…it will always be memorable! The next day we drove to Bourg d’Oisans and straight into the Alpe d’Huez.

Alpe d'Huez

Alpe d’Huez

View from part way down the Alpe d'Huez towards Bourg d'Oisans

View from part way down the Alpe d’Huez towards Bourg d’Oisans

Only short (16km) but steep and with it’s famous 21 switchbacks signposted at every corner. Rain awoke us the next morning (always puts a dampner on things) but we drove to La Grave approx 20km from the top of the Col du Galibier.

Col du Galibier

Col du Galibier

View from the Col du Galibier towards Col du Lautaret

View from the Col du Galibier towards Col du Lautaret

After a couple of coffees waiting for the rain to stop, we started out. First to Col du Lautaret, and then on up to the mighty Col du Galibier. (with a quick roll over to Italy at the top).

Another 3am start the next morning, we drove to Malaucène in Provence for our Mont Ventoux ascent. As you drive across the relative flat lands of Provence you see the volcano looming before you. With sign posts every km with distance, altitude and steepness, we were almost thrown by the 12.5% indicator at around the 15km mark. It was a brutal climb, yet amazing at the same time.

Mont Ventoux

Mont Ventoux

Looking up at Mont Ventoux

Looking up at Mont Ventoux

Once back to the car we continued our drive to Pau, arriving at a Gite that evening. The next morning, we were up early again to drive to Luz-Saint-Sauveur in the foothills of the Pyrenees for another ascent – our fifth in five days – the Col du Tourmalet. This was particularly special as the Tour de France comes through this same path on Wednesday 18th. This was a beautiful climb.

Col du Tourmalet

Col du Tourmalet

The last 1km, Col du Tourmalet

The last 1km, Col du Tourmalet 

The support I received from people up the hills has been amazing, other cyclists, onlookers, my beautiful wife. That afternoon we had another special experience. We were lucky enough to be welcomed by Matt Keenan into the media area for a glimpse of the behind the scenes of the Tour De France as it finished in Pau that afternoon.

Finish Line

Finish Line

This was overwhelming! It is a moving production of gargantuan proportions! There were so many trucks, leads, tents, buses, barricades, stands, technology+++ that all gets packed up at the end of every stage, moved on, and set up again every day for three weeks. We got the impression that the non cyclists, work just as hard as the cyclists to put the show on! Some probably even harder… We were quite amazed. Watching the extent of media interviews for someone like Brad Wiggins, gave some insight of how easy it would be to be for him to be fatigued by just the media.

Brad Wiggins

Brad Wiggins

We awoke the next morning to witness the show move on, the riders, the team cars, the officials, the media, the team buses, the police, the stages, the barricades – all to be set up again for the next depart!

Until next time

Cheers

Stu&Gill

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Bonsoir

Dear Friends,
I started tapping this edition out in the UK, about a race I did in Spain and I will most likely post it in France. Oh the wonder of modern transportation. I am in the UK at present but only for a couple of days, and like I say by the time I post this I will be in France.

Lets talk about Spain! I arrived in Segovia, Spain on the 11th of June, after a 7hr drive from Souraide in Southern France. Ohh to be back in Spain. Last year I had my birthday in Barcelona after we had finished racing, this year I would have it in Segovia before racing. We were staying at the same hotel as last year and it was comforting to know that the same faces were present. If Spain was experiencing an economic down turn it wasnt visable in Segovia. Segovia sits on the high plains and is at an elevation of around 1000m above sea level. You can feel the lack of oxygen in the air even at this level and it takes a couple of days to get used to it.

Valverde del Majano, Spain

Segovia, Spain

Segovia, Spain

In Spain, we were competing in the 2nd of three World Cup events, the first was in Roma (I placed 8th in the TT and 8th in the RR – 10minutes back! I was sick) and the next will be in Canada which we will not be attending.
I will spare you the blow by blow account of the racing here. Lets say I was very happy with the Time Trial result. The course was 21km, which is longer than usual, flat, false flat, slight inclines, straight, devoid of trees, hot and windy. Far from ideal conditions for a TT. I came 4th which is two places better than last year on the same course. The time back from first place was also better, last year 3mins – this year 1minute. My time was also faster by 1 minute, same course and worse conditions, most of all the other players times were a little slower.
In the Road race it was a different story. The course was 12km round x 5 laps the finishing straight for each lap was 750m uphill, cobble stones and a speed hump. I am not at the moment in climbing mode. I got dropped every time, fought to TT back on – the bunch split, one group of three beat the back group of five (the goup i was with) by 5mins. Tough going.

From Segovia we drove to Madrid then flew to Gatwick, UK. it was time to test out what Brands Hatch and the Paralympics Time Trial and Road Race course had to offer. Plenty of pain is all I will say – if your not going up your going down, no flat areas on this one.

Now I am back in France, back in Basque country, not far from were we stayed a couple of weeks ago. I arrived in Saint P’ee-sur-Nivelle on Thursday 21st June and have done some solid training through the Basque Hils. The riding has been very enjoyable! With this being one of my favorites!

Until next time.
Cheers
Stuart Tripp

Souraide, France

Dantxarinea, Spain

Etxalar, Spain

Above Etxalar, Spain

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Spain

Dear Friends,

I am in Spain now, Segovia a beautiful city – Roman aqueduct, Cathedral and Castle all in the one ancient town. We are here for another World Cup event. I am feeling much better since Roma and even better than Swiss.

I finished the Swiss Road Race in second place seconds behind my fellow competitor from South Africa and current Road Race World Champion Mr. Ernst van Dyk. I was happy with the result.

After Swiss we made our way by car, plane and car to Souraide in South West France, Basque country. This was different countryside from the Swiss, more rolling hills here. We were here to race in the 10th Urt International Paracyclisme Tour, a three day race, our mini Tour de France! I felt much better for these races. I placed 3rd, 2nd and 1st in the combined H2/3/4 General Classification and was much happier with my effort.

Now I only have two more races, one Friday – one Saturday. Both are well fielded with many of the racers from Roma in attendance. It will be challenging but unlike Roma I am feeling much stronger.

Speak soon.

Cheers

Stuart Tripp

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Swiss

Dear Friends,

I am writing this from the roof top area of the GZI Kongress, and its a beautiful June evening.


Its a different feeling from last week in Roma, no traffic, noise and commotion. Here its quite and relaxed. My results from Roma reflected my state of health, 8th in the Time Trial and 8th in the Road Race.
I raced the TT this morning and it felt ok. Although the results are not up as yet I came second in a field of 5,  many of the big guns were not present. This week is the first week I feel that I have been back on the bike so to speak. It feels very much like I have been off (unwell) for the last couple of weeks. One thing is for certain its a beautiful place to get back on it.  The hotel is on the shores of Lake Sempach. If anything you tend to do too much training around here, it is beautiful and accessible. If you want flat riding, ride around the lake. If its hills turn right or left. Next door to the hotel is the Schweizer Paraplegker Zentrum the most advanced rehab facility in Europe, which also has a pretty cool collection of outdoor art.


The weather has mostly been fine although rain is predicted for tomorrow in the afternoon, just when the road race is starting. The race is 60km or three laps of Lake Sempach, more information is here.

Lets hope things are on the up and up from here on in.

Until next time.
Cheers
Stuart Tripp

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The Italian Job

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Roma. We arrived on Tuesday after a 8hr drive from the ETC and yes Italian drivers are just as they are portrayed in the movies, yet it all works! I haven’t see one road rage incident, even though I have seen people cut off, three cars where there should be one, cars sneaking up the inside. Who needs traffic lights, speed cameras and such? Italians approach an intersection like they are going to make it – then stop – and then, only if thier life is in danger.

The weather has been mostly fine, sunny as high as thirty. We are staying at Mondo Migliore Christian conference center in the hills above Roma directly across a crater lake from the Pope’s summer residence. Like the Pope’s pad our place is full of religious icons – ie the cross above the bed. Its a spartain affair no TV lots of marble and if I wasnt mistaken you could think you were in a hospital. Meal times are set as is the menu, healthy serves of pasta!. The last few days we have been sharing the complex with a conference group of service providers servicing the hearing impaired community in Europe . Not a lot of chatter around the dinner table but much animated gesturing.

Roma Accomm view

I have gradually been getting over the flu/respiratory condition I picked up on arrival., yet still not 100%. Last Thursday I went to the doctors in Varese and have been on antibiotics for the week. Last Saturdays (19th May) Road Race in Piacenza was a trial and in the end maybe shouldnt have gone out – low watts and high heart rate was a bad mix, those guys pushed me. I called a no show on the TT and rested up. Fellow handcycle rider Nigel Barley in the H3 had a great result placing 3rd overall.

From then to now its been slow easy km’s so I am in some form for Roma Paracycling World Cup, the 14km TT today (which has changed location from the previous posted course. Friday 25th May) and then the RR in the city tomorrow. I think I will ask the big fella above the bed for some help. Results will be posted here.
Hope all is well.
Cheers
Stuart Tripp

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