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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.