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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9 Responses to Back in Basque Country

  1. Great post Stu. All the best for the TT and Road Race. Hope it gets on the ABC live here so we can yell at the TV cheering you on!!

  2. Gemma Carr says:

    Reading about your journey to the games makes me smile, really big! Glad you soaked up the basque-ness of it all 🙂
    Lots of love from us in Eltham xo

  3. Hi stu and gillie,
    Just watched the opening ceremony and thinking about you guys soaking up the atmosphere. Sounds like you’ve been having an amazing journey. Can’t wait to see you gunning for gold next week stu! Ride like the wing bullseye!
    Love Alison, Howard and sam

  4. diary181 says:

    hi Stuey & Gillie, fantastic to read your blog again. We’ll be tuning in to watch you race..good luck Stu and we hope you have a fantastic time!
    Love Di & the big fella

  5. Kylie Turner says:

    We are all rooting for you back in OZ. Your blogs have been fantastic. The way you write draws me (the reader) into the village, so much so I can smell the woodchips. I’ll be watching ABC 1 & 2, particularly on the 5th & 7th. Go get ’em Stu.

  6. Kate Wells says:

    So inspiring Stu Good luck for Wednesday & Friday we will be watching from Tassie.
    Lots of love to you & Gillie xox Kate, Reuben, Sam, Poppy & Matilda

  7. Hi Gill and Stu, Best of luck for tomorrow’s time trial! Hope to catch it on TV. Jo xox

  8. crowesinasia says:

    Hi Trippy … Just listened to your interview on ABC radio ….all the best for your race in a few hours time!! John Crowe and Family based in Singapore!! (Paul’s brother!)

  9. Stuart, my daughter Mercy and I met you on London Bridge today and you kindly let me take a photo of you with her. Thank you so much, it really was an honour to meet you and I am so glad I was able to contact you as I felt I had rushed off. I hope you have had a great time in London. Love from Julie and Mercy in London xx

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