Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Andalucia MTB Stage Race - Cordoba/Jaen, Spain

Jaen, Spain
Never say never.  I should know that but I had always thought that Mountain Bike Stage racing just sounded like something I would never want to do.  Putting that many hours on a bike some of which can be grueling just had never appealed to me, that is until Jenny Smith (Alpine Orthopaedics/Giant), successful Xterra and MTB Stage Racer, called with an opportunity of a lifetime. 

A paid “vacation?”  Geez, who can say no to that really. Hotels?  Eating off china plates as though you were actually normal and civilized? Free Massages after the race?  Accommodations paid for?  Transportation and Transfers included?    Well “DUH”, of course I want to go!!!  I think?!?! 

Jenny and I made sure we were on the same page before signing up as a team.  The goal?  Get some ripping base training and mileage in. Never mind the fact that I have yet in my lifetime to put in 4.5+ hours on the bike (that may even be a stretch) let alone doing that 6 days in a row!

SLC to ATL to Paris to Malaga, Spain

Let the mishaps begin:   No luggage
Ah heck, who needs luggage anyway?  Well at least the Air France Pilate warned us to “Not smoke IN the toilet”.  That mean I can smoke outside of the toilet??? Just wondering.  : )

I probably should have been a little more alarmed than I was without luggage, being alone in Spain and hoping that my ride from the race organizers was going to be there. I don’t speak Spanish and my husband Chris (aka Pepe) who does, was flying in the next day.  Oh boy.

My luck turned around as a gal I started talking to in Paris, was native to Malaga, spoke English and Spanish and knew exactly what to do about lost luggage. She waited patiently with me at the luggage carousel to make sure my bags were indeed not there and then walked me over to the “window” to file a lost luggage claim.  This was taking time and I was sweating a little that my ride (that I hadn’t seen yet) would leave me since I was officially late for the pickup.  Ok, getting nervous.  And I couldn’t go outside and get the driver because they wouldn't let me back in!!!  So I made a few calls (that’s gonna hurt!!!) and found out that the van driver was there and would wait.  Relief.

Next mishap:  Towed van
Secretly I didn’t mind not having to lug my luggage around the airport to the van.  Only thing was that our van wasn’t there.  The driver, Pablo was, but no van.  Apparently he parked a bit too long waiting for me and the van was towed.  Oops.

In the meantime myself, Jenny who had appeared on scene from another flight, and newly formed acquaintances Thomas (Specialized), Henrick and his race partner Mads (eventual Masters Overall winners) hung out at the airport Starbucks.  Yep, Starbucks is near the Mediterranean too.

Mishap #3:  Got insurance?
Once Pablo figured out the van situation and paid the fine we packed and were off…..well until he scraped the side mirror on the concrete parking structure.  Poor Pablo!!  And once he got going again Henrick took his fist and hit the side of the van to make Pablo think he hit something else!!  Pretty funny but I think at that point Pablo was ready to abandon ship!

 I could see clearly that this was going to be quite the experience! 

Malaga to Cordoba
Spain was super green as we made our way through the hills, expansive olive groves/plantations and even some bull fighting arenas.  To make the area even more beautiful there was a dam nestled in between the mountains. Incredible area.

An olive grove
Small white cities were nestle in between olive groves as we drove

Getting settled
A couple hour drive to the beautiful hotel in Cordoba and a frantic trip to the quick mart (think 7-11) that had a BAKERY in the back of it and Jenny and I were feeling like we could start getting settled. 

Jenny at the mart with Bakery in back!
Well that was after rearranging the room, identifying that thing in the bathroom as a bidet and laughing about the hairdryer that looked like a hose vacuum.

Opening ALL my luggage
The next day my bike showed up and I got it built just in time to join Jenny for a ride.  The ride felt great after 2 days of no riding and the warmth felt exceptional. Even got a sneak peek of some of the singletrack in the area.  Hard packed smooth dirt-loving it!

Just around the corner from the hotel was a cute neighborhood

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