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National cyclo-cross champion Helen Wyman hits the road for markets, vino, winning races and showers with the boys.
Having had a couple of weeks back in Belgium we decided it was long enough and the car seats were beginning to lose the shape of our bums, so this week we are back on another road trip, this time to Germany, Italy and Switzerland.
The event we did on Saturday in Frankfurt is a great race and the organiser is the cutest man you have probably ever met and has one of the most organised well run events outside of the world cups. Every year all of the best riders go and the racing is great.
Three years ago on our first time there me and Gabby were slightly surprised to find that the men and women showered together....at the same time.....in the same showers....naked. A little apprehensive at first, we realised no one was actually playing a practical joke on us and all of the women were in there with the veteran men. Every year it is slightly less strange to us although last year me and Gabs were the only ones in there when a junior boy who had been on doping control appeared, looking even more scared than we had the previous years. As my brother so rightly pointed out to me it has to be more embarrassing for men than women. Poor boy.
This race also has a common theme as Stef usually promises me something in return for a set result. One year when I was second in the World Cup and this race was the next day, I was promised a visit to the Christmas market if I won. I didn't! The next year if I won we got to listen to the Christmas CD the whole three and half hours home. I didn't (Gabby was very grateful on that occasion). Fortunately, this year there were no conditions and our next port of call was Innsbruck with one of the most famous Christmas markets in Europe: a million Italians and everything that is Christmas squeezed into a small space, Stefs favourite things.
So after the race we headed towards Italy with an overnight stop at our friends house in Innsbruck and off course the very pretty Christmas market, with amazing smells and pretty little gifts it was as good as I had anticipated. We arrived near Venice in torrential rain with already large puddles covering the fields around the hotel. Ben Berden informed us that the course ‘was' really fast around vineyards with a lot of fields but he didn't hold out much hope for tomorrow!
Italy: call that a shower?
It rained all night and all through the next day and it was wicked - mud everywhere. I tried to get the newest unmuddy lines every lap but after a few laps of riding in the trees I decided I was at no advantage and just take the shortest line. I won by two minutes but more importantly I was given a really lovely looking bottle of Italian Spirmonte (for want of another word, champagne) and a pretty little silver ring. Not wishing to go on about the showers but I'm pretty sure they weren't the official ones that two under-23 boys decided to wash in after the race.
Our next destination was Rimini on the east coast a couple of hours south of Venice, where it was still raining. When we arrived at our hotel room (thankfully it had stopped raining 100km north of here), I went upstairs to find some roses laid out on the bed with a nice silver ring laying next to it. Being quite tired it took me a good five minutes to work out that Stef had just taken my prizes from the race and dumped them on the bed so they didn't get damaged.
Now we are here for three days before we head north again to Switzerland for another race on Sunday. I've already got some bike tour maps and think I might try out the ‘Pantani route' tomorrow, which incorporates his home town, favourite climb and fan club café.