Posted by Editoress on 04/5/05
Max Plaxton is living in Europe and has been sending reports of heis early season in Spain
Adios Murcia, Hola Barcelona!
Ok, so last report I started with saying that the bad weather ended, well this report it is starting with the crappy weather coming again. Seriously, I have never experienced such wacko weather all the time I have lived in Spain. I mean it was weird like Michael Jackson. Fricking snowing everywhere and cold in all of Spain.
So we left Aguilas March 4th, destination Oviedo in the northern province of Asturias for the Spanish Open # 1. Since I hadn't got my crap together to buy a car, Trish and I rented a one-way rental, which in Spain is actually pretty reasonable. I was kind of curious as we were driving up north that maybe the race might be cancelled since it was snowing on many spots along the highway.
So we are around 100 km south of Madrid when my mechanic calls me and says the race is cancelled. I was actually kind of happy because I wasn't really ready for mud and snow MTB racing. The problem was that we did not know what to do with the rental car since we were supposed to drop it off in Oviedo later that day. I called Avis and to my surprise I could drop the car off anywhere in Spain at an Avis office for the same price. Since our plan was to go with the team after the race to Gava (just south of Barcelona), we decided to just head there directly. The shitty thing about driving to Barcelona are the pay tolls, they are everywhere you go, at least on the fast highways.
We checked in at the hotel that the team is affiliated with, since we didn't have a place to live yet. We ended up staying in the hotel for almost a whole damn week. It kind of sucked but it was part of the adventure. The apartment we moved into happened to be right beside the hotel because the hotel manager owned it. So finally we have a place: Trish, Kiko (one of the mechanics) and I.
It was really nice to move into a place after being in the hotel for a week. It made training and everything else easier.
So my first MTB race would be March 13th instead of March 6th. It was a Copa Catalana International in the small town of Banyoles, which is just north of the infamous Girona. I was really surprised with the organization of the race; everything happened on time, good course, tons of spectators and a high level of competition. Hermida, Cedric Ravanel, Miguel Martinez just to name a few. I knew I wasn't going to feel too well in the race since my training had been put back a bit in the process of looking for a place to live, shitty weather etcÃ¢Ë†â€˜.
Little Mig didn't end up coming due to problems with the airlines or something so that was one spot higher for me. I got to line up first row right between Ravanel and Hermida so I was kind of nervous. Bang! I probably had one of the best starts of my life going off into single track behind Ravanel and my team-mate former ex-Kelme pro Jordi Riera. I got passed by a few people to sit around 4-5-6 for most of the race always around 10-20 seconds behind the leaders: Ravanel, some Spanish dood and another fast Spanish dood I have never heard of; hmmmmmmmmmmmmm, a bit fishy. I just didn't have that little extra spark to join them plus I was always riding with Hermida, which was enough. I mean there was a 400-meter flat pavement section where I would draft him and holy shit; it was hard enough just to hold his wheel. Hermida and some other guy passed me so I ended up 6th overall and first sub-21, yes sub-21. It was pretty funny at the awards because there was a u-23 that finished right behind me and he was called up first u-23 and I was like wait a second, didn't I win u-23? But in Catalunya (province in which Barcelona is located) they have u-21 to make the jump from junior easier. I was actually pretty happy with my race being the first of the season and finishing only 1 minute down from the winner. It's where I want to be according to the plan to be strong at the World Cups.
It was a so-so weekend for the team with Jordi finishing around 10th and one of my other team-mates "Pisha" breaking his chain on the first lap when he was in first. He's one to look out for sure.
Next stop on the calendar: March 20th in for the first Maxxis Cup International in Gouveia (Portugal). I was really excited about this race because it was the first "big race" of the season and I was on a steady improvement of form. The travel day for the race was the Thursday prior and we all had met at the airport in Madrid and then drove to Portugal. One of our riders had his plane delayed so we all had to wait in the airport for 4-5 hoursÃ¢Ë†â€˜Ã¢Ë†â€˜Ã¢Ë†â€˜not good for me. We ended up having lunch in the airport and I got a stomach infection from the GD food there. So I got sick on the way there and I had a fever, diarrhea etcÃ¢Ë†â€˜ I thought I would maybe feel better Friday but nope, in bed all day. Saturday was the same so I was pretty sure I couldn't race Sunday; I was right. It is actually kind of cool watching a race when you are supposed to be in it. It is interesting watching how you're teammates and other racers race. I mean for sure I wished I could have been racing as I watched a not too strong Hermida win 2000 euros, but my body said no, being too weak.
The whole trip was pretty "G" I must say. Portugal isn't really one of me favourite places and of course being sick for almost the entire trip didn't help. But hey, it's better that this kind of stuff happens now then later. So I had 3 days off the bike, which sucked, but I have to say that the Tuesday earlier in the week I did a 200km solo ride. For a bunch of you this might be a normal ride or nothing crazy but for me this was an achievement since I had always done around 180-190 km rides so I decided to do the extra little bit. I found out that this is when chamois cream becomes important.
The following week I tried to recover and get some mileage on the bike. The weekend (March 25th-27th) was the Vuelta of Catalunya of Mountain Bike. I didn't really know what to expect except that I knew it would be 3 days of good training. The entire Lotto - Polish Team ended up coming down to race along with some fast Danish guy (Peter Riis), Ivan Alvarez (Spanish Olympian) and a handful of top Spanish riders.
The first stage was 60 km of endless single track with some good fire road climbs. The first 15 km I was near the front, riding pretty comfortably. I dropped back around 20 km in to help out one of my teammates "Pisha" to try and bridge him up to the lead group. We were about half a minute back when I heard a pissssssssssssss. I had flatted my front tire at a bad time of the race. I took a really long time to fix and I ended up chasing in small groups all the way, finishing around 20th. Just to give ya'll an idea of how fast the leaders were going, the average speed of the winner for the day was around 33 km/h. not an inch of pavement.
Stage 2 was the "mother stage". 70 km of up-and-down single track with long fire road climbs. I guess you could say was sort of similar to the "Cheakamus Challenge" except no road sections and no flat stuff. I didn't have a great day feeling still not 100 % so I just rode tempo the whole race finishing around 20 minutes down from the winner.
The final stage was 40 km of super fast fire road with some sketchy down hills and river crossings. With about 4 km into the race, my rear brake broke leaving me with only my front brake for the rest of the stage. I had never lost a brake in a race so it was pretty crazy. In some of the single track I even forgot I didn't have a rear brake and just totally missed the corner crashing pretty good. Again I just cruised until the finish but this time with wicked hand pump.
I really enjoyed doing this race, the riding was amazing and it was really good training. I was kind of po'd I couldn't contest even 1 of the stages but things don't always work out. Also it was a good test on the equipment, tires etc.
The next 2 weeks will be hard training hopefully arriving in good form for the first World Cup in Spa, Belgium on April 24th.
Next report after the first World Cups.
Time to hit up the beach,
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