10 Days, 8 Countries, 2 World Cups! By Helen Wyman.

It seems like a lifetime ago that we (that’s the ‘royal we’ ie. Stef) were packing the car and heading off for the first world cup of the season in Aigle, Switzerland.

Ten days, eight countries and two races later we are on our way home to Oudenaarde.

Helen with a local fan, and our contributer Ian Field.
Helen with a local fan, and our contributer Ian Field.

Italian Food is the best

Having tasted local delicacies along the way I can say hand-on-heart my favourite food is still Italian.

Not wanting to write entirely about food though – although it is one of my favourite subjects – I will include the odd incident which hasn’t coincided with mealtime, for those trying to diet.

Being a bike rider I do have to watch what I eat, however the quantity is rarely limited thanks to the training.

So when Stef suggested we head to Italy to stay at the Mpire Cycling Centre with Jamie and Valentina for the week between the two races, I had my own Homer Simpson moment with piles of pasta and bruschetta pictures in my eyes! Fortunately I wasn’t disappointed.

After the race in Aigle we re-packed the tardis (a.k.a. our Vauxhall Astra), much to the amazement of a few random Belgian supporters and remarks of ‘all of that goes in there? Where do you sit?’, before heading off to our Italian training base in Rimini.

Our first treat came when Stef cracked and had to take a toilet break at the first services in Italy where there was a Spizico pizzeria heaven. It should be mentioned at this point that post race toilet breaks are considered a weakness on a long journey in our world.

Having regularly done five or six hour stints with no breaks, a mere two hours is considered poor form. With the level of competitiveness in the car it’s pretty common to take this to a level of just below bladder infection before finally admitting defeat. Do not try this at home children… it is an art form and only to be performed by highly trained individuals – and never before a race!

Training in Riccioni

Jamie Burrow (our friend who we stayed with in Italy) is an English ex-pro road racer who rode for US-Postal before riding as team leader for Amore-Vita. Having lived in Italy for 15 years he is basically Italian with a London accent and a really nice bloke.

Part of the reason, other than the food and the training, to go down there was to check out his new training camp centre and hotel in Riccioni.

Despite telling us he was ‘unfit’ he still gave me and Ian a good battering up the hills, which there are a lot of, whilst showing us some of the most beautiful views of the region. The famous Novo Colli (Nine Hills) sportive is based in this region which we seemed to find by accident on a couple of rides.

It was great to be able to train in good weather and try new things like an ‘aperetif’. Here we go back to the food – so soon you ask, well yes but wow it was good!

Helen in action at the Plzen World Cup. Pic©Gregg Germer.
Helen in action at the Plzen World Cup. Pic©Gregg Germer.

After work in the evenings the Italians go to the local bar on their way home to meet friends or new people or just to chill, the same as any other country except with their alcoholic beverage there’s the most spectacular buffet free of charge and with no limitations (we tried to eat it all they just brought out more). It was truly amazing, an experience never to be missed if you ever find yourself in Italy at 6pm on a week night!

World Cup Number Two

So from Italy we headed back up north, this time to the Czech Republic, for the second World Cup in Plzen.

Last year the boys had stayed in a four star hotel in the outskirts of town right next to the Pilsner Urquell factory.

They spent the next three weeks going on about it on their return. I was not disappointed with our two bedroom suite for a ridiculously low price just 10 minutes ride from the course.

The Czech Republic is quite a strange country, with lots of beautiful old buildings with dilapidated shoddy concrete tower blocks and the new department stores built inbetween.

It seems in places that in order to smarten up the city they have tried to build new developments but forgotten to knock down the worst buildings next door. There really is an obvious wealth divide with locals either living in falling down huts or driving Porsches. It’s very bizarre, however the people are very cool and incredibly friendly.

Now we have a really busy week coming up with a night time race in Woerden tomorrow followed by Zonhoven on Sunday and the infamous Koppenberg cross on Monday.

There’s no rest for the wicked.