It’s been a busy few weeks since my last post, but the biggest change has been moving into my own place. As you can imagine after spending 3 weeks in a hotel I was very keen to move in and quickly set about buying some essentials for a comfortable time here. It came fully furnished except for a few things: a TV, some bedding and pans/ bits for the kitchen. The TV was at the top of the list for sure. A few weeks in and I’m starting to get into a good routine and adjusting to life here well. I’m still getting used to living alone, but with all the racing, riding and moving in I’ve not got bored…yet. The view out of the living room is amazing, over looking the estruary running around the town and the surrounding hills. It’s something I’m definitely not taking for granted.
More Copa España’s
On the 10th of March I had my second race of the season at Trofeo Guiretta. This was a long 10hr drive away down on the south coast in Murcia. The race consisted of 2 14km back to back climbs in the middle of the 150km race, followed by a 40km run into the finish.
My job for the day was to look after one of our leaders Diego, which consisted of staying near him incase he had a problem, dropping back through the convoy to help him get back on after a mechanical, and also give him a push whilst he was having a wee!
It was a very chaotic day of racing with many riders suffering bad crashes. I myself got caught up in 3 of these, but coming away with only minor scrapes. Of the 198 that started, 96 reached the finish line. Over the top of the last climb I was within metres of the the front group of 20 or so riders. In my desperation to get back on I took some risks on the descent, but unfortunately went wide on a steeper than expected corner and slid out. I got caught by the 2nd group and eventually settled for 29th. But i gained alot of confidence from this, the legs were there and after such a hectic race still finished first out of my team.
My team from last year where also doing the race so it was really nice to have a laugh and catch up with the lads, and see how they were getting on.
The next week is a heavy racing block with 3 rounds of the Copa España series within 7 days.I’ve just come back from the 3rd round in the Basque country last Sunday, and am currently on my way to the next round starting tomorrow, the 21st, and the 5th round after that on Sunday the 24th. The series in total has 9 rounds and finishes in mid May. It’s considered to be the biggest series for elite and u23 riders in Spain and I feel fortunate to be selected to race the full series. After this the calendar makes room for more stage races.
One thing I’ve quickly come to realise is just how big Spain is! 10hr/ 1000km transfers are a normality here. But the team does a good job of splitting up the travel, setting off 2 days before and stopping regularly. There’s also none of the traffic chaos I’m used to in the UK which is nice, touch wood.
I’ve been in Pontevedra the best part of a month now and have settled in really well. My dad came with me for the first week to help, or to get some riding in, I’m still not sure! Upon arrival we met el Jefe (the boss) Evaristo Portela, and his daughter Ana. They explained to me that their priority is that I settle in, feel comfortable, happy and not to worry about results. This is the ethos of the team.
I was then introduced to 2 teammates also living in Pontevedra: Guille and Abel, my room mate at the time (more on that later!). Me and Guille have become really close and his family have really taken me in.We first met 2 years ago at a junior race in Spain and always kept updated on how each other was doing. Last week I joined them on a trip to see his Abuela (grandmother) for a traditional Galician lunch called Cocido. It’s basically their answer to a full English. She cooked everything from scratch and it was amazing.
We also did a bit of sightseeing and bought some Galician honey, which is the best honey I’ve ever tasted.
Me, Ana and Guille now have a tradition of going for a pizza in the local Italian every 2nd Saturday.
Meeting The Team
Before I moved out here I knew there was going to be a training camp from the 11- 15th of Feb. It was a chance to meet everyone, get the new kit and do some stuff for the sponsors. Breaking the ice majorly consisted of my teammates teaching me Spanish and telling me funny stuff to say! I also didn’t know what was being said half the time which everyone found very amusing. On one occasion Portela asked everyone to raise their hand if they agreed with him, so obviously everyone raises their hand, except me. This resulted in hysterics. Although there’s a bit of a language barrier, everyone has gone out of their way in making me feel part of the team and i dont at all feel like an outcast being the only foreigner. They appreciate alot that I’m trying to learn Spanish, and by the end of the year they reckon I’ll be fluent in it, and them in English too.
The team consists of 11 u23 riders and 8 elites. Most racing weekends there are 2 events on so the team will send out 2 teams. We’re gonna be competing in the Copa de España series (national series), a separate Galician series, u23 only events and stage races, some of which being UCI. So theres plenty of opportunities for everyone to get raced. So me and Josh of NeoproCC planned for me to arrive to thr camp in good condition to make a good impression, but not flying because there’s not many races that early in the season. Our plan worked well. On the camp, or as they call it the concentration, they tested us by going full gas on all the major climbs and I was consistently one of the first over the top. The team were very happy with my efforts and this meant I was then selected to race the first National round of the season, Don Benito which was on the 24th of Feb.
The last day of the camp was a presentation in the centre of Pontevedra. They laid out a finishing straight with masses of Froiz banners and flags along it and it felt like the whole town took a day off to come watch. All the local schools came and the kids were give red Froiz t shirts and those annoying inflatable drumsticks. We each took it in turn to ride down the straight and when I got to the other side the presenter stopped me for an interview. I’d been briefed, let’s say, that they wanted me to say the slogan of Froiz, which is ” Siempre a su Servicio” which means always at your service. I had no idea what he was saying but when he passed me the mic I said it and everyone loved it! As you can tell from the video I was quite pleased I got it right.
Unfortuantely after the presentation I picked up a cold and the week preceding the race was mostly written off. But by the Friday, 2 days before, I was feeling ok again and decided to go ahead with the race. Despite the less than ideal run in I felt ok on the day.
The race consisted of 4 42km laps with a steep 4 min climb in the Middle. I actually started my season the same way 2 years ago as a junior where i came 4th so it was nice to come back to it. We even stayed in the same hotel. It was my job along with 2 other team mates to cover important moves and save the rest of the guys for the final. I ended up getting in the main break of the day with my team mate Diego and we were working hard forcing the split so the teams that missed the move had to work. We were allowed to use radios which was pretty cool, and it was a first for me, so we were always in the know of what was happening behind. Ultimately after 2 laps we got caught, and we kept working for our guys until the last climb where they lit it up. The team were happy with my efforts and I’ve been selected to race the next round on the 10th of March.
Not everything has gone smoothly
As I mentioned in the last blog and at the start of this one, it’s not all been plain sailing. Before I came out the team had arranged for me to stay with my team mate Abel. He has a 2 bed flat and we would split the rent 50/50. But some problems occurred. His landlord had a problem with him sub letting a room which led to a stressful and uncomfortable living situation.
I had to find my own place, which would have been stressful if not for the help of Portela, and Guille translating! In the evenings of the training camp when we were all staying at a hotel, us 3 would drive down to the city and look at apartments. We basically had to find something by the end of the camp or I’d be homeless! Luckily we found something really nice and well priced and I move in on the 2nd of March.
In the meantime whilst the current tennants move out I’ve been staying at a hotel near the Froiz service centre, 5 mins from the centre of Pontevedra. I’ve been amazed by how much el jefe Portela has gone out of his way to help me. He sorted out me staying here as the owner is a friend of his, stopping by to see how I’m getting on and dropping off some supplies. Ive been making good use of the restaurant downstairs trying out the local cuisine. I can order anything I fancy too which has been handy to go with training demands and keep stuff healthy. Seafood is big here and Spanish omelette is sooo good. Obviously it doesnt feel quite like home but i feel content with how things have worked out. I’m Looking forward to moving into my own place next week, but making my own bed, not so much!
This year I’ve decided to take a new and fresh approach to racing by joining the elite Spanish team G.D Supermercados Froiz, or Super Froiz for short. As the name of my blog suggests I’m the first English rider to join the team in its 30 year history, and coincidentally the first foreign rider too.
I am living in a town called Pontevedra, on the west coast of Spain in the region of Galicia. This is also where the team and my good friend Guille Garcia are based who is another rider on the team.
As this is a new experience for me and the team, I thought I’d start documenting my progress to make it easier to follow for my friends, family and any other cyclist from the UK looking to move to a foreign team. It’ll also be nice for me to look back on in years to come, no matter how far I make it in this sport.
But first I would like to thank a few people. I know everyone seems to have a blog these days and the following might not mean that much to the reader, but they mean alot to me and its important for me to express my thanks.
I feel very lucky to have a lot of great people behind me, who, after a tricky 2018 season just want to see me enjoy riding my bike and make the most of this opportunity.
First and foremost my family. Through thick and thin they have never questioned my ability, always supported my decisions and never put unnecessary pressure on me. I realised just how much they supported me last year when i had a very unfortunate season filled with setbacks and stress, and never did they put any doubt in my mind. My dad even came out with me to help me settle in and I know they can’t wait to see Pontevedra.
Dave Rayner Fund
The #DRF have simply made all this possible by funding my year abroad. This blog is also a thankyou to them as I’ll try to broadcast the good nature of the cause. Without their help I would be more caught up in financial worries and wouldn’t be able to just focus on enjoying riding my bike. I’ve learnt you can budget plan all you like but things always crop up, so it’s nice to have peace of mind, especially when in a foreign place.
Neo Pro Cycle Coaching
I’ve been working very closely with Joshua Hunt since the start of the off season and I’ve been blown away by the amount of time and effort he has put into me. I have fundamental trust in him as my mentor, which for me is crucial in order to feel I’m going in the best possible direction. He’s taught me valuable lessons like don’t sweat the small stuff, make the most out of every session and has given me valuable insight into the science behind his coaching methods. Not only that, but we often meet up on rides and the quick feedback has been crucial in adapting to unforeseen obstacles.
For those that don’t know, John is the owner of UK cycle clothing brand Lusso. He helped me out last year with some training kit, and when the season finished he said to drop in for some winter kit. Little did I know he would offer me a job! The whole lusso family really took me in, I was able to work around my training, help him come up with new ideas for 2019 and have a laugh whilst doing it. The quality of the garments they produce in my opinion is superior than anything else I’ve tried and it frustrates me to see that others underate them. So its been very rewarding trying to help them get the name out.
It’s been a jam packed 2 weeks since me and my dad drove over to Pontevedra. Meeting the team and staff, making friends, getting familiar with my new adopted home town and riding a lot. It hasn’t been straight forward, as nothing ever is, but im having a great time and settling in well.
Thanks for reading my first post. Stay tuned to hear abit more about the team, the training camp, upcoming races and who I’ve met so far.