Bienvenue a Chambery. My new home for the 2015 season. Opting to brave the European winter for the first time instead of going home to South Africa during the off-season, the journey back to France was a five hour drive from my winter base in Banyoles, Spain.
Spain wasn’t all sunhine and sangria though. With a strong 2014 season in terms of results, I was left pretty disheartened when my efforts to find a top team for 2015 ground to a halt. The rules set by French Cycling are a bit of a handicap when it comes to finding teams as a foreigner so winter wasn’t off to a great start. Nevertheless, I put it behind me and pulled on my shorts, leg warmers, wool socks, shoe covers, undershirt, arm warmers, thermal jacket, buff, hat, and winter gloves and knuckled down for a winter of mileage. A few hundred cups of cement later and I was loving winter: massive loops, endless mountain roads, frozen rivers and snow lined climbs were the reward for hardening up, ignoring frozen toes and steaming legs, and just getting the work done.
Just like clock work, however, the 6 month mark rolled around and it was time to pack my bags and set off back to France for another season. It was a scene straight out of one of those movies showing an American teenager heading off to college: the car was packed! I had frames and wheels stuck in any which way that they fit between my suitcase, my yoga mat, my blender, and the rest of my cycling tools. I crossed the border, headed up and over the Pyrenees, and followed the French Auto Route to Chambery in the Savoie region of France.
I arrived at my new home, a basement apartment in the home of a kind French family, and after I unpacked the last wheel, the site of the landscape left me excited. I’m literally nestled in the moutains, completely surrounded by towering peaks hazy from cloud cover wherever I look. With my first goal races of the season set for the next 3 weekends, I’m excited to get things properly underway but, even though the winter off-season is over, judging from the snowy-peaks, the winter kit is staying firmly on top of the pile.