After a great team camp I headed back to Palm Springs for 10 more days of sun and fun. We got in lots of good riding and saw some cool parts of the area as well including Joshua Tree, the most overwhelming outlet area ever and the aerial tram. The tram goes up one of the mountains just outside of Palm Springs to over 8000ft. Got to see some snow and trees! A very nice change after all the desert. I shouldn't complain about the weather in Palm Springs, but if you're from Canada it seems a bit monotonous after a while.
All off-seasons must come to an end though and so it was time to pack up for the first race of the year - for me at least - Merco Cycling Classic, in Merced, CA. Getting three bikes, a bike bag, many suitcases, bags of food, foam rollers etc etc etc into my little Honda Fit was a bit of a challenge. But as I always say it's a Fit, it has to fit!! And it did. Other than a little bit of stress in the general LA region - my nightmare of too many people - the drive wasn't too bad at all and it was interesting to see the changes as you head north. I've never been north of Santa Barbara before, other than the SFO airport, so all the landscape was new to me. And reminded me a lot of Washington...makes sense I suppose!
Us girls get to do three stages but the guys do four, so Jamie and I were up here a day early. Yesterday I watched the men's race...or however much you get to watch of a road race, after getting to try my TT bike out on the road. Thanks to the Canadian MTB mechanic (seems backwards right?), Scott Kelly, for getting me into a wicked position on it. All that's left to see is if I can make it go fast.
And that will be today. We don't have a super large field here, but this race seems to be one of the traditional season starters for North American racers. Being an Olympic year some of the girls have already started the season off, in New Zealand and Europe, but for the rest of us this is the start. So most of the big teams are here... us! (OPTUM), Exergy 2012, Specialized - lululemon. That should make for a hard first weekend of racing, as I'm sure everyone is in better shape than they might normally be at this time of year given the importance of Olympic qualification points up for grabs right now.
Along those lines, after this race the season gets going pretty good. I fly out for Argentina on Monday for Pan Am Championships. After a week there I fly back to California for about a week of downtime and training. Then it is time for the NRC season opener, Redlands, also one of my favourite races. And then after Redlands it's off to Europe for a month for some cobbled races starting off with my first start in Ronde van Vlaanderen aka Flanders.
OK, Time to go see how my speed suit fits.