It’s been only two days since the Vuelta ended, and I think the funniest feeling is that it seems to have come and gone just like any other race. It hardly feels that it was almost 4 weeks of my life where I did nearly the exact same thing every day and accomplished nothing else. I am pretty sure even that I may have taken a few weeks off of my life because of it! I am wracking my brain really hard to come up with some great insights and reflections on the race in its entirety, but honestly I have nothing astounding to say. The bottom line is that the race was tiring physically and mentally. I would say that the biggest thing for me was just surviving the first grand tour. I think it is like any other thing in this sport, where having the experience really helps. Simply putting this race in my pocket as a reference for the future is valuable.
So what is next for me? Currently I am en route to Las Vegas for Interbike. I am doing an appearance for SRAM to sign some autographs and shake some hands. I have never been to Interbike, but I have heard it is pretty neat, so I am interested in the experience for sure. Most exciting for me is that I am actually meeting Lisa in Las Vegas. I am only home in the US for a week, so not getting to see her after 4 weeks was not a happy thought. We decided to make a little trip out of this, so she is flying in for the few days I am at Interbike. We will do some exploring around Vegas in our free time. I have never been, so I am looking forward to seeing the “mystery” that is Las Vegas. Afterwards, we will fly back to Las Cruces for a few days. I am looking forward to just spending some time at home, going on a date or two, maybe having a little Mexican food, perhaps joining the local group ride for a morning, and in general just relaxing and recovering. All that will take care of my one week hiatus at home, after which I will be flying directly to Copenhagen for the Worlds road race. I was selected for the US Team, so I am both honored and excited to ride for the US in my first Worlds.
Alright enough of the “life of Matthew”; instead, let’s have some airport stories. In the last 48 hours, I flown from Madrid to Barcelona, driven to Girona for a stint of less than 36 hours, driven back to Barcelona, am currently en route to Newark, where I will board a plane to Las Vegas. One of the luxuries of this sport is the travel time. As a cyclist, I fly a lot and one would think that I would have it down to a science at this point, but that is not the case. Let’s begin with Madrid airport on Sunday night. I arrived over 2 hours before my flight and noticed there was an earlier flight. I asked if I could be rebooked on that one, but it wasn’t possible. Not sure if something was lost in translation, but they wanted me to pay, so I decided just to wait the extra hour. After getting a bite to eat, I waited at the gate. Only then did I notice that my 8:45 flight had been delayed to 11:15. Yup, that was not going to work for me, so I began to weigh the options. First I tried to rebook on the next flight, but there were plenty of other Spanish people wanting the same, so my English wasn’t cutting it in the bull rush. Then I checked the board for other flights.
There was another airline flying at 9:05, so I decided to try and do that. I asked around to see if I could buy a ticket inside security, and they said I had to go out. That’s when I found out how confusing the Madrid airport is. It took me forever to find my way out. First, I had to find the exit to baggage claim. Then I had to go down a level to baggage claim, exit the airport, go back up two levels to ticketing and try to buy the ticket. I got to the desk and the lady said I couldn’t buy a ticket because it closed 40 minutes before the flight. I was crushed. Now I was stuck deciding how to get home the quickest. In the end of it all, I ended up on a flight that was originally scheduled after my flight but was departing before it. Anyway, I finally got on the plane and got home at 2am completely destroyed.
During the escapade at Madrid, I had to pass security twice. I passed the same gate, too, which in such a big airport is a little funny. The security lady actually recognized me. The first time I passed, I was happy to donate my set of alan keys to TSA because they felt I could disassemble the aircraft with them. I was disappointed at that point but sort of understanding. The second time through security my patience was running very short, so when the lady on the scanner decided she had to completely search my bag by throwing its contents all over the table, I wasn’t the least bit amused. Then she took my toothpaste, and I had to do everything within my power not to grab her and run her head through the x-ray machine to see if she had a brain.
After finally getting home on Sunday night, I spent a pleasant day in Girona on Monday. I took care of a few errands in the morning, passed through the Red Market for good time sake, went for a small training, had lunch with Steven Cozza, and spent the afternoon/evening packing and cleaning. Finally ready to go I enjoyed an amazing surprise dinner that Lisa had arranged from a local friend/chef: Salmon Red Thai Curry. I decided not to do rice or pasta; instead, I went a bakery and got a small roll to use as a bread bowl. The meal was amazing, and a perfect way to end my day. The whole day was a reminder of how great life is in Girona; the bakeries, the markets, the friends, the training, the people, the culture. It is all so different than in the US, and I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to be a part of it.
Now that brings us to this morning. I drove to Barcelona airport with little stress and relative ease. I got checked in no problem; although, it is always un-nerving when the gate people are interrogating you about what you have been doing because I feel like one wrong answer and you are not boarding the plane. Thankfully I passed but was then “randomly” selected for extra security screening at the gate. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me at first, but once I found out that the process meant I was going to have a chaperone with me until I boarded the plane, I was a little annoyed. This meant my whole relaxing before take off by having a leisurely breakfast, surfing the internet a little, filling my water, using the bathroom, and boarding as I pleased was all dictated by them. In the end, it really wasn’t a big deal, but I was above my limit with airport security after my time in Madrid. Everything is all fine though as I sit here at 10,000m above sea level. I will be happy to land in the US and have some US culture for a week. Thanks for reading my random exploits, I hope it wasn’t too boring or annoying.