I’m here in Norway with Scottish team mate Gareth Montgomerie of GT MucOff, Scottish Cycling coach Paul Newnham and Scottish Institute of Sport’s David Brandie.
We flew from Edinburgh to Oslo on Wednesday then drove 2 hours north through up into the highlands of to the ski area and bike park of Hafjell near Lillehammer.
Being in this country marks a change of pace for me. Norway is calm and considered. There is obviously a lot of money about but no great shows of wealth. Houses are big but made of wood with turf roofs. Roads are sensitively constructed around their surrounding landscape but you pay generously to use them. Food in cafes is made using quality, home sourced ingredients and priced accordingly. Everyone is expected to behave in a socially responsible way and everyone does because there is a general atmosphere or trust and respect. Dishonesty and selfishness sticks out like a sore thumb here. I feel happy to fit in and be part of their high functioning society. Except I have just flown in a plane to take part in a corporate driven mountain bike race. Ho hum.
We are staying in a ski chalet at top of a hill where in the winter thousands of cross country ski tracks spiderweb off in every direction. Now though, with the delicate alpine tundra revealed, heaps of single track spills out of every patch of woodland and runs along every lakeside.
We visited the race arena today to sign on and do some practise laps. The course is a physical one. There are 3 harsh, grassy climbs, a technical rocky climb in trees, some fast off camber traversing sections across the ski piste, a couple of technical drops and a jump park.
Riding the course today, I felt strong. The pace of my season may have dropped a gear but there remains a steely determination to grind out a final good result before hanging up Gordon the Cannondale Flash and watching the leaves fall.