Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ghost town

It's no secret that Spain has been experiencing some economic difficulties lately with stories of their financial situation all over the news. Despite this (or perhaps the cause of this), Spain sure knows how to relax during the week.
 
Whilst at training camp, it is extremely difficult to get to shops or even buy a coffee because the sun takes forever to come up or everyone is on 'siesta'.

At 8am the sun begins to rise and most people are just starting breakfast. This is extremely odd to someone that is usually up and on the bike by 5am. At 10am most shops open up but 3hrs later, at 1pm they close again for 'siesta'!!

During this time people get lunch, relax and can even have time to take a nap. The town turns into a ghost town with no one around on the streets and barely any cars driving around. At 4pm, siesta ends and shops reopen for 3 more hours of trading until 7pm. So that's a 6hr working day with a 3hr lunch. Not bad. To top it off, on Mondays, some places have a longer siesta to 'recover' from the weekend!!

Whilst walking around town and riding around, it as if there are more buildings and businesses in Spain than there are people. During the week, I barely saw people on the streets and at night, only a handful of lights can be seen in huge apartment blocks. It is almost as if it is one giant ghost town.


 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Compliant

After signing onto a professional cycling team, every rider is added to the UCI's athlete drug testing pool. This means that they can come knocking on your door whenever they like and ask you for blood and urine samples.

So that they know where I am all of the time, I need to tell them where I will be every day, 3 months in advance. This means that I need to provide them with an address that I will be at during the day, a 1hr window in which I will definitely be at this address for testing and an address of where I will be sending the night. I recently had to enter all of my details up until the end of March 2013.

If I asked you where you will be at 2pm on February 12, 2013 could you tell me? I struggle to predict where I will be on the weekend, never mind in 3 months time!!

To go with these grand expectations, there are some dire consequences if you don't adhere to them. If you fail to enter your whereabouts in time or are not at the specified location on 3 occasions, you are deemed to be non-compliant and can be banned from competition for up to 2 years. It is the same as testing positive. This means, that if you decide to head down to the shops to pick up some milk and the testers knock on your door, you are in big trouble!

Here at training camp, I got a taste of the UCI drug testing. On day 6, the UCI turned up for a random doping control. A guy watched me pee into a cup and another lady took some blood from me. During the test, everything is carefully monitored and you are not even allowed to leave their sight until you have provided a sample.

5 days later and I was woken by a bang on the door as the UCI arrived for another test. We all rolled out of bed and sat around again, waiting to provide samples. The testers give you all the pleasantries and one lady even remembered my name but I suspect it is just a ploy to stop you from hating them.

Apparently, the frequency of the tests is due to the fact that we are new riders and do not yet have a 'passport' history of tests with the UCI. They require 3 tests to ensure that they have enough data on file to compare future samples with.

In 3 weeks time, I head to Italy for our second training camp. As the tester was finishing up, she politely wished me well and added, 'I will probably see you again in Italy.'

Hooray!!

 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Countdown to T-Day...

Well it's exactly 7 days until T-Day. 7 days until I become a man.

Since I'm in Spain, James is scheduled in for his tattoo a week before me and he is literally in the middle of getting his done. His lips are locked tight on whether or not it hurts or not but I suspect it's only because they are quivering like a small girl's would.

Instead, he has sent me some images of the progress...




Risqué kit

In Australia, black is the new white. Well, in cycling kit at least. Teams such as FDJ and some national teams have 'revealed' some of the flaws in having a predominantly white kit so it recent years, it has been avoided.

Here at Team Novo Nordisk, the new team kit is white. It does look good, pretty damn good, actually and I am looking forward to putting white back into circulation. But I can't help but conjure up images of... well... this...
 

Drug camp

At home, I don't really know any other diabetics and last year I was the only diabetic on the team I rode for. As a result, I didn't really want to advertise the fact or make it obvious that I was the guy that had to shoot up at every meal.

At group dinners or outings I would leave the table to take my insulin or wait for everyone to be distracted before 'shooting up' under the table. If anyone did see me, they would have probably thought that I was a sneaky drug addict!!

Here on Team Novo Nordisk, everyone is a diabetic and there is no need to hide it. There are insulin pens laying around everywhere and I can shoot up freely. You can be mid-conversation with someone as they pull out a needle and stab it into their stomach then continue on with the chat.

I imagine this is what a methadone clinic is like, but a lot classier.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Old man Williams

At 31 years of age, I am relatively old to be joining the professional ranks of cycling. Most come in somewhere in their early 20's and work their way up from there. Despite this, I am by far, not the oldest guy in the peleton either. Hard men like Jens Voight race well into their 40's.
 
On Team Novo Nordisk, I am the oldest rider on the team.

Most of the other riders are much, much younger, without a lot of experience in the peleton, never-mind living out of home. So what does this mean for me? Well, with my infinite wisdom and life experience, I need to help the younger riders learn the ways of the world.

 

I'm not sure exactly what that entails but I'm assuming its advice like: Resist the urge to buy Cocoa Pops for a breakfast cereal just because you are away from your parents that never let you have it. Staying up until 3am watching music videos isn't a good idea when you have a big day coming. And you can't survive on pasta, olive oil and cheese alone.

This role makes me feel old. Damn old. Perhaps I can turn things around and simply live vicariously through them? Convince them to do all the things I never got around to. Or maybe I could go Mr Miyagi and teach them abstractly by making them do all of my chores. It's worth a try.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

On the Road Again...

Having diabetes has its down sides: You have to stab yourself with insulin every time you eat and delicious sweets are not conducive to its maintenance. Despite this, the needles eventually become part of every day life and you get to scare your friends by pretending to stab them.

When I was first diagnosed, I was at a race & collapsed after a relatively short, easy stage. I went to the hospital and that afternoon I was told I had type 1 diabetes.

When the doctor found out that I raced a bicycle, she told me that I would have to have a couple of months off and that it wouldn't be a good idea to go riding long distances. At this point I was ready to give up cycling and was preparing to sell everything bike related that I owned.

Then, the next day, I got bored. What else am I supposed to do? Sit around and watch Dr Phil all day? So I got back on my bike and haven't looked back.

Since then, I have discovered that what the doctor told me is the typical advice that diabetics get from health professionals. Because diabetes affects the level of glucose in the blood, add exercise to the mix just complicates things and makes it too hard to manage.

In order to combat this misconception, there is a new cycling team that I am proud to say that I am a part of. Team Novo Nordisk is the world's first Pro-Continental cycling team made up of all diabetic riders. The team is based in Atlanta, in the States and will race mainly in the US, Europe and Asia.


So for me, this means that I am back on the road traveling again. I am currently sitting at the airport waiting for my flight to Spain for the Team's first training camp where I will meet everyone for the first time.

So in the coming months, keep an eye on the blog... it's time to fire it back up, seeing how I may have some more exciting things to write about. In the meantime, you can read more about the team at www.teamnovonordisk.com

Monday, November 26, 2012

Becomming a man...

I have always wanted to get a tattoo. In fact, it has been on my list of things to do for the last few years. Despite this, some things keep getting in the way and prevent me from putting my money where my mouth is. Firstly, my friends keep getting one. This means that I have to put my tattoo off, as I would only appear to be copying them and don’t want to look like I am just doing it to be the same. Secondly, I can never think of what to get.

I don’t want to just choose one out of a catalogue like an 18 year old girl celebrating schoolies at Valley Ink. Nor do I want to be a person that chooses something then tries to come up with some obscure significance or meaning. Also, I don’t want one that looks like crap either!

Last weekend on my birthday, I made a passing comment about wanting to get a tattoo to a friend of mine. He said that he was thinking of getting one as well and within the hour, we were at the tattoo parlor to book a consultation. We were told to return with any ideas or suggestions that we had and print some stuff out if we could.

For the next 4 hours, we researched tattoo designs to find some inspiration. I had some ideas that I wanted to include. Firstly, I wanted to have something to do with a bike. Unfortunately, most bike tattoos that I have seen are either huge, lame or involve getting a chainring mark tattooed on your leg so I wasn’t expecting to find anything.


Secondly, I wanted to incorporate the sun from the Philippine flag to pay homage to the origin of my extreme tan lines. Thirdly, I wanted to incorporate a swallow, which can traditionally represent a partner for life (as swallows do) and always returning home.

I was not expecting to incorporate all three things into a design but I told Sam (the tattoo guy) my ideas and he said he will come up with a design. He took an outline of my shoulder for an idea of size and now  I’m currently waiting for the final design to be done.

I am booked in to become a man on the 22nd December and Sam has estimated that the size of the design will take up to 6hrs in the chair. He was a bit worried that I may not be able to handle that long in one sitting as I have never had it done before. We’ll see about that.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Triathlete vs Cyclist

With a few days off work this week, the Wife and I went up the coast to have a couple of days in the sun. We arrived in the aftermath of the Noosa triathlon and there were still many people hanging around, clinging on to the weekend that was.

I managed to convince Emily to bring her road bike with her and even more surprising was the fact that I got her to go for a ride with me! We cruised up along the coast from Coolum to Noosa and along the way we past a constant stream of cyclists.

As we rode, Emily made a wild statement: 'I think triathletes are a lot friendlier than cyclists.' I asked her to please explain.

Emily claimed that whenever we rode past a triathlete, they would smile and wave but cyclists wouldn't even look at us. I said she was crazy but decided to put it to the test anyway.

Emily was right. More often than not, those riding a triathlon bike with deep dish wheels, ankle socks and tri-bars would smile and wave. Whilst those that were on a plain road bike would look straight ahead and not even flinch.

Is this phenomenon true? Are cyclists really assholes when compared with triathletes? There must be an explanation.



Perhaps it is because it is easier for triathletes to wave when resting on the aerobars than for cyclists to take their hands off their bars?

Perhaps it's because triathletes get do lonely riding by themselves so much that they will wave at anyone?

Perhaps it's because cyclists are competitive and don't want to acknowledge their competition out on the road?

Perhaps it's because triathletes don't compete and do mass participation events so they are friendly with everyone around them?

Perhaps it's because triathletes don't ride hard enough and are want to start a conversation with someone?

I'm sure there is an explanation.
 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Circle of life

I didn't start riding a bike until I was at university. I was one of those guys that was walking home at 5am after a night out as others were heading out to exercise.

When I started riding, most of my uni friends watched in disbelief as shirts and pluggers were traded for Lycra and a helmet. They weren't interested in cycling and I wasn't going to try to convince them.

10 years on and things have changed. I recently discovered that one of my friends from uni commutes to work on his single speed so for the last few weeks we have been meeting after work for a bit if a social cruise around the city followed by some food and beverages. It's much more of a social outing than a ride.

Last night, I found out that another friend from the days of long nights out and hangovers also rides to work so we invited him along.

As we rode along the river trying to decide on where to stop to grab a drink he shouted out. 'If ten years ago, someone told me that we would be doing this today, I would have laughed in their face!'

There seems to be a period in everyone's life where riding a bike is uncool. Usually, it coincides with the discovery of chicks and beer. Ahhhh, life has gone full circle.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Epic Fail

The first time I did a mountain bike race, I borrowed a demo bike. It poured down rain for the entire race and after a snapped wheel, saddle, chain and a turn in the wrong direction, it took me 7 1/2 hours to complete the 100km. I swore I would never do a mountain bike race again.

2 years later, I signed up for a 6hr enduro. This time it didn't rain but the course was extremely rough and rocky. I didn't have any mechanical problems but after 128km, I could barely clench my fists together and my back ached for days. I swore I would never do a mountain bike race again.


2 years on and the Flight Centre Epic has rolled around. Again, I neither own a mountain bike nor have I ridden one since the last race I did. I had absolutely no intention of participating in the event and was happy to sit back and let the other guys from work suffer through it. Then I opened my mouth.


I made outrageous claims that I could beat everyone, knowing full well that I didn't have the equipment to even attempt to prove it. I was quite content until one person said, 'Fine. I have a bike you can borrow, let's see you do it.' So I entered the race.

It was only 87km, a walk in the park. Problem was, 2 years was just long enough to forget how bad the last mountain bike race was. I was quietly confident of beating the guys that I had told I would.

I turned up to the race having ridden the bike for exactly 387m. It felt fine. Well, I actually had no idea how it was supposed to feel so I just assumed it felt fine. I was equipped with 3L of water, 3 spare tubes and all the tools I would need.


I started the race in the Elite category (a mistake in itself) and chose to just sit at the back of the bunch and not get in the way. This turned out to not be a good idea as I just inhaled huge amounts of dust as the bunch went all out on the dirt trails. After 14km, I was covered in a fine layer of dust but I had ridden ahead of my work rivals and had a comfortable lead. Then I got a puncture.

As I sat on the side of the trail changing the tube, one of the guys from work passed me with a big smile on his face. I changed the tube as fast as I could and hoped that I would be able to catch him. I got back on and at 19km, I got another puncture.


Again, I sat on the side of the trail and changed the tube as huge amounts of people from the age group categories passed me. With 68km remaining, I thought that I still had a chance of catching up. I got back on and at 30km I got another puncture.

I was down to my last tube and wondered what would happen if I got another puncture in the middle of no where? I got back on and was extra cautious, making sure I didn't hit any sharp rocks. Then my chain starting breaking apart.

I quickly repaired the chain and got back on. By this stage, I was somewhere in the middle of the age group categories. Then at 32km, I got my 4th puncture.

I had no more tubes and had no choice but to walk. I started to push the bike through the grass and trees, keeping an eye out for someone that I knew to give me a spare tube. I knew that if I did see someone from work, they would probably just laugh at me and keep riding. Many kind strangers stopped and offered me a tube. However, with 29 inch tyres being all the rage and me still riding a 26 inch, their kindness was futile. I kept walking.

After what felt like an eternity, a generous man with the right size tyres offered me a tube. I sat on the side of the trail and started the change it. At that exact moment, everyone else from work rode past and laughed.

I changed it as fast as I could and rode as hard as I could to catch them, knowing that if I got another puncture, I would have someone to borrow a tube from. I had conceded victory to those that I mocked at work. Somewhere up ahead of me, my work mate was laughing to himself. Well, at least I thought there was.


At the end of the first lap, 50km into the race, we stopped at the feed station to refuel. There, wrapped in bandages and his arm in a sling, was the guy that was supposed to beat me. He crashed out of the race! I had done a Steven Bradbury!!! All I had to do was finish!

In the next 37km I got another 2 punctures, taking my total to 6 for the day. I rolled across the line after 7hr10min out in the sun but with only 5hrs of actual riding time. Thats 2hrs spent on the side of the trail. I can say I beat the guys from work and rub their faces in it.

Problem is, I can barely use my fingers to type. My hands are so sore and my back is killing me. I still have a filthy bike to clean and I don't even want to look at it. I now remember why I hate mountain biking so much and, again, vow to never do it again.
 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Held up...

Today I had a wedding to attend so I had to dig through the wardrobe and dust off a suit. The wedding was at the Sunshine Coast so the plan was to head up Friday night. I was all ready to go until I realized something.

I was preparing a shirt and tie to wear when it dawned on me. I don't own an iron. In fact, I haven't ironed a piece of clothing in over two years!

I had to contact a friend to see if I could come around and borrow their iron after work. It seemed like an odd request at the time but surely there are others out there that don't own or need an iron??? Why can't hanging your shirt up in the bathroom while you shower and letting the hot steam do the ironing for you be enough?

After a bit of a delay, we decided that it was too late to drive up on Friday night and waited until the morning. All I have to do now, is make sure my shirt doesn’t get wrinkled again.

In the meantime, do I need to buy an iron? If I only use it once every two years then it barely seems like a necessary item.  I’ve been kayaking more times than I have used an iron in the last two years but I haven’t bought one of those! Maybe I’ll hold off.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hated uncle

I have a niece that is 2 years old. The last time that I saw her was at Chritmas time last year and she did not like me. For some reason, she refused to come anywhere near me and cried for her mum if we were even in the same room together. Last week I travelled to Sydney to visit and I was keen to see if she would remember me or forget the last time we met.

Thankfully, she was a lot more friendly this time. We managed to bond over a few good story books and playtime in the park and she was quite comfortable with me.

I had arrived before my wife so the following day we all made the trip to the airport to greet her off the plane. During the trip, my niece fell asleep in her car seat and I gently carried her into the arrivals area. I took a seat with her in my lap and suggested that my sister in-law go and meet my wife off the plane while I waited.

'Are you sure you will be okay? Make sure you call me if she wakes up.', she said in a strangely concerned voice. I didn't think anything of it. Then I got a phone call... 'I'm still waiting. Is she still asleep? Make sure you call me if she wakes up.'

A few more calm minutes went by and I began to wonder. Why is she so concerned about my niece waking up? What's the big deal? Then, I found out.

My niece woke up. She opened her eyes and looked around. She looked at me and then stared for a couple of seconds. Then the tears began to well in her eyes and she took a mighty breath before screaming, 'WHERE'S MMMUUUUMMMMM??!!!!!'


I did my absolute best to keep her calm and reassure her that mum was not far and on her way but it was no use. 'I WANNNTTT MYY MMMUUUUMMMM!!!!' She kicked her legs out straight and went as stiff as a bored, making it almost imposible to hold her. she kicked me away and continued to roll on the ground screaming for her mum.

The ladies in the baggage claim counter had a direct view and I'm pretty sure they were beginning to wonder if I was trying to kidnap this child that was screaming at me.

After what seemed like an eternity, her mum came running down the hallway after hearing the screams and scooped her up. The tears immediately stopped. I got a couple of filthy stare downs by my niece as the tears began to dry. Thankfully, she forgave me during the car trip home and I made up for it with a few more story books. This time, I will not leave a hated uncle.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sweat Box

Last week I took some leave from work to visit family in Sydney. This also meant that I took a week of leave from the bike as well.

Usually, I go through some phases when I stop riding for a few days. The first day is great because I get to sleep in but then I get progressively more and more grumpy as the days wear on. After 5 days I feel pretty fat and lazy and am slightly irritable. My wife says she can't stand it but I don't notice.  

This time, I wasn't going to let it happen and my brother in-law offered to take me to the gym and join him in a spin class. It had been a while since I had done one so I thought I'd give it a crack.  

When you ride a bike, you are outside, moving and rearing your own breeze. Even when you are just cruising along, there is a breeze of around 25kph to keep you cool. In a gym, there is an instructor yelling at you to go harder and the only breeze you get is from the fan that is pointed at your feet and swings in your direction every 20seconds. By the end of the session, my shirt could be literally wrung out and there was a pool of sweat under my bike.



Exercising in a sweat box also means that a lot of other people experience the same thing. So after years of housing sweating cyclists and soaking up pools of sweat on the floor, most spin class rooms have a distinct aroma of sweat and stale gym clothes. It is almost enough to make you dry reach. I swear that they should strip them down every few months.

Another problem with spin classes is the underlying competition with other participants. Everyone says they are not competing but secretly they are. My brother in law even checked my distance covered at the en of the session. The only thing is, everyone sets their own difficulty and no bike is exactly the same. This means that the 60 year old woman in the back corner that seems to be going way faster than you could be doing so with no resistance on an easier bike. The more you try to race people, the more frustrated you get as you comprehend how the chick in the track suit pants barely breaks a sweat.

 At the end of the session I walked out like someone had thrown a bucket of water on me but at least I had gotten some pedaling in to keep me calm for a few days.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lock, Stock & Two Sore Shoulders.

A good friend of mine has finally decided to tie the knot and on the weekend, he had his buck’s day to celebrate throwing in the towel. Most buck’s days start with a manly sport that usually involves a level of skill, pain threshold and/or performance while intoxicated. Activities such as golf, golf buggy racing, skirmish or go-karts are normally on the agenda, however, this weekend had something a little different.

Living in Brisbane city, there are not many people that can say they have shot a gun. Don’t get me wrong, the chances get higher, the closer you get to the Gold Coast but for most, firing a rifle is only something that you see on television. So when I found out that we were heading out to Brisbane Sporting Clays to shoot stuff, I was pretty excited.

Sporting Clays is a type of clay target shooting that was designed to keep hunters in tip-top form during the off seasons. You use a shot-gun to shoot a range of clay targets that are designed to mimic real-life animals such as the target that floats along then dives down towards the ground like a bird or the target that skip across the ground like a rabbit. Unlike most real-life animals, the clay targets are also painted fluoro orange so you can see them more easily.

Unlike most target shooting disciplines, Sporting Clays are more challenging (allegedly) because the targets are random. They come out at different angles and speeds every time so that it is never the same. This way, the shooter can never anticipate what is going to happen.

We each got to take 25 shots from 4 different stations with the most skilled shooter taking home a booze voucher. I wasn’t worried about winning, I was more worried about coming last. On a buck’s day, you are surrounded by a sea of testosterone and the last thing you want to do is publicly suck at a man-sport in front of everyone. It’s a dog eat dog world.


After the first round, I was confident that I wasn’t going to come last. Years of Playstation and xBox have paved the way for shooting things in real-life and although reloading wasn’t as simply as shooting outside of the screen my hand-eye coordination was better than I expected.

Despite this, there was one thing that threatened to dampen the spirits of a few shooters. It seems that a 12 gage shot-gun can pack a bit of a kick when you fire it and if you don’t have it perfectly positioned in your shoulder, it can cause some slight discomfort. At the end of the 25 shots, I could barely lift my arm and after receiving some comments about my distinctive cyclist’s physique, I revealed some nice bruising on my shoulder. 24hrs later and my arm is still hurting. I have a new respect for Rambo and Chuck Norris.




Sunday, July 29, 2012

More than I can chew.

A couple of weekends ago, I went to check out Pushies Galore, a Bike Meet here in Brisbane.


There was a bike show with a huge range of bikes from lowriders to fixies to old school BMX bikes. Despite the range of bikes, there was not a single modern bike. Every bike was from the time when craftsmanship and finishing quality was rated more highly than aerodynamics and weight.




What was most interesting was the number of bikes that were hand made in Brisbane. I assumed that it just didn't happen anymore, but there was a variety of hand made bikes. In fact, the winner of the 'Made in BNE' category just happened to be the mechanic from the Fortitude Valley store!

This got me thinking. I would love to build up a nice steel bike; something with class. I checked out some old school frames on eBay, but then it occurred to me... why not just build my own frame?



I found some steel tubing, lugs and all the other bits and pieces. But I made the usual male mistake.... Like assembling furniture from Ikea, I tend to try first, then look at the instructions later. I did some research about frame building and it is a HELL OF A LOT HARDER than I had anticipated. It seems to require some very large and expensive tools as well as some other stuff that I don't even know where to start looking for.
 

I have a feeling that I have bitten off more than I can chew.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tour de France Hair Styles

I was flicking through the standings on the SBS Tour De France Tracker App on the iPad and I was shocked at the decline in hair styles since the King himself, Mario Cipollini graced the Tour with his flowing locks. Well, the flowing was usually highly restricted by hair product but Mario was the king of style.

A couple of Argos Shimano riders, Koen De Kort and Roy Curvers, look like they are trying to mimic Mario’s greasy style but are failing miserably. But they are just the start of it all...

 

FDJ-Big Mat have brought their own Justin Bieber look alike in Arthur Vichot...


Robert Kiserlovski looks like he is cutting his hair so his helmet fits better...

Meanwhile, Vladimir Karpets should not be allowed back into the peleton after his previous fails...



After his return from a 2 year suspension for doping, I think I know what Alejandro Valverde was doing. Advanced Hair, Valverde???



Then there is Luis Mardones from Cofidis who is packing a rat's tail...


Despite all of these, I think this guy, although he is not in the Pro Peleton today, tops everyone. SPEED MULLET!