Monday, December 30, 2013

Numbers

It is the end of 2013 and time to take stock of the year that was. It was a busy year and here are the stats...


I have taken 32 flights this year not including connecting flights. That's roughly a flight every 11 days. 

I have spent 212 days (58%) of the year away from home with 196 (54%) of those away from my lovely and patient wife. 

During my time away, I spent 141 days (39%) of the year staying in a hotel. 

I have visited 29 cities in 8 different countries not including the smaller towns that stage races visit. 

I had 55 international race days and covered a total of  31657km on bike. If I rode every day of the year, that's an average of 87km per day. If you only look at the days I did ride, I averaged just on 100km per riding day. That is 8419km short of riding the distance around the globe!

During these km's, I spent 1026hrs riding a bike which is almost 3hrs per day with an average speed of 30.8kph.

I climbed 317250m uphill which would get me up Mt Everest 35.9 times. 

I went through roughly 4 cassettes, 6 chains and 20 tires on 3 different bikes and I have lost count of the number of tubes I have used. 

Last but not least, I burnt 458067 calories while riding my bike which is  1624 McDonalds cheeseburgers. 

I'm going to get a start on those cheeseburgers now. And maybe a head start on next year. 


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Chris's Adventure Rides

I hate doing the same ride twice. Well at least twice in the same week. As a result, I am constantly trying to find and plan new rides that I have never done. 

I have maps with me on my bike computer and I look for the most obscure way to get to places. My friends have called these rides 'Chris's adventure rides' and some are not so fond of them as, on the odd occasion, I get lost and end up going way further than planned. The adventure ends up being an ordeal. 

Having a mountain bike means that I can also plan some epic adventure rides. There are trails and tracks not far from the city centre that allow you to do endless hours off road in the middle of no where. 

The only problem with planning these MTB adventure rides, is that the maps are very limited and whilst they indicate that there is a trail, in real-life that trail may be over grown and straight up a vertical wall. 


Today, I experienced one such trail. We took a small 'shortcut' down a trail that was quite prominent on my maps but ended up being a 1km hike up a hill pushing the bikes in 40 degree heat. We just about needed a machete to carve our way through the trail. 


Despite this set back, the ride was an 'adventure' in every sense of the word. 120km in the dirt. Dehydration. Exhaustion. Navigation issues. Crashes. It had it all. As I tell my friends whenever they complain about 'Chris's adventure rides'... Attitude is the difference between an adventure and an ordeal!

 


Monday, December 9, 2013

'Off' season

Off season was supposed to be a time to relax at home and take a break from travelling around. It has been far from that. 

After returning home from the US at the beginning if September, I was home for 3 weeks before having to fly to China for the last race of the season. Then, a few days after I returned home, I went to visit my parents after endless reminders about how long it had been since I was last there. 

Another two weeks at home and then I was off to Tasmania to help out at a kids triathlon and visit some friends. I then came home for the weekend  before flying down to Melbourne for the World Diabetes Congress. After a delayed flight on the way home, I got to spend another weekend with my wife at home and now I am currently sitting on a plane on my way to California for the team's pre-season training camp. 


In 10 days time, I will return home for a couple of days to get over the jet lag before heading away for Christmas and New Year's. Then January will start with our 2nd training camp in Spain before kicking  off the racing season in Argentina. 

All routine has gone out the window and it feels like I just go home to do some laundry and refill my suitcase. My ever-patient wife has been calmly waiting to get to spend some time with me and most mornings I need to look around when I wake up just to confirm where I am. The off-season is proving to be almost as tiring as the racing season itself!

One thing is certain... I sure am getting tired of packing and unpacking my bike every few days!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pain and Gain

Each year, during the off season, I head to the gym to better prepare myself for the long season ahead. It is the worst time of my life. 

Thanks to repeating the action of pedaling a bike and doing absolutely nothing else, a cyclist's body is barely able to function in the real world. The upper body atrophies and other muscles that don't get used seem to disappear. Returning to the gym each year reminds me that they are still there. 


I know that going to the gym will cause me pain and that I need to use very little weight so that I ease into it slowly, but when the 60 year old guy who is rehabilitating from a joint replacement is lifting 3 times as much weight as me, I can't help but feel a little inadequate. As a result, I end up doing way too much, way too quickly. 


At the time, I feel invincible. Like I could lift it a thousand times with double the weight. Then afterwards, the pain sets in and I can't walk. It hurts to walk up the 5 stairs to my apartment. It hurts to bend down to untie my shoes. It hurts to lift my leg to put clothes on. My ribs ache when I laugh at something funny. And this isn't even the worst of it. 

Almost exactly 24hrs later, the muscle damage kicks in and it feels like I have been hit by a truck. I regret using more weight. I regret doing that extra set. I regret ever going to the gym in the first place. Then I realise... despite the aches and pains, I have to go back up there and do it all over again until it doesn't hurt anymore. 

All I need is a mobility scooter so that I can get there!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Damn cyclists!!

I spend a lot of my time each week out riding my bike on the roads. I'm just about to roll over 30000km for the year, a lot more than the distance I have done in my car. 

I understand and appreciate the frustrations of sharing the road with cars and have had my fair share of run-ins over the years. Despite this, whenever I am driving a car, nothing frustrates me more than cyclists on the road. 


It's not that I don't think they deserve to be there, bikes have every right to share the roads with cars. My frustration comes from watching cyclists take unnecessary risks and ride as if there are no cars on the road. 

On the weekend, I was driving to a mountain bike trail early in the morning. I passed several groups of cyclists that were riding as if cars didn't exist. Some were spread out 10m apart. Some ride almost on the centre line of the road. Some weave in and out of the parked cars on the side of the road. Some look like they can barely ride in a straight line. And although I realise cyclists are permitted to ride 2 abreast, it doesn't help their safety if they are in the middle of the road with a 2m gap between them. It was as if they were totally oblivious to their surroundings. 


Whenever I am riding on the road, I am aware that there are cars around me and make an effort to acknowledge them make being on the road easier for both of us. Whether it be by riding close to others instead of spread all over the road, not rolling through red lights in front of cars, waiting in line when in traffic rather than going to the front (forcing cars to pass me again) or by giving a wave to thanks cars that have to slow down for me. 

Every day I hear cyclists complaining about cars and talking about 'idiot' drivers on the road. But every day I also see cyclists ride as if they are trying to commit suicide. It's amazing how much nicer drivers can be when you actually 'share' the road and make life a little easier for drivers. It's also amazing how much safer you will be! 

If you need something to compare it to... I'm sure everyone has had the experience of riding on a bike path with groups of pedestrians that walk around in the middle of the path, blissfully unaware that you are trying to get past them. 


That is pretty much the equivalent of what I see cyclists do on the road. And it frustrates the heck out of me!



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

EOY

After being away for over 5 months, it was quite a relief to finally be able to come home last month. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to sit back and relax just yet as I had one more race to prepare for. This brought about a few problems. 

I was keen to catch up with friends that I had not seen in a while, which meant a lot of coffee shop rides, lunches and dinners were on the to do list, however, my coach had other ideas. My training schedule consisted of many long rides and lots of efforts so that I could hold on to the form that 3 months straight of racing had given me. I'm not gonna lie... motivation was low. 

While overseas, if I had a long ride to do, I would plan out a route and head off. I had no idea where I was and if I deviated from the planned route, I would just end up getting lost and have to ride for far longer than I had originally planned. This meant I had no choice but to do the training I was prescribed. 

Back home in Australia, I know all of the short cuts and back routes. So with low motivation, it is difficult to force myself to keep riding when I know that a left turn will take me home. It was also just as difficult to say no to an extra coffee, butter with my muffin or dessert with dinner.

Despite these first world problems, I'm now sitting in the airport waiting for my flight home from the last race of the season, the Tour of Hainan in China. For most of the teams at the race, it was the last of the season and the closing ceremony had a feeling of celebration in the air as most of the riders were keen to let their hair down. 

 
Most will return home to cold weather for a break from the bike to refresh the body, both physically and mentally. It is not possible to be focused on training and racing all season and then do it all over again without some rest. Your head will explode.


So how did I celebrate the end of the season?? Well, I just finished a large Double Whopper meal and there is a piece of cheesecake with my name on it. I am looking forward to going for a ride when I get home, but one where I don't have to do efforts or ride for hours on end. It's 3.8km from my house to the coffee shop and I think I will do a few laps of it in the next couple of weeks. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Upgrades...

Australia is undoubtedly the greatest place on Earth. Despite this, it is not without its areas for improvement and after visiting a few different places this year, I have some suggestions. Here is my list of things that I would bring back to Australia from overseas and implement for the greater good...

1. Turn right on red (or left for Australia). Ever come to a set of traffic lights and want to turn left but then the lights go red? You have to just sit there and wait, even if there is no traffic coming. Imagine if you could turn left on a red light if there are no cars coming!
In America, unless it is otherwise signed, you can turn right on a red light. Traffic moves faster and there is no sitting and waiting for nothing. Australia needs this rule.


2. Aperitivo. In Italy, 'apertiivo' is literally a pre-meal drink that is supposed to stimulate the appetite. During aperitivo time (usually 6-9pm), bars will put on a spread on snacks such as crisps, olives, cheese, nuts, dips and sandwiches and if you purchase an aperitivo drink, you can partake in the snacks. It is a brilliant idea and Australia could use it. Maybe it could prevent the binge drinking rages that Aussies are becoming known for?


3. Free soft drink re-fills. At pretty much any restaurant in the States, if you order a soft drink, it is a bottomless cup. (Unlike Australia where you pay $5 for a cup of ice with some soft drink in it.) One particular drink machine in America is called the Coca Cola Freestyle 127. It has 127 different flavors of soft drink, including many diabetic friendly 'zero' options. If you buy a single soft drink cup, you can spend the rest of the day trying every flavor for free!


4. Free breakfast in hotels. In Australia, you pay a small fortune in most hotels to have breakfast in the morning. At almost every hotel I stayed at in Europe and America, rooms came with a free breakfast. Head down to the dining room in the morning and there is a spread of food including coffee, bacon, eggs and a pancake machine. Everybody needs a pancake machine.

5. Tipping wait staff. There is nothing worse than getting poor service when you are dining out. In Australia, there is no incentive for staff to provide good service nor is there a way to let the staff know that you are not impressed with them or that you thought they were great. In America, tipping wait staff ensures that you will get the best possible service and if you don't, there is a means to show your distaste. I can think of several restaurants in Australia that could benefit from this.

6. Free Wi-Fi. It is almost impossible to find free Wi-Fi in Australia. Unless you go to a McDonalds or a State Library, it is extremely difficult to get the internet without paying. In the States, free Wi-Fi is everywhere. You can get around quite easily on free Wi-Fi and it is pretty much the norm for restaurants to have it available. 

7. Shark Week. The Urban Dictionary description of Shark Week pretty much sums it up...  'A week in the summer when Discovery Channel broadcasts all its shows in the shark theme. The best week to watch TV.' It is the longest-running cable television programming event in history. Everybody should see Shark Week. 


Friday, September 20, 2013

First impressions

I have been back in Australia for almost 2 weeks now and after being away for such a long time, I have noticed a few things that I generally just took for granted before...

1. Australians sound very... well... uncouth. When I arrived at the Brisbane airport and heard a bunch of Aussies talking, I almost couldn't take it seriously. It was like watching a cheaply made American movie with actors pretending to be Australian. I know understand why we sound so comical to them.

2. There actually are quite a lot of animals in Australia that want to kill you. During my first ride back home, I passed several dead snakes on the road and was swooped by a magpie that was determined to peck my eyes out. 


3. Traffic here is mental. There is far more traffic on the roads and everyone is extremely impatient. In Atlanta, if a car had to slow down to wait for a moment to pass you, in was not a big deal and they would politely do it. Here, if a car has to slow down to below the speed limit for 3 seconds because you are in their way, they make a big deal about it. When I first arrived, I couldn't believe that I was going to be riding amongst the traffic!

4. Despite the number of cars on the road, there is also a large number of people exercising. In Atlanta, I was lucky to see a handful of people walking but here there are groups out running and riding everywhere. While I was away, it seems that the new trend is to go running during your lunch break. 

5. People get up ridiculously early here. I organised a ride with some friends during the week and the suggested meeting time was 5:30am!!! It is going to take a lot of time to get used to waking up that early. I am going to have one rule though... I refuse to head out before sunrise. That's just crazy. 


6. Perhaps one of the reasons that people get up so early is because the sun also goes down super early. Dinner in America feels more like lunch because the sun is still up until almost 10pm. Here, it's already starting to get dark at around 6pm!

There is no place like home. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Forgotten life skills

For the last 3 months I have been living out of a suitcase, on the road for a series of races. During this time, my stops have included Canada, Italy, Denmark, Colorado and Brazil. Now I head back to Atlanta to pack up before flying back home to Australia. 

Despite the jubilation of finally getting to go home and see my wife, something has occurred to me: There are several things that I am going to have to get readjusted to when I return to normal life. 


1. Waking up before 8am: Races and rides generally start mid-morning so we usually sleep in before a late breakfast. With group rides back home leaving at around 6am, it's going to be a shock to the system. 

2. Making my own bed and cleaning my room: For the last 3 months I have been staying in hotels so when I return from a ride, my bed is made and the room has been cleaned. 

3. Cooking my own food: Staying in hotels for 3 months has also meant that I have eaten almost every meal in a restaurant. It's probably a good thing that I start to make my own food again. 

4. Doing my own laundry: After each race or ride, our ever helpful soignuers take our laundry, wash and dry it, then return it to us. It is a wonderful thing. 

5. Not getting a daily massage: During races, we are lucky enough to receive a massage after each day to recover. I will miss this. 

6. Not having a car follow me during training rides: When training with the team, a follow car accompanies us on rides with anything we could need including water bottles, spare wheels and food. Now I will have to get used to stuffing my pockets before each ride. 

Despite having all of these things that I have to get used to again, I have a feeling that my wife is going to make sure that I re-learn them very quickly. I'm sure she is stock-piling some chores for me right now, just so I can get a lot of practice in when I get home. And fair enough, I suppose. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Even crisps hate altitude

Some people adapt easily to being at altitude and some people do not. Last week, I discovered that I am one of the latter. 
The US Pro Challenge is renowned for being a tough race with a lot of climbing and almost all of it at an elevation above 2000m. In fact, one of the first pieces of information in the race manual is about altitude sickness. 


Some teams foolishly turn up to race only a few days before the start and they struggle with the thin air and lack of oxygen. With no time to adapt, they start well and truly on the back foot. 
In order to prepare for the race and acclimatise, we flew directly from the Tour of Denmark to spend 13 days in Vail, at over 2500m. Even riding into Vail was a struggle. Whilst trying to take it 'easy' my heart rate was almost maxing out while my legs were producing very little power. If I took a drink from my water bottle, I had to slow down even more just to catch my breath. 
At Vail, even holding a conversation with someone can take your breathe away. Needless to say, I spent the entire time just trying to recover from the Tour if Denmark. 

Stage 1 of the US Pro Challenge consisted of 100km with just over 1500m of climbing. When the group hit the climbs, it was as if the race was in slow motion as riders fought for air. I struggled the entire time and rolled in well behind the leaders.


Stage 2 was tough on paper and even worse in real life. It was 200km long starting with a 30km climb up to Independence Pass at 3600m elevation. At this level, oxygen saturation drops to around 75% and riders have a 20-25% reduction in VO2max!


The climb sucked and I was hating life the entire way. The main bunch was just ahead of me as I went over the top and I managed to regain contact on the descent. However... at 115km, when the road started going up again, I had no power and decided to call it a day.


I can honestly say that I do not like altitude and cannot understand how anyone possibly could. Colorado is a great place for a skiing or hiking holiday but its less than ideal for a bike race. At that level of altitude, everybody suffers, even food packaging. These packets of crisps are even hating altitude.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Fan boy

Last week at the Tour of Denmark, we parked the team bus in the teams' area for the start of Stage 1. A few minutes later, the Omega Pharma team bus pulled up next to us. A few more minutes later, hundreds of people surrounded their bus.


They were waiting for a certain someone to step off the bus and that certain someone just happened to be Mark Cavendish. When he did appear, camera flashes went off all around him and people held out paper and pen in order to get an autograph.
Over the last few years, I have watched Cavendish win many races and followed his results in the Tour de France. It was a totally bizarre feeling to be lining up with him on the start line of a race.
I consulted my team mates as to whether it would be appropriate for me to get a photo with him. They assured me that if I did, they would not let me back on the bus. Apparently, it would not be 'cool' to ask someone you are racing with for a photo. Fair call.


The solution to this was simple. If I ride next to him during the race, then perhaps I will get snapped in a photo and find it somewhere on the Internet. Then I would have an action shot with Cavendish and not have to look like a fanboy asking for a picture.
I am yet to find this picture. I have a feeling that it doesn't exist. I missed my opportunity.
Next week, I start the Tour of Colorado along side Tour winner Chris Froome and other guys that I have watched race on TV. One guy that will be there is a guy that everyone back home looks up to... Jens Voight. During the race, look out for him. Then look for me. I want a photo with Jensie.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

1000km

When I first started riding, a friend of mine and I had the grand idea of riding 1000km in one week. To do this we had to average around 145km each day or at least 165km if we were going to have a 'recovery' day.
We were not prepared for such an undertaking and like any young man attempting something for the first time, we tried to do it as quickly as we could. Needless to say, we failed on the 5th day and pulled the pin on the project.
Since then, the 1000km week has eluded me. I have done several weeks of over 900km but did not crack 4 digits.

To ride 1000km in one week, you need a lot of time. Approximately 36hrs to be precise if you are going at a reasonable pace. If you are working full time, you barely have enough time to eat, never mind sit on a bike and pedal for 1 and 1/2 days!
Last week, I achieved the elusive 1000km week. In fact, I totalled 1043km in 7 days.


And it did not take 36hrs either. Just an easy 27hrs22mins. Thanks to the Tour of Denmark, 5 days of long, hard racing, meant it went by relatively quickly.
This week, I have a feeling that it is going to be a little bit less than 1000km.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Token Aussies

A lot of people don't get Aussie humour. We make fun of absolutely everything including each other. (Unfortunately) it's part of Aussie culture. Some people mistake it for being loud and rude. Some people mistake it for being negative or too opinionated. Some people think we are a bit uncouth.

On Team Novo Nordisk there are 3 Aussies and a Kiwi. At races and training camps we stand out. We are normally the ones laughing at a stupid joke and generally having a 'good time'. Although he is a sworn enemy, the Kiwi also gets our humour and is a regular and willing participant in the fun and games.

We have tried to involve others in our banter but it is usually met with a blank stare or looks of confusion. Except for one guy.


Joonas, or Jonno as we refer to him, is from Finland but you would hardly believe it. He speaks English perfectly and thanks to the internet and countless hours in front of the television, he is up to speed when it comes to our jokes and lingo. He gets the Aussie humour and even surprises us when he breaks out his own original material.

Jonno is the Team's Aussie recruit. We are still looking for some vegemite and a meat pie to make things official but he has signed up.

With Jonno on board, that makes 5 token Aussies on the team, by far the biggest group. We are working on turning the others but it is going to be an uphill battle. We have gotten as far as 'Aussie-fying' their names but they don't respond when we use them. Except for Jonno.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Endless Summer

The cycling season in Europe is a Summer affair which means that back home in Australia during this time, it's cold and dark. Heading overseas for the racing season means that I get to enjoy an endless summer. 
This has many benefits. The first being that during the off season, early training doesn't involve 6 layers of clothing and a pair of cross-country skis. While the Europeans are riding through snow on their cyclocross bikes, I get to enjoy the Australian summer. 


Secondly, it means that I can enjoy a break at the end of the year on the beach, rather than rugged up inside in the dark. 
Thirdly, when the first training camp of the season rolls around, I'm not the whitest guy there. The Europeans develop a corpse-like glow after being inside for a couple of months while the Aussies are brown. 

Despite these benefits, during the last few days here in Italy, I have been wishing for some cooler weather. It is hot. Filthy hot. Sit around in your sweaty underwear hot. Not just during the day either bit all day and all night. There is no escaping it. 

 
The worst thing is, for some reason, Italians do not do air conditioning. Perhaps it's because they are in a refrigerated wasteland for half the year so they embrace the warmth but no matter where you go, no one turns on the air conditioning!
 
Cars go past with the windows down. Restaurants are 30 degrees inside and don't turn on the A/C even when there is a giant pizza oven burning away. Shops are sealed air tight with not even a fan turning. You even sweat when you are in a ice cream shop!
 
I do not understand it. I'm suffering. I see people around me suffering. But still, no one says anything about it. I'm starting to look forward to a bit of winter. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Venice is off the bucket list

Venice is always portrayed in the media as a romantic city that is filled with beautiful places, beautiful food and beautiful people. Movies like Ocean’s 11 give the idea that it is a quiet and secluded city in which only the rich and famous are able to visit or live. The history/mystery of a city that is surrounded by water and the notion that it is sinking gives it even more appeal.

As a result, if you ask people of their top places in the world that they would like see, Venice is usually up there. Most people imagine floating down a canal in a gondola while a Venetian dressed in a black & white striped shirt does all the work. Venice was in my top 10 places to see and this week I got the chance to visit during a rest day here at a team training camp in Italy.

TV lied. Every day, thousands of other tourists come to Venice to do the exact same thing that I wanted; to see this amazing place that TV has made out to be so amazing. This means that it is standing room only.
 

How does one access a city that is surrounded by water? By parking in an outrageously expensive car park then lining up at the boat-taxi rank to ride to the city center. When you arrive, there are tourists everywhere and every second person is trying to get a photo of that gondola you imagined. Street vendors are everywhere trying to take advantage of the tourists with stalls that sell anything you can image with ‘I heart Venice’ on it.

Since Venice is surrounded by water, there is not much room for public places or public seats so be prepared to be standing for an extended period of time. Head into the small back alleys and you will find tourists that have given up and are simply sitting in the middle of the laneway with a map, trying to figure out where the heck they are.

Like most tourist venues, everything is over-priced. The difference with Venice is that it can be justified. The logistics and costs involved with shipping absolutely everything in by boat is mind blowing. The amount of food and water alone that is consumed by the thousands of tourists each day must mean that truck (boat) loads of supplies need to be shipped in.

Shipping so many supplies in each day brings its own problems because somehow, the leftovers and waste needs to be shipped back out. With such small confines, few businesses or people are willing to take on more than absolutely necessary so you will often find random piles of garbage in the street as people just dump their waste. I could only think of one thing… What does a Venetian garbage truck (boat) look like and how on earth do they collect all of the rubbish from the tiny back streets?


Despite all of the tourists, the high prices and lack of public seating opportunities, Venice is still an amazing place. We made our way back to the car park on foot through a maze of alleyways and narrow corridors that are surrounded by beautiful stone buildings. A city that is surrounded by water is a bizarre concept to understand and running into children playing in the alleys is a strange reminder that people still live there despite all of the tourists. 



I didn’t get my gondola ride but I did get a photo and now I can tick Venice off my list of places to see.   

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Packing Tips

There is nothing worse than going on a trip and arriving at your destination only to discover that you have left something vital behind. This is especially true when you are going away for a bike race. After spending the last month on the road and having to live out of a suitcase, I have some tips for ensuring that you have everything that you need at your final destination and more importantly, for race day.
 

1. Pack clothing for every possible type of weather. This goes for casual clothing and cycling clothing. There is nothing worse than being caught out in freezing rain with only a pair of arm warmers to wear. The weather channel might say that it is going to be sunny and fine, but don’t trust it! So far this year, the European ‘summer’ has meant that you have to pack for sun and snow.

2. Bring a spare pair of cycling shoes. In my last 9 days of racing, every person in the team except 1, has crashed. Usually, the first thing to hit the ground is your shoes and this means buckles can break or cleats can snap. If you don’t have a spare pair of shoes, you can’t race again the next day!

3. Pack a set of kit and shoes into your carry-on bag. Believe it or not, airlines are not perfect and they may lose your luggage. They make take a few hours to get your bag back to you, they may take a few days. If you arrive at your destination 1 day before the race and all of your gear is lost then at least you will have one set of gear with you and you can start!

4. Carry your helmet on board the plane with you. It takes a lot of force to break a helmet, yet somehow, if you pack your helmet with your bike or in your suitcase, it is very likely to get cracked or damaged. You may look a bit weird carrying around a helmet with you but at least it stays in one piece.
 
5. Pack more cycling kit than casual clothes. When you are at a bike race, you spend the majority of your time in cycling kit or asleep in the hotel room so there is actually very little need for casual clothes. Don’t waste valuable suitcase real estate with clothes that you are not going to wear!

6. Don’t forget your chargers! When you are away from home, electronics become your main source of entertainment and communication so you need to charge them! That means, don’t forget an international adaptor, batteries and a range of USB cables!

7. Pack a laundry bag. Most hotels have a laundry that you can do your washing in. This is helpful when you are producing sweaty cycling clothes every day. When there are 5 other guys doing the same thing, it is much easier to keep your clothes separate in a laundry bag.

8. Label your stuff. In a team where everyone dresses exactly the same and has exactly the same equipment it is very easy to lose your things. Having your name on it means you will get it back eventually.

9. Don’t waste space with a towel. Every hotel will give you a towel so don’t pack one. They just take up too much space and you won’t even use it!

10. Leave some space in your suitcase. No matter how hard you try, you will always end up bringing back more than you took with you. This might be souvenirs, gifts, memorabilia or prizes but make sure you leave enough room for them.

So that is my top 10 tips for packing for a bike race. Just follow these and you can’t go wrong!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Spare time

Everybody needs a hobby so they can get away from their day job. For pretty much all of my friends, their hobby is riding a bike. There is no better way to get away from it all then hitting the road for a few hours. But what if riding a bike IS your day job?

I need a hobby. Something to do in my spare time so that I am not continuously thinking about races, heart rate zones and power outputs. As I need to be resting and recovering, I can’t exactly take up tennis or rock climbing. As I am always travelling on the road, I can’t exactly take up carpentry or painting. So what does a cyclist do for a hobby?

The answer is pretty simple… more riding!


At the recommendation of a team mate that has a penchant for the dirt trails, I have obtained a mountain bike and it is a great change from the bitumen. On a road bike, you spend so much time avoiding stones and potholes so it is a bizarre feeling to be riding straight over them on a mountain bike.


There is only one problem with mountain biking as a hobby… It’s not exactly relaxing. It seems that riding up steep hills in the middle of some forest can raise the heart rate slightly more than expected. This is not ideal for ‘recovery’ days. On top of this, my mountain bike handling skills are a little sub-par, so every time I go out, there is a chance that I will end up in a ditch somewhere.

At least I have something to do when I am not riding my bike.




Friday, July 5, 2013

Fooling yourself...

If someone says to you that they love doing time trials, they are lying. Or they have found themselves in that period of time between time trial races where you have forgotten about the pain and lured yourself into a false sense of over-confidence.

Time trials require a maximum effort for an extended period of time. That hurts. When you haven’t done a time trial in a while, you tend to forget that it hurts. Consequently, when another time trial comes around, you mistakenly anticipate it with enthusiasm. You have grand illusions of how fast you are going to go and how easy it is going to be.


Then comes race day. As you warm up, a small amount of buyer’s remorse creeps up on you but you ignore it and convince yourself that it will be all good once you’re out there on the course. It the start gate, you begin to stress a little as you have probably been standing around for 10-15mins waiting and getting cold.


As you start, your heart rate goes up to 90% within the first 500m and from here until the end, you absolutely hate time trials. Even if you are actually going fast, it still hurts and you just have to put up with it. As you cross the line, you (well at least I do) swear to yourself that you won’t sign up for another time trial again.
 

As the results come in, you start to think about all the little things that could have cost you more time. ‘If I just went harder up that hill. If I just started out harder. If I just took that corner faster.’ You seem to forget how much pain you were in at the time.

A few days or even hours later, you find yourself looking forward to your next opportunity to do another time trial. All the pain is forgotten and you convince yourself that the next one will be significantly different.

You are only fooling yourself.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Tour de Beauce, Take 2...

So a few weeks ago I mentioned that I was heading back toCanada to do the Tour de Beauce, a race that I was not particularly fond of due to the highly undulating terrain. In my last attempt, I missed the time cut on the 2nd last stage so, hence, did not complete the race. Here is what happened this time…


Stage 1: As we started the Tour of Beauce, memories that I managed to repress for the last couple of years came flooding back. The stage went relatively calmly until the final 5km. With 4km to go, a sharp pinch split the field up and riders were scattered as they crossed the line. I finished a couple of minutes behind the eventual winner but my team mate, Andrea Peron held on and sprinted for 3rd place.


Stage 2: The stage started fast. With wind and rain, it was single file in the gutter for the first 30km before the race settled down. I really couldn’t remember this stage from the last time that I did it nor what happened in the end. Then I got a violent reminder. 

With 20km to go, we took a sharp left turn straight into a ridiculously steep climb. Somehow, I ended up with a 23 cassette on my wheels and churned my way up the climb. The group split apart and I ended up 5mins down on the winner.


Stage 3: This is the queen stage of the Tour, finishing with a 7km climb up Mt Megantic. Team mate, Javier found himself in the break and we were able to sit in the bunch until the climb. I struggled my way up Megantic.


Stage 4: A relatively short individual time trial, this stage was seen by many as a chance to ‘recover’ from the previous days. I ‘recovered’ as best I could and rode a time to put me in the middle of the field.


Stage 5: This was as far as I made it in my last attempt so I was keen to better it. The stage was a circuit race around Quebec city with a steep climb each lap. It is known for being a difficult race.

The race started VERY fast with riders getting dropped on the first accent. I managed to hold on and completed the first 7 laps with the main field before dropping off with a small groupetto. All we had to do was pedal the last few laps to advance onto the final stage.

With only 1 lap remaining, we began the descent for the 2nd last time. I leaned into a sharp right turn and felt my rear wheel jump and slide out. I hit the road and slid as the rest of the group went past me. I got up and picked up my bike. The last of the cars went past assuming that I had just over cooked the turn. I looked down and realized I had rolled the tire off the rim.

I was disappointed to not finish the stage. In my mind, I had already considered the stage done and dusted. Instead, yet again, the Tour of Beauce got the better of me. I really am not fond of this race.