Friday, June 28, 2013

Spares

At home, I have a few spare bits and pieces for my bike just in case something goes wrong. I have spare tubes, tyres and cables as well as a plethora of tools to cover most situations. Add a set of race wheels that I bust out for big events and I have just about covers all of the equipment that I may need. Despite this, there is still the occasional incident where I find myself stuck without an item and I can’t ride my bike until it is repaired. This puts a dent in my training schedule and is slightly more than annoying.

At Team Novo Nordisk’s U.S. service course here in Atlanta, they have a similar set up. There are a few spare tubes, tyres and cables as well as a few spare frames, wheels, groupsets, bikes, kit, saddles, trainers, cars and anything that you could possibly need during a season of hard racing. The scale of the service course is mind boggling.





If you thought that this looks like a lot of stuff, consider this: There is also a team bus, team cars, vans and truck that is also packed full of spare parts and bikes. Add to this, there is also a European service course in Italy that contains pretty much the same equipment and spares. That is a lot of stuff.

We always have everything that we could possibly need which also means that we have no excuses!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Take 2...

On this day, 2 years ago, I was on my way to Canada to race the Tour de Beauce. At the time, I had no idea what to expect but I quickly discovered that Beauceville has very few flat roads and I suffered every day as I struggled to hang on when the roads went up. 

On the 2nd last stage, it got the better of me as I missed the time limit and consequently, registered a DNF for the race. I was disappointed but I was also glad it's over. 

I had hoped I would never have to go back and do the tour de Beauce again but as it turns out, I'm on my way back there right now. I am on the roster to race it again and to be honest, I'm not looking forward to it. 

I have looked at the race manual and it is exactly the same. And as a special reminder of my last experience, right there on the cover of the manual, is an image of me from 2011 suffering up a hill. 

We have been training on the roads in Northern Vermont and just like Beauce, there are no flat roads. I have been having flashbacks. There are times where I get a false sense of security and think 'this is not going to be a problem this time'. Then my team mates fly up the next hill and I have to work hard just to hang on.

The race starts tomorrow. I'll see what happens. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Liquid Gold

In Australia, buying genuine maple syrup can be a costly venture. Maple syrup can range anywhere from $50-$200 per litre. If you don't believe me, check out www.ocanada.com.au! I never understood why it cost that much and to be honest, I was pretty content with my imitation 'maple flavoured' syrup. After spending a week here in Vermont, I can understand why the price is so high. 

Maple trees store starch in their trunks and roots before winter which is turned into sugar and carried through the sap in the tree. By boring a hole or 'tapping' the trunk, you can extract the sap to produce Maple syrup. The sap is boiled to remove the water and leave behind the concentrated syrup. 


Traditionally, the sap was collected with a bucket which seems like a simple process, however, it can take up to 50L of sap to produce only 1L of syrup and a single tree will generally only produce a maximum of 50L of sap per season! This makes for a pretty inefficient system. 

 

To speed up sap collection, all over Vermont you can find fields of trees all 'tapped' and connected by a series of pipes. These pipes run downhill and the sap is collected at the bottom. While riding, you can tell when you reach the summit of a hill because the pipes stop. It is a relieving sight. 


The sap is then boiled in traditional 'sugar houses' and graded (and priced) according to its quality. The best syrups are produced early in the season before the sugar has time to ferment in the sap.


In the USA, for a product to be labelled 'maple syrup', it must be made entirely of maple sap. 'Maple flavoured' syrups, 'pancake' syrups, 'waffle' syrups or 'table' syrups will contain other ingredients and are quite often made with high fructose corn syrup. They are only imitations. 

After sampling real maple syrup, I have to be honest... I don't see what all the hype is about. It seems like a heck of a lot of effort and $$ for a pancake topping. I really don't get what the big deal is. 

In a couple of days, I head to Canada, producer of around 75% of the world 's maple syrup. Maybe I'll ask them what makes it so special???

 

Monday, June 3, 2013

'Australian' Dining

Thanks to movies like Crocodile Dundee and Australia, some Americans have a warped idea of what Australia is actually like. If these movies were all you knew of Australia, then you would think that we are all Fosters drinking, giant knife carrying, boomerang throwing, cattle herding bushmen that have no home and just camp by a billabong. Here in America, they even have restaurants to replicate this exact idea.
 

Outback Steakhouses are Australian themed restaurants that perpetuate an incorrect stereotype of Australia. Inside you will find decor that is reminiscent of a country town pub in the 90’s and, as their website suggests, ‘a casual atmosphere suggestive of the Australian Outback’ with ‘generous portions’ of food.

This made me think, what exactly is Australian food? Do we really have any other than damper? We certainly don’t ‘throw another shrimp on the Bar-B’ as often as many think. Pretty much all of the popular dishes and restaurants in Australia have been stolen or modified from other countries. If it wasn't for people from other countries bringing over their delicacies, we would probably be eating damper and eucalyptus leaves. So, just what food does the Outback Steakhouse think is Australian?


Here is a sample of some of the dishes on the Outback Steakhouse menu…
  • New Zealand Rack of Lamb.
  • California Chicken Salad.
  • New York Strip Steak.
  • Norwegian Salmon.
  • Grilled Chicken & Swiss Sandwich.
  • Chocolate Thunder from Down Under.
So the food is obviously from a wide range of places. Here is a sample of drinks available from the menu…
  • Canadian Whiskey.
  • Samuel Adams Boston Lager.
  • Hawaiian Blue Cocktail.
  • Fosters ‘Australian’ Lager.

Needless to say, Outback Steakhouse’s menu is far from Australian. In fact, while I was there I had my first ever Fosters beer, a drink that is renowned for being ‘Australian’. Despite the obvious errors and misrepresentations, Outback Steakhouse really have nailed the Australian dining experience…

You go to a restaurant that hasn’t been redecorated since 1996, get served by someone from another country to order food from another country, drink imported beers and pay way too much for the whole experience. That is pretty much an Australian dining experience right there!