Monday, August 3, 2015

Arrivederci Roma

I've studied it at school. I've read books about it. I've seen countless movies about it. So going to Rome is one of those things that is on most people's bucket list. 


There are so many icons of Roman history like the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the catacombs and the list goes on. However, ever since I was a kid watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and learning about where they got their crazy names from, I've always wanted to see the Sistine Chapel. 


It's one of those mythical places that you are told deserves so much awe and admiration for so many reasons so you build quite high expectations for it in your mind. Before I went to Rome, I imagined a huge, grand building that just had to be the centre of the Vatican City. I was wrong. 


The Sistine Chapel is located within the Vatican Museum. All the website articles suggested that you purchase tickets online to avoid the long queues and boy I'm glad I did. The line to purchase tickets at the office literally went around the block with people lining up for hours. 


We arrived 15mins before suggested and waited across the road for our 'guide'. Despite booking online to avoid the queues, it turns out that you are basically paying to go in another, shorter line. The guides enable you to jump ahead and go to the front where they get you into the museum and then basically leave you to yourself. 


I was expecting inside to be different to the ridiculous queues outside. It turns out, inside is just as bad. The sheer number of people that are given entry is insane. Instead of being able to wonder around the museum to explore and look at the various displays, you are shuffled through amidst a sea of tourists & selfie sticks. If you are lucky, you might get a quick glimpse or photo of the things you want to see. 

After half an hour, I was sick of people. People pushing me in the back. People standing on the back of my heals. People cutting in front of me. It got to the point where I started to skip displays just to get ahead and away from people. The only problem is, the people never end!! So you end up missing things that you want to see out of frustration only to get more frustrated when you get stuck behind the next lot of people. 



I saw a lot of things. I also missed out on seeing a lot of things. When I finally got to the thing that I really wanted to see, the Sistine Chapel, it was standing room only. Literally. The chapel is a lot smaller than I anticipated and it was absolutely filled with people all with their heads tilted up to the ceiling. No photos are allowed and talking is not permitted and because it was the middle of summer, it smelled like a high school locker room, without the deodorant. 


Despite seeing some absolutely amazing things, the Vatican Museum and to be honest, Rome in general, has waaaaaay too many tourists. I guess I'm in no position to complain, seeing how I'm one as well, but if you are planning on visiting Rome, try to do it in the quiet season. At least that way you will have a chance to appreciate what you see. 

I may have checked Rome off my bucket list but I didn't get to enjoy it. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Responsible Service

Everyone has thought about it... being able to pour your own beer and get one whenever you want. 


Thanks to Australia's drinking culture and responsible service of alcohol laws, the closest thing you can get is 7-Eleven's Slurpee Bring Your Own Cup Day. Beer taps remain safely behind the bar under the guard of the bartender. 

Not in Spain though!!! In the old town of Girona, near the bottom of the cathedral is a place called 'Doll - Cervesaria Moderna & Restaurant'. Inside there are beer taps all around the restaurant and 3 TV screens above them. 


You get a card and load it up with credit. €5 (AU$7.28) will get you 1L of beer. You place your card on the reader next to the beer tap & your name comes up on the screen with how much beer credit you have remaining. Then simply get yourself a glass and pour to your hearts content. 


Take your card with you and come back whenever you want. Brilliant. 


Monday, June 15, 2015

Race formula.

When you watch a bike race from the side of the road, you generally see about 30 seconds of the race as it blasts by and that's it. Even when you watch a race in television, most of the time they will only show the final kilometres and you do not get to see how the race formed in the early stages. It's a shame because the opening kilometres of a race can be the most exciting. 

A bike race will generally follow a particular formula... A small break of enthusiastic riders  will be allowed to ride away... The peloton takes it easy while the gap grows... The race leader's team or the team with stage victory aspirations take control to chase the break down in time for a sprint finish or the key moment in the finale. 

That sounds pretty simple but in actual fact, the opening kilometres of a race can be a challenge for everyone. 

If there is a team that is the favourite to win, the others will look to them to control the race and do the bulk of the work. Consequently, the favourite team does not want to let too many riders get away in the break or the job of bringing it back may be too hard. Also, if there are other teams that are contenders for the race win or close in the overall result, they don't want them to be in the break either or that team gets a free ticket to do no work during the stage. 

For teams that don't have a rider that can contest the final, they want to have a rider in the breakaway and will often do everything they can to achieve this. This way, they at least get the chance to win and also get some TV time for the sponsors. 


So they opening kilometres can be hectic as constant attacks keep the average speed over 50kph and teams chase each other up and down the road. Small breaks will splinter off the front and the teams responsible for bringing it back will try to block the road and prevent any other riders bridging across. 

The teams that don't want to miss the break will sneak through and launch themselves off the front in an effort to make it across. This will cause more riders to do the same and eventually the break gets too big so the stronger teams chase it back and it starts all over again. 


This can happen over and over before the break forms. Sometimes it can happen in the first kilometre and sometimes it can take the entire race! In Asia, many teams seem to have an almost kamikaze mentality towards getting I the break and they don't care for the traditional formula for a race so the attacking often lasts for what seems an eternity.  

Once the break has formed though, and the attacks have stopped, the bunch has a bit of a break or 'pisso'. It is usually signalled by the favourite team or the race leader pulling over for a nature break in front of the peloton. (Well, not literally) Traditionally, it is ungentlemanly to attack while the yellow jersey has stopped so the speed drops to a walking pace while the gap to the break grows. 


The team responsible for bringing back the break watch the time gap grow and make sure that it doesn't blow out too much. As an indicator, the peloton can usually bring back around 1min of time every 10km but the bigger the time gap, the harder it is. 

When the gap reaches a suitable amount, the 'workers' go to the front to set the pace. This may be the responsibility of a single team or if there are several teams with a vested interest in the finale, they may send a rider each to the front to share the workload. 

The middle of the race then becomes boring as the peloton slowly chips away at the time gap. If they go too slowly, they risk not catching the break and missing an opportunity for a stage win or losing the overall lead. If they go too quickly, the break will come back a long way from the finish which will inspire others to try their luck at escaping again. A lot of times, when the time gap reaches around 3mins, the peloton will just slow to the same speed as the break and keep it the gap the same until around 30km to go. 

The TV broadcasts normally pick things up around now and this is what most people see. They often cheer for the breakaway to win but in the end, they are just delaying the inevitable. 

The break gives everything that they have left (or have been holding back) in a final effort to beat the peloton to the line. Meanwhile, the peloton goes full gas as they work to bring the break back. Teams fight for position near the front of the bunch to best position their selected riders for the finish while at the same time trying to save energy and not do any work themselves. 

If there is wind present, the race gets even more chaotic as position becomes even more important and the bunch can potentially break apart as riders struggle towards the back. 

In the final kilometres, the break is usually brought back and the strong teams move to the front. Others are left to scrap for the back of their wheels as one lone rider cannot compete with a train of 6-8 riders from one team. There is pushing and shoving and teams yell instructions to each other. If you are someone that is nervous in a situation like this, even a slight touch of the brakes can mean you lose 10-15 positions. 


Add round-abouts, traffic island and high speed turns to the mix the potential for a crash is very high. At the end of the day, the best chance of victory goes to those that a brave (or stupid) enough to ride in the chaos at the front of the peloton. They say that it is just part of the sport and if you are not prepared to crash, then you cannot contest the finish. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ode to Staff...

I love a good game of 'Would You Rather?'. If you don't know what that is, just take a look here... www.rrrather.com Someone recently put this question to me... At a bike race, would you rather be a soigneur or a mechanic? That's a tough question because to me, they are both pretty unattractive propositions. 

The Soigneur...
The soigneur's role is to basically have everything ready for the riders. Their day begins when they wake up early to prepare the breakfast table for the riders. This means they have to head down, reserve a table and put out all of the 'special' food items that riders may need such as protein, different types of milk, cereals and spreads. 


Then the soigneur heads off to prepare water bottles, race food for the days stage and lunches for the riders for after the stage is done. 

After breakfast, they pack everything back up and gather everyone's luggage and pack it into the van before heading to the start line. Here they are ready with anything that the riders might need for the race including creams, oils and extra food. 



Once the stage has started, the soigneurs head to the feed zone and wait to hand out feed bags when the race goes past. 


Then it is a race against the clock as they have to get to the next hotel to check in and put all the luggage in the correct rooms. They wait for the riders to arrive and give them their room keys, wifi passwords and massage schedules. 


The soigneurs have to give every rider a massage before dinner where they again have to reserve a table and put out any special food items. 



Then it's off to bed to be ready to do it all again the next day...

The mechanic...
The mechanic's job begins on the day before the tour starts where they have to unpack and build every rider's bike as well as several spare bikes. They may have to do repairs and also spend some time checking wheels and tires and possibly gluing new tires on. 


The mechanics are also responsible for the team vehicles so they need to make sure that they are clean inside and out. 



On race day, the mechanics make sure that the bikes are ready to go at the hotel lobby and that the team cars are loaded up with anything that they may need during the day.  Riders can be very particular about their bikes so they may have to adjust things by fractions of a millimetre just so that it 'feels right'. 

During the race, the mechanic's day can be either quiet or hectic, depending on whether there are any mechanical problems. If there is, they need to be at the ready with spare bikes or wheels and prepared to hang out of the car window at 100kph holding on to the rider to fix the problem.


After the stage, the mechanics need to wash/clean/repair all of the bikes and prepare the vehicles again. 


At the end of the race, all of the bikes and equipment need to be broken down and packed into bike bags for transport. 

On top of all this, most of the time, the mechanics and soigneurs usually have to drive the team cars and buses hundreds of km's to and from races!


So to answer the question, 'At a bike race, would you rather be a soigneur or a mechanic?' I would have to say soigneur. I hate packing and unpacking my bike and could not think of anything worse then having to do it several times.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Milano-Sanremo

The longest ride I have ever done was 278km. It was a number of years ago when a couple of friends and I decided it would be a good idea to ride from Brisbane up to the Sunshine Coast, watch a rowing race and then ride back the long way with some guys from the race over some climbs. It took all day and we stopped several times for food and drinks. Afterwards, I was destroyed for almost 5 days. The hot temperatures took their toll on us and since then, I have never attempted anything like it. Until….

A few weeks ago, I discovered that I would be racing the Milano-Sanremo. For those that don’t know what it is, it is the World’s longest one day race, covering 298km in Italy, from Milan to the coast and south to Sanremo. The first edition was run in 1907 and now ‘La Primavera’ as it is known in Italian, is part of the World Tour race calendar. It is the first Spring Classic and one of ‘The Five Monuments of Cycling’, which are generally considered to be the oldest and most-prestigious one-day events on the calendar. So in other words, the race is a pretty big deal for us!
I have watched several editions of the Milano-Sanremo on television. With very few climbs, it is the sheer distance of the race that makes it hard and it is considered to be a sprinters’ race. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever consider that I could one day line up on the start line, so it was a real honor to race.
For Team Novo Nordisk, being invited to race Milano-Sanremo is also a huge opportunity. It is our first World Tour race and although winning is a very difficult task, we can still put in a good performance to show that we deserve our position in the peloton. As a result, going in the early break away is not only ideal, it is MANDATORY. Riders in the early break are given TV time and the commentators draw every one’s attention to the team. So for us, it was our number one goal.
During the 8km of neutral before the proper start of the race, we all pushed our way to the front. I have a feeling some of the other teams were a little upset that we were all there but well, too bad. Because the race is so long, the bigger teams generally don’t mind letting the break go early as they have plenty of time to reel it in. Consequently, it could be the first attempt that stays away so it’s important to be there, ready to go!

This year, it took 3 attempts for the break to stick. I was in the 2nd attempt and to be honest, I was kind of relieved that it didn’t stay away because it would be a tough day in the saddle. Fortunately, our Italian rider, Andrea Peron made the break after just 12km of racing and he was happy to feature in his home country. Unfortunately, this was the same time that the rain started coming down and the temperature dropped.

As the race is a World Tour event, we are able to use race radios. However, World Tour events also mean than non-world tour team cars must go to the back of the convoy. This, combined with the weather, meant that our team car could not hear our call for rain jackets. I was freezing. I could barely feel my hands so I wasn’t even sure if I was pushing the radio button at all but I had to make my way through the convoy to the back of the cars to get a jacket. The cold and rain made it an epic race, but also made for a long and uncomfortable day in the office.
With a race that lasts for 7hrs, people are bound to need to go to the bathroom at some point. Large groups pull over for a nature break and you would expect the front of the race to slow down but it doesn’t. Instead, it seems to go faster. After stopping, you would have to ride through the cars for what seemed like an eternity just to get back to the bunch as they hurtled along the coast at +50kph.

After almost 5.5hrs and 230km, we started to hit the small climbs along the coast towards the final climbs of the Cipressa and Poggio. Each one felt harder and harder as the legs started to fade. Finally, after 250km, my legs had enough and I lost contact with the bunch. As the cars made their way past me, it suddenly dawned on me… We were in a point to point race and we had already passed the final feed zone, so I still had to ride to the finish!
Luckily, I dropped with a couple of other riders and they knew of a shortcut along a bike path that took out the final climbs. Despite this, I still managed to clock up 290km when I got to the finish in Sanremo, setting a new record for my longest ride, albeit a little bit faster than any other with an average speed of 40.6kph, even with the trundle to the finish.

The race was eventually won by John Degenkolb in a sprint. The finish almost looks like slow-motion as riders give everything they have left in the tank after such a long race. Impressively, several riders went directly to the airport after the race to catch a flight for the start of Volta Catalunya the next day. Even more impressive, is the fact that the winner of Stage 1 in Volta Catalunya had raced the 300km of Milano-Sanremo the day before and place 22nd!! Kudos.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Strade Bianche & beyond...

My preparation for the 2015 season did not go exactly according to plan. After years of doing very little stretching, my body decided that it wouldn’t stand for it anymore and muscle tightness and imbalances accumulated into knee pain whenever I pedaled the bike. Consequently, I had to wind back the training and take it easy a couple of weeks before my first race of the season, The Dubai Tour.
 
During the race, I was told that I wouldn’t be doing any damage to my knee but it was going to hurt and I’d just have to push through it. It was pretty obvious that I was under-prepared and by the end of the last day, my knee was quite tender. I returned to Spain and again hand to wind back the training to sort the knee out. On my race schedule, my name was down for Strade Bianche so I had only 3 weeks to prepare. To be honest, I was pretty worried that my next race was going to be one renowned for its difficulty but fortunately, I was able to another race a week before it to test the legs.
After what seemed like endless hours of stretching and strengthening, I was finally able to ride without pain again just a few days before the GP Lugano in Switzerland. I knew that I was lacking the intensity and hours that I needed for racing but I was hoping to do what I could for the team and test the legs before Strade Bianche. The problem with one-day races is that there is no opportunity to just sit in and take it easy until the end. Everybody knows that there is not going to be another opportunity the next day so it is hard racing from start to finish. Every rider leaves everything they have out on the road. As a result, most one-day races end with only a fraction of the peloton crossing the line together while the rest of the field is either back in the bus or in fragments behind them. The race did not go well for me, putting even more doubt in my mind for Strade Bianche but I returned again to Spain and did a couple of long, hard training rides to get some intensity in the legs.
Most teams and riders like to do a bit of reconnaissance of the course before the race begins and with a race like Strade Bianche and its 45km of dirt roads, it’s good to know what’s coming. Unfortunately, due to the location, I was only able to arrive the evening before the race so it wasn’t ideal but I figured it was probably better that I didn’t know how difficult it was going to be!Our bikes were prepared with wider tires for the gravel roads and slightly lower pressures. I was told that most of the sectors were like compacted dirt so I didn’t want to run anything too low and after all, there is still 155km of tarmac to ride!
 
In the days leading up to the race, there had been some strong winds across most of southern Europe and on the morning of the race they were beginning to pick up. As we rolled out, it was blowing a gale, adding another difficulty factor to the race. The first two dirt sectors were not too difficult. The compacted dirt meant that your wheels weren’t sliding around and you could ride the crosswinds relatively easily. The most annoying thing was the amount of dust. Unless you were at the front of the peloton, you were riding through a constant dust storm and at the end of each section your mouth was dry and lined with mud and your bike got noisier. The race stretched out as it basically fell into two lines on the smoother car tracks and you had very little opportunity to overtake the rider in front of you.
When we hit the 3rd sector, things changed. It wasn’t the compacted dirt like the first two but it was deep gravel. Immediately, two Orica riders hit the ground and caused a small gap in the bunch as they struggled to untangle their bikes. The strong crosswinds were pushing riders to the edge of the road and many struggled to hold their front wheel in a straight line in the gravel whilst leaning into the wind. Littered along the side of the road were riders either picking themselves up off the ground or holding their punctured wheels in the air waiting for their team cars that were also held up behind the chaos.
Team Novo Nordisk was not immune to the punctures and in the space of about 5km, we suffered 5 punctures. I came around a corner to find a team mate waiting on the side of the road. With his legs being better than mine, I stopped and gave him a wheel and pushed him on his way. After what seemed like an eternity, the team car finally arrived and I got going again. The dust was pretty bad in the bunch but when the team cars are basically rally racing to get to their fallen riders, it was insane! At times, I could barely see the road ahead of me!
As I tried to chase back, the road was constantly blocked by team cars as they stopped for their riders so the going was slow. Before the end of the sector, I passed 4 of my team mates on the side of the road waiting for wheels and every one of them had a ‘this is insane’ look on their face. At one point, all I could do was laugh.
As we hit the Tarmac, car after car passed me, each with a couple of riders behind it trying to get back to the bunch. Finally, my team car arrived with 3 team mates behind it and I jumped on. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to hold 60kph in 3rd position behind a car in crosswinds and I was left behind. I arrived at the feed zone a few km’s up the road and called it a day. The 3rd dirt sector caused a lot of chaos and cost a lot of riders their race. The stupid thing is, apparently the final 40km is the hardest part of the race!
Here is a photo gallery that sums up the race well... http://cyclingtips.com.au/2015/03/strade-bianche-in-photos-2/
In 2 weeks, my name is on the long list for Milan Sanremo, which would be an amazing race to do, but in the meantime I need to earn my place. I have another 2 one day races this weekend in the Nederlands with Ronde van Drenthe and Dwars door Drenthe. Fortunately, there are no dirt roads but cobbles and crosswinds instead! 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Two steps forward, one giant step back...

Cycling is a sport that is packed full of pressure. Riders are on limited contracts and there is a bottomless list of other riders waiting to be given the opportunity to take your place. On top of this, Teams are also on limited contracts with sponsors so they too are feeling the pressure. As a result, whether it be real or not, there is a perceived necessity to get results and be in good form.
 
The pressure starts in the off-season as riders try to get into shape and be ready for the start of the season. This means doing lots of base km’s and watching everything that you eat so that your weight is where it needs to be. The slightest interruption to a training schedule can make you feel that you are going backwards and need to make up for it. It would not surprise me if there is a higher rate of eating disorders amongst cyclist than teenage school girls.
The worst thing that can happen during pre-season preparation is an injury. Whether it be from a crash or something else, an injury can make it feel like you have been stopped in your tracks and the pressure rise.
Ten days before my first race of the season, I started to feel some pain in my knee. It worsened to the point where I was unable to pedal my bike for more than an hour. I was told it was patellofemoral pain, essentially caused by muscle imbalances and tightness. I had to take some rest and spend my days doing stretches and strengthening exercises.
 
After a week of very little riding, it felt like my preparation had gone backwards a month. I knew I needed to train. I had a race coming up in a few days. And it was messing with my racing schedule.
During the Dubai Tour, I suffered through each day. I tested my form but my lack of preparation was obvious. At the end of the tour, my knee was as sore as ever and I had to start my recovery all over again. I spend every waking hour stretching and doing strengthening exercises and I’m overly paranoid about any tingle or feeling in my knee.
To say I am frustrated is an understatement. After 2 ½ weeks, I am finally back on the bike and doing some proper training. I have a LOT of catching up to do and need to ignore the desire to do more than I am told so I don’t end up back where I was a couple of weeks ago.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

#Lean

After finishing our latest training camp in Altea, in Southern Spain, my team mate, Scott and I headed back to Barcelona to continue our preparation for the upcoming season. Scott is from New Zealand so we have been fortunate enough to be able to train in the warmth of the Southern Hemisphere while the European riders battled with the cold.

Part of this preparation is to drop the extra kilograms that may have been put on during Christmas and the off-season. Some are better at this than others and Scott has returned from off season at not only his race weight, but probably a little too lean (which I will explain shortly). Personally, I have a little work to do but then again, it is a long season ahead.

Whilst at training camp in Altea, it was cold, but not too cold. We could still train quite comfortably and there were even days where we could ride in just shorts and a jersey.
 
 
The last week here in Barcelona has been a little different. The sun has been hidden behind the clouds and rain has threatened on several days, so the temperature has been far less than ideal.

On our second ride here, I took Scott on what was planned to be a relatively short, easy loop. The sun was ducking in and out of the clouds and as we approached the farthest point of the ride, a heavy mist set in and my Garmin said that the temperature dropped down to 1ᵒC. I was cold, but not that cold so I didn’t think Scott would be any worse as he was wearing several more layers than me. We descended down a mountain and pulled up outside a café that looked closed.

My hands and feet were numb but other than that, I was okay. Scott was a totally different story. He pulled up shivering with a look of grimace on his face and runny nose. He struggled to unclip from his bike and could barely talk. He was cold. Hypothermic cold. Being lean has many benefits when riding a bike uphill, but it doesn’t help when you are going downhill in freezing conditions. We were a long way from the next town and I honestly did not know what I was going to do. One look at Scott and there was no way that he could keep riding.

I had pretty much concluded that I was going to have to hug Scott and share my body warmth with him. As I reached out to hug him, fortunately, two people exited the café that I assumed was closed. We rushed inside and I ordered him a warm drink.

The café owner could see that Scott was in trouble and although she did not speak English, she made gestures to drink his coffee and warm up. Scott struggled to move and it was at this point that the lady became his Spanish mother. She placed two heaters in front of Scott and turned them up high. She then fetched him a jacket, a blanket, a beanie and a neck warmer and rubbed his back. She made gestures about calling an ambulance but Scott slowly warmed up and assured her that he was okay.

Eventually, we were able to laugh at the situation. The lady asked if I was okay and I said I was fine, and it was only Scott that was feeling the cold. She laughed and lifted up her pinkie finger whilst pointing at Scott. She then flexed her muscles like hulk and pointed at me. I don’t need to speak Spanish to understand what she was saying.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Learning the ropes... Again

It's been on my to-do list for a while but a few weeks ago I finally decided to learn how to surf. I know nothing about surfing and my friends know nothing either, so I was jumping straight into the deep end. Just like learning to surf, when I first took up cycling I knew nothing about it and I have noticed several similarities between my two experiences...

1. When I purchased my first road bike, I basically picked one out of the Trading Post that was within my price range and went with it. I didn’t know anything about frame sizes and I didn’t even know how to change the gears. I just figured it had pedals and two wheels so I couldn’t go wrong. A few weeks later, I discovered that the bike was too big for me and spent a substantially larger amount on a new one.

I did the exact same thing when I purchased a surfboard. I saw an advertisement for a board very cheap and sent this message... 'Hi, just wondering if you still have the surfboard for sale? Also, I'm a total nube at surfing... could I learn on this board???' I received this reply, ‘Well my Grand Children surf on it so I guess so.’ Based on that alone, I figured the board would be fine.
I went to collect the board and was greeted by an elderly gentleman named Ray who was dressed in his pyjamas at 4pm. I should have been suspicious when I could basically pick up the board with only my thumb and index finger but I just thought that was normal.


After discovering that the board could barely keep me afloat and that it would be better suited to a 10 year old or Kelly Slater, I went to a surf shop and spent a substantially larger amount on a much, much larger board.

2. While learning to ride, I copped my fair spray of abuse from older, more ‘senior’ riders. Whether it be for not doing my fair share of the work on the front, forgetting to point out a hole in the road or just getting in the way. They are always eager to let the ‘newbies’ know
about it.

It seems that the same rules apply while surfing. After finally reaching the point where I can stand up on the board but have no idea how to steer or stop, I stood up after riding a wave to find an older man pointing his finger in my direction and yelling expletives. I looked around with a puzzled look and said, ‘Me???’. He made it clear that he was talking to me. I still have no idea what I did wrong but I assured him that I was sorry and wouldn’t do it again.

After witnessing a few incidents like this, I can only assume that common surfing nicknames like ‘dude’, ‘bro’ and ‘mate’ have only come into existence from people learning how to surf trying to address and calm down an angry, more experienced surfer.

 
3. I fell off my bike several times while learning. It was mainly while I was using cleats for the first time but I embarrassed myself many times in front of complete strangers. Each time, I got back up and rode away as if nothing ever happened. I can only imagine that I looked like an uncoordinated fool as I struggled with the pedals.


Likewise, learning to surf is essentially all about trying not to fall off and look like an idiot for a fair while. In my first couple of outings, I managed to cut both of my feet on rocks, dislocate my finger and almost get hit in the face by untamed boards.
 

4. In cycling, despite initially being uncomfortable on the bike, it is very easy to appear as if you know what you are doing. If you have all of the right equipment and shave your legs, then you can look like a pro. Well, at the coffee shop at least.


In surfing, it is even easier to appear like I know what I'm doing. Simply put on a pair of board shorts, a rashie throw a board under your arm. As long as you don’t go in the water, people can only assume that you can surf with the best of them!

 
5. Cycling is an expensive sport. Bikes cost a lot of money and you soon discover that there are different types of bikes for different needs. And that you need one of every type. There is the old adage that the number of bikes that you have is always N+1, where N is the number of bikes that you currently have.

Surfing is no different. To make learning easy, it’s best to have the longest widest board possible but as you get better, you may want a shorter board. There is a plethora of different shapes and sizes of boards available that all claim to do different things. I’m already on my second one.

 
6. As I rode my bike more and more, I began searching for a ride that was more ‘epic’ than the last. Longer rides, bigger climbs, faster descents and better views. I was looking for that perfect place to go riding.


Surfing is exactly the same as people search for the location that has perfect waves. For me, that means looking for a beach that provides small, regular waves that I can learn on. When I do find somewhere ideal, like cycling, there is usually a mass of other people doing the same thing and it’s almost impossible to enjoy it.

I have come a long way on the bike since those early days when I was learning the ropes. I hope that one day I am equally as confident on a surf board, however, the lack of waves and a board here in Spain means that my progress will be limited to when I get back to Australia!