Sunday, January 25, 2015


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!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The 5 Stages of a Cyclist Post-Bike Crash

Today, a friend and I went for a long ride that included a couple of climbs. The weather was a little unpredictable with random bursts of rain littering our route. 

As we approached the first climb, the skies opened up and drenched us and the roads, however, in the distance, the clouds had parted and we were hopeful of a dry descent down the other side. 

The roads down the mountain were not wet, but they were not dry either. My friend went into a hairpin corner a little too hot and his rear wheel slid out after touching a white line and he went flying over the handlebars as his bike highsided. 

It was at this point that I got to witness the 5 Stages of a (not so catastrophic) bike crash....

Stage 1: Denial. 
The adrenaline is high and the dignity is usually low, so the rider wants to just get back on and keep going. There is no looking the bike over or checking for broken bones, just get back on and get out of there as if nothing ever happened. 'Yeah, I'm fine,' is the usual statement. 

Stage 2: Loss of confidence. 
Nothing rattles the nerves and shatters your confidence like crashing. My friend crashed coming down a hill so when he got back on and kept riding, he did it a lot more cautiously. Before the crash, I was straining to keep up with him. After the crash, I had to slow down and wait. 

Stage 3: The 'come down'. 
Once the adrenaline has worn off and the body has relaxed and cooled down, the aches and pains begin to set in and the road rash stings as it comes into contact with sweat. It's at this point that the person that crashed realises that everything may not be 'fine'. They realise that they could have an injury, or even worse, that their bike could have an injury. 

Stage 4: Acceptance. 
The person finally accepts that they crashed and any damage and/or injuries need to be assessed. For my friend, this meant a stop at a supermarket for some band aids and a quick check of the bike and gear. 

Stage 5: 'What if?'
Once it was established that the person is going to live, they run the crash through their minds over and over, analysing what could have caused it or what they could have done to avoid it. In this situation and pretty much every other crash, the answer is blatantly obvious but rarely acknowledged... just slow down. 

There is one more Stage to crashing a bike which people must go through alone, at home... Stage 6: Stinging in the shower. There are few things more painful than the sting of fresh road rash coming into contact with warm water. It's enough to make you cry.