Wednesday, December 7, 2016


This post was originally posted for Conquista Cycling Club & can be found here...

It's that time of year again. Riders are coming together with their teams for early 2017 training camps. These are the people you will spend many nights on the road with during the coming year. It’s interesting to meet for the first time the people whose job at times will be to sacrifice themselves and protect you while racing.

As a result, teams are climbing mountain peaks together, hiking long trails, sailing or even just spending a relaxing holiday together to better know each other and bond as a team.

At Team Novo Nordisk, we had a slightly different approach. We spent the last week in the Dominican Republic building three homes for families living in poverty. Not only did it give us a chance to become closer as a team, but it allowed us find purpose and give back to society in a very real way.

At various times over the last few years, I have questioned the significance of my career choice. Before becoming a professional cyclist, I was a school teacher. While at that job, it was easy to see how I was contributing to the greater good and contributing to society. However, as a professional bike rider, I sometimes question my purpose and how I give back.

Cycling is very much driven by your own personal results. After a few disappointing performances, it is easy to doubt yourself and your self-worth. I have seen many cyclists fall out of love with cycling as a result of this. I have even seen some cyclists quit riding to seek out more purpose in life.

Last week in the Dominican Republic, we worked with Hope Sports and Homes4Hope to provide shelter for three families in a community that is in desperate need. It was a chance for us to give back and see that there are other ways we can live a more purposeful existence.

On a personal level, the experience gave us the chance to reflect on the lives that we live. As professional cyclists, we spend the year travelling around the world staying in hotels and racing expensive bikes. We complain about things like not getting the best equipment, not having the milk we prefer at breakfast or missing your favourite flavoured bar during a race. Meanwhile, the communities in the Dominican Republic are going without the most basic of needs.

They are living in homes made of scrap metal, the kids are walking the dirt streets without shoes, and they struggle each day to find enough food. It's an eye-opening and confronting experience that really puts things into perspective.

We have all seen pictures and videos on the internet, but nothing can prepare you for the shock of seeing it up close. Personally, I think each and every rider on my team has a new appreciation for what we have and the opportunities we are given.

When you see kids happily playing with nothing but an empty cardboard box, I can't help but feel guilty when my biggest problem is deciding what colour iPhone to buy. My problems are insignificant in the bigger picture, and it took an experience like this to give me a wake-up call.

As well as the opportunity to provide homes for three families, this experience will hopefully help us to grow as individuals and have a stronger bond as a team. It's something that I think everyone needs to experience in their lives. I believe it will make me and anyone else who goes through this a better human being.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Off Season

This post was originally posted for Conquista Cycling Club & can be found here...

It has been a long year but fortunately the end of the season is fast approaching. With World Championships in Qatar coming much later than normal, many riders are struggling to stay motivated with some even forfeiting their spot at the biggest single-day race of the year, knowing they won't be 100% ready. For me, last week saw my final European race for 2016, so I am keen to get back to Australia.

With only one stage race in China left for me, like most riders at this point in the year, I am already thinking about the off-season and where I can take a holiday. Many pros get to the end of the season and they simply do not want to touch their bikes. Some even go weeks without turning the pedals. However, I have discovered I don’t like to stop riding for an extended period.

I can only handle around three days off the bike before I am itching to get back in the saddle. The reason for this is simple: I love riding my bike. Pre-season is my favourite time of the year as I get to do long rides, find new roads and not worry about the numbers. Also, riding my bike helps keep me healthy, and that’s good motivation to keep riding. 

Consequently, whenever I go on holidays, I take my bike with me. In fact, in the last four years, I can remember only two holidays where I didn’t have my bike with me, and that was probably because my wife put her foot down and said it needs to stay at home.

When selecting a holiday location at home in Australia, there are several things that I need to consider. It generally has to be within riding distance so that I can set off on my bike in the early hours of the morning before my wife drives the car to meet me. This usually gives me a 200km or so radius to work with but in the past I have been known to ride only halfway before being picked up with the car. 

I also try to make sure that there are plenty of roads to choose from as well as avoiding the city center so that I don’t have to deal with traffic. The accommodation needs to have laundry so that I can wash my cycling kit and it doesn’t hurt to have a balcony to keep the bike out of the way. Half of my suitcase is usually taken up by cycling clothes, spare tubes, and energy bars and you can never forget to throw the floor pump into the back of the car.

If I have to take a flight, then there is a whole other kettle of fish to consider such as luggage fees, tools for assembling and disassembling my bike and hiring a car that is big enough to fit my bike.

Currently, I am researching my next location and making sure that I can ride there via smaller back roads. Do I call it a holiday? Or do I call it a cycling holiday? Or do I call it a training camp?

Friday, September 2, 2016

Endless Summer...

This post was originally posted for Conquista Cycling Club & can be found here...

Being Australian has limited benefits when it comes to professional cycling in Europe; however, one of them is that I have an endless summer. While the Europeans are preparing for next season with cross-country skiing, riding a ‘cyclocross’ bike or relocating to Southern Spain in search of the sun, I am back in Australia training in the summer. Then, just as sunrise starts to take a little longer and the nights begin to get chilly, I head back to Europe for the Spring races.

As a result of this, I have never seen snow. I mean, I have seen the leftovers of it on the ground, but I have never actually seen snow falling from the sky. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what I am supposed to be looking out for.  Most people from Europe don’t believe me when I tell them, but where I live, the lowest temperatures on a winter’s day are in the mid-20’s Celsius. I never even owned a puffy jacket.

Every year, the team equips me with all the cycling kit that I could possibly need. This includes near endless amounts of winter warmers, jackets, gloves and rain gear. I think this is all thrown in to accommodate the Dutchies with all their complaining about how cold it is training in the Netherlands. The first time I even open my winter kit is at the first European training camp of the season. Before this, I beg for more summer kits.

When it rains in Australia, a rain jacket is redundant. If you put a jacket on during rain in summer, you will end up wetter than if you didn’t because you will be sweating so heavily. Rain is a welcome relief because it cools you down. Even then, the temperature barely drops below 30°C. In Europe, it is a totally different story. If it rains, it gets cold…typically really, really cold.

I honestly don’t know how the European riders train during the winter or when it’s raining. Most guys say they use a trainer. Personally, I couldn’t think of anything more boring. This year, I have spent a grand total of two hours on a trainer. That’s less time than what most pros do in a single session.

I cannot stand putting on heaps of extra layers just so I can ride outside. I feel like the Michelin Man. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that this week I am going to need my rain bag. I am in Bergen, Norway, for the Tour des Fjords where it rains more often than it doesn’t. It is supposed to be summertime, but I am walking around in a warm jacket. It’s cold, it’s wet, and it will be like this all week. I spent an hour on the trainer today while other teams braved the weather and went riding outside. Maybe I need to forego my endless summer this year and try to ‘toughen up’ during the winter. Then again... No thanks!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Gotta catch 'em all . . .

This post was originally posted for Conquista Cycling Club & can be found here...

Being a professional cyclist means you are on the road a lot. You are always traveling to different places, catching trains, buses, planes, taxis and of course, riding endless miles on the bike. Being a professional cyclist also means you have a lot of time to kill and think while you are traveling.

This combination can have a dangerous and sometimes sad result: PokemonGO.

I will happily admit that I have downloaded the app. I mean, my news feed has basically been the Tour de France & PokemonGO for the last three weeks so it's difficult to avoid it. I will proudly say though, that I have no idea what I'm doing when I open it.

My age puts me just outside of the Pokemon era... I'm more of a Voltron guy. However, my younger teammates fall right into the PokemonGO riptide. My Belgian teammate, Kevin 'The Mess Maker' de Mesmaeker, spent 3 hours last night trying to 'catch 'em all' and complained that the owner of the closest gym was too strong... Whatever that means.

There is one problem with cyclists becoming hooked on a location-based augmented reality game: Cyclists hate walking. The game requires you to get outside and explore the area around you, walking around a virtual reality map in real-time. I could hear some guys from other teams in the rooms underneath me last night, complaining that there was a Pokestop too far away and they didn't want to walk that far. After all, we do have a stage to race tomorrow.

What results is a bunch of guys sitting in their rooms or hallways, waving their phones around trying to fool it into thinking that they are moving around. It's a great sight to see.

Even my teammates who I would least expect to play PokemonGO had succumbed to the pressure and were out in the hallways last night. When questioned about what they were doing, everyone says the same thing... 'I'm just killing some time.' Sure you are, guys, sure you are.

So what's next for cyclists vs PokemonGO??? I can only imagine that training rides may become the perfect opportunity to play the game. How many Pokemon could there be in a 180-km ride? My teammate also explained to me that there are some components of the game that require you to walk a certain distance to complete them. Not just small distances either but up to 5km! Imagine how fast you could knock that over on a bike!

The difficult part is going to be explaining to the coach why you have 2 hours of pause time during a 6-hour ride! But at least you don't have to walk anywhere!!

Friday, June 17, 2016

In Theory...

This post was originally posted for Conquista Cycling Club & can be found here...

When racing in Europe, the race usually follows a pretty predictable pattern: a break is allowed to escape at the start. The bunch relaxes until the bigger GC teams or sprinters' teams move to the front to control the pace. Eventually, the break is brought back just in time for the usual suspects to contest the finish. Sometimes the bigger teams get it wrong and the break survives to the finish, but most of the time, it's fairly predictable.

When racing in America, the racing is full-on from the start and it doesn't stop. It's as if every race is a criterium, regardless of the actual length. The race is single-file from when the flag drops until the peloton blows apart as riders tire of the pace. With so many smaller teams keen to prove themselves and show their potential, it is a war of attrition to the end. It makes for tough, exciting racing and you will see a lot of names in the future coming out of the US.

On the flip side, when racing in Asia, there is absolutely no formula or pattern. Whatever you think will happen, typically it is the opposite. The attacks are relentless with riders seemingly chasing down their own teammates with kamikaze attempts to escape the peloton. Last week, the Tour de Korea was no exception . . .

When looking at stage profiles, the Tour de Korea was a sprinter's race - in theory. With no climb greater than a Category 3, you could expect a bunch sprint almost every day. However, the race was anything but.

Stage 1 went as expected with a final sprint, but with team rosters limited to six riders, and many teams fielding a second team at other races in Europe, no one was strong enough to control the race.

What resulted were endless attacks, breakaways that typically would stay away getting brought back, and breakaways that never should’ve survived reaching the finish well before the peloton. The leader’s jersey changed hands four times, and the overall winner never actually won a stage all week.

On some days, it would take over 100 kilometers for a breakaway to form with every team almost desperate to put a rider off the front. Generally, no more than five riders were allowed to escape. However, when a break finally did get away, it was almost impossible to organise the pursuit.

Again, in theory, teams that had no reason to ride on the front of the peloton were driving the pace whilst others, including the leader's team, refused to work. There were several instances where a team would have a rider in the breakaway, riding hard to stay away, while at the same time, their 'teammates' were on the front of the bunch, riding hard to bring the break back. It made absolutely no sense.

Every climb, regardless of the race situation or how far it was from the finish, was taken at full speed and the race would blow apart. Things would always come back together a few kilometers down the road.

Team Novo Nordisk brought along our Spanish GC rider, Javier Megias, and after looking at the stage profiles, he concluded that the race would be decided on bonus seconds in the sprints and that the race did not suit him. However, on Stage 6, he found himself in a breakaway that finished seven minutes ahead of the peloton even though the leader’s team rode hard all day.

In the end, Javier finished second overall, which is Team Novo Nordisk’s best GC result to date. It was a pleasant surprise because, and once again based on theory; the race shouldn’t have panned out this way. Racing in Asia is always a surprise and eventually, you learn to expect the unexpected.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Time Travel . . .

This post was originally posted for Conquista Cycling Club & can be found here...

Team Novo Nordisk has an exotic race calendar that sees us compete in a smorgasbord of countries around the globe. Even in the first few months of this year, I had turned the pedals in Spain, Australia, the Philippines and Brazil. For me, this is fantastic because it means I get to see some of the lesser-visited places on Earth but on the downside, it also means a LOT of transit.

As well as fending off thrombosis and water retention, crossing so many time zones so frequently also means a constant battle with jet lag. Sleeping patterns and circadian rhythms go out the window and don't get me started on what it does to other bodily functions.

To give you an idea, a few weeks ago, I left Spain and went three hours ahead for the Tour d'Azerbaijan. After a week there, I went back to Spain for one night before moving nine hours behind for the Amgen Tour of California. Then I had another overnight in Spain before gaining an hour at the Tour of Estonia. One hour may not be much, but when Spain exists in a time zone of its own, a few hours behind the rest of Europe, one hour can make a big difference! After Estonia, I had three more nights back in Spain before gaining seven hours flying to where I am currently laying wide awake in bed.

Last three weeks:

  • ·         Spain→Azerbaijan = gain three hours
  • ·         Azerbaijan→Spain = lose three hours
  • ·         Spain→California = lose nine hours
  • ·         California→Spain = gain nine hours
  • ·         Spain→Estonia = gain one hour
  • ·         Estonia→Spain = lose one hour
  • ·         Spain→Korea = gain seven hours

I'm actually writing this blog at 2:30 am in Korea, two days before the Tour de Korea starts. I have to admit, I’m pretty angry at my Spanish teammate, David Lozano, because he is somehow fast asleep, comfortably snoring in his bed at a respectable time.

My Fitbit says that last week my average sleep was 5hrs 4mins per night. Not ideal when you consider that I am supposed to be racing and recovering.

They say that for every one hour of time difference, you need one day for your body to adjust. When we travel to a race, we usually get one day to adjust... period. It doesn’t matter if it is nine hours difference or three. There are things that you can do to make it easier. One way is to fight off sleep during a flight, so I have a better chance of sleeping later. Another is degrading myself and drinking decaf, so it doesn't keep me awake. But I am only human!

Some teammates (an Irish one in particular) seem to be immune to jet lag. We call him the King of Sleep. No matter where he is, how much travel he has done or how much sleep he has had the day before, Stephen Clancy can fall asleep within minutes of closing his eyes. Not only this, but he can wake up 12 hours later, oblivious to the fact that I have been staring at him enviously for the last four hours from my bed on the other side of the room.

I try everything... Counting sheep, reading the race book, listening to classical music or even early Coldplay, but nothing works, and it always ends up the same: playing Crushing Candy until I run out of lives and then just laying there twiddling my thumbs.

Getting three hours of sleep the night before a stage race is not ideal. To be honest, it's pretty annoying, but sometimes it's just unavoidable. After a couple of stages, the physical tiredness usually nulls the jet lag, yet the tiredness is probably enhanced by the jet lag itself. It's a vicious circle.

I know that time travel isn't possible (yet?) but I'm pretty sure that I have mastered it.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Amgen Tour of California - Character Building . . .

This post was originally posted for Conquista Cycling Club & can be found here...

On paper, the Amgen Tour of California was not a race that suited me. Touted as the 'hardest edition ever', almost every stage had a large amount of climbing and, well, gravity is no friend of mine. In reality, the Tour of California was definitely not a race for me. Consequently, my job for the week was to support the team's sprinters and GC rider as best I could, fetching bottles and moving them around the bunch if needed. And of course, survive.

Fortunately, I did not suffer alone. With only two stages that ended in a bunch gallop, many sprinters also had to suffer. The problem for them was that those sprint stages were at opposite ends of the tour: the first and last stages. Separated by six stages of unpleasantness that had to be endured just to get another opportunity to do what they do best.

In Stage 1, our sprinter had a fantastic finish and managed to beat some of the world's best to take fifth place. Spirits were high on the bus afterward, and there was already talk of 'next time'. However, 'next time' was a long way away.

For the next six stages, I was not much use in the mountains and, to be honest, it was as much a mental battle as a physical one. When you are not having any impact on the race and unable to support your teammates, you begin to question the point of going through such an ordeal to get the end. Each day, I found my way to grupetto and was happy just to get to the finish line, each time a day closer to that final flat stage.

By the time the final stage came around, the field has at least 20 riders fewer than the Stage 1, but our sprinters (and me) had suffered through the week and were ready to take their chances on Stage 8. The previous seven stages had taken their toll. We were tired, very tired, but no one wanted their efforts to be in vain.

The final stage finished with three laps of a 3-km street circuit, and it was going to be fast. The goal was to make sure our sprinters had good position coming into the final laps to give them the best chance contesting the finale. Mark Cavendish’s (who also suffered through the tour to get to this stage) Dimension Data team were controlling the front with six km to go when a crash on a corner split the field. Unfortunately, our sprinters were caught up in the incident and never regained position to fight for the finish.

In the end, Cavendish took the win, redeeming his week of suffering, while many others, including our sprinters, were left to question the purpose of the last seven days. I crossed the line tired, relieved and surprised that I made it to the end. If it is true when they say that suffering builds character, then my character is definitely maxed-out at the moment.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Yeah... Nah.

This post was originally posted for Conquista Cycling Club & can be found here...

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, back when I first started competing in triathlons, I had the crazy ambition of completing an Ironman distance triathlon.

That's a 3.8-kilometer swim, 180-km ride, followed by a marathon, or 42.2-km run. It is the Tour de France of triathlons and can't be taken lightly. I was working my way up to it and had completed a half-Ironman distance triathlon when I had the opportunity to watch a friend race the full distance.

From the sidelines, an Ironman looks pretty straightforward. Competitors seem to carry on at their own pace for hours on end. Watching the race fuelled my ambition to complete one myself. My friend finished in a respectable time, and I decided to go into the recovery tent to congratulate him. That's when things changed.

Inside the tent, it was like a makeshift war zone hospital. Competitors were in wheelchairs with drips, passed out on stretcher beds and laid out on the ground screaming with cramps. More people staggered in and collapsed, dazed and confused after crossing the finish line. It was shocking.

After seeing this, I realised how difficult completing an Ironman can be. It changed my mind on finishing one. Don't get me wrong; I still wanted to do one . . . but not yet. Or, as we so eloquently put it in Australia, 'Yeah . . . Nah'.

Just over two years ago, Team Novo Nordisk received news that we would be competing in our first ever Tour of California, arguably America’s biggest cycling race. Everyone on the team was excited and everyone wanted to race, including me. For the team, the race would be our Tour de France for the year.

Looking at the stage profiles and the other teams competing, we knew it was going to be tough. But we were excited. Oblivious and excited.

We had a trainer working with the team who was very familiar with the race. He sat each of us down to talk about the race. His opening words were, 'This will be the hardest race you have ever done.' For me, my desire to do the race became, 'Yeah... Nah'.

In the end, I was reserve for the Tour of California and fortunately, we didn't have any issues and I didn't have to race. In 2015, the same thing happened. This year, I found myself on the reserve list for the third time.

Up to about a week ago, I was racing at the Tour d'Azerbaijan and then had a three-week break until my next race. Meanwhile, my teammates would be competing in the Tour of California, touted as the 'hardest edition ever' with one of the strongest start lists ever. I was blissfully unaware. 'Yeah . . . Nah'.

Then I received an email telling me one of our riders was injured and I was getting the call up to race. I had to fly from Azerbaijan, via Barcelona to grab a few things, then on to California. Yesterday I looked at the stage profiles. 'Yeah . . . Nah'.

Now, I am currently in California preparing for the race that starts in a few days. I'm excited, but unfortunately, not oblivious.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


This post was originally posted for Conquista Cycling Club & can be found here...

European cyclists are so lucky and most don’t even know it. They take it for granted. In fact, I would wager that they don’t even think about it -- They live in the epicentre of bike racing, and this has many, many benefits.

For starters, it is a place where cycling is (generally) accepted as a sport and bikes are (generally) given respect and room on the road. Fans get to stand on the side of the road and watch big names go past in races. People can travel to other countries with relative ease and ride some of the most infamous and legendary areas. Finally, the pathways for cyclists to compete and progress to the professional ranks are greater and more defined.

When you look at it through the lens of professional cycling, the benefits get even bigger. For starters, the European riders don’t have to spend huge amounts of time away from home. The longest they are away is essentially the length of the race and then it is a relatively short flight to get back home. They can stay with their family and get to train from home.

For Australians like me, the logistics of racing in Europe are far more complicated. For starters, it’s a heck of a long way away. It takes around two days of travel to get to Europe and a few more days on top of that until the body and brain start to feel normal from the time difference. For those who are trying to carve their path through smaller continental or amateur teams, the cost of the flight alone is enough to put a sizeable dent in your savings. Add onto that the ridiculous price of an Australian international license & insurance (up to AU$4000), and this world is already out of reach for most.

Once (or if) you make it to Europe, there are the logistics of finding and organizing accommodations in a country where you probably don’t speak the language. Many go with the cheaper option of staying in a team house and sleep on a couch in a room with six other guys. Others find refuge in known pro-cyclist hangouts such as Lucca, Andorra or Southern Spain where the weather is slightly warmer. In these places, they have the benefit of training with other pros and can usually live in an English bubble, so there is less need to be fluent in the local language.

For myself, I live in Girona, in Northern Spain. There are a lot of other pro cyclists here, so I am never short of a training partner. I can get away with only knowing a few basic sentences of Spanish and sometimes forget that I’m in a non-English speaking country. Despite these ‘benefits’ of Girona, like the other riders from Australia here, I can’t escape the fact that I am on the other side of the planet from my home, family and friends. From what I have seen, there are two ways to approach this predicament…

Option 1: Set up a home away from home. Many pros make Girona their ‘home’ with all of the comforts that they would have back in Australia… an apartment, a car, and any other luxuries they may desire. This option has many benefits: They have a familiar and comfortable place to return to between races and can live a fairly relaxed life. They are more likely to try to learn the local language and customs because their living situation seems a bit more long-term. After living out of a suitcase at races, it is a relief to come ‘home’ and feel like you have unpacked rather than just relocated your suitcase.

Setting up a home away from home can also have its negatives. Unfortunately, professional cycling is a very uncertain career choice where you get almost no job security. This means it could all come to an end at any time and then you are stuck with a heap of stuff you can’t take with you. At the end of the day, for an Australian living in Europe, it’s all temporary. Setting up a home can also mean that you end up missing Australia even more as there isn’t a light at the end or a ‘return date’. This can also make it harder to stay focused on your training and easier to lose motivation.

Option 2: The alternative is what I choose to do and that is to treat the entire time in Europe as one big training camp. It is just one big trip away from home rather than a heap of smaller trips.

The benefits of doing it this way are that I don’t accumulate a lot of stuff. I generally make do with what I have. It’s easier to justify and deal with being away from home for so long because I know it’s only temporary, and I know my ‘return date’. Being on one big training camp also makes it easier to stay focused and remember what I am here for.

However, this also has several cons. In three years, I haven’t made any real effort to learn Spanish or involve myself in the culture or local events. I also feel like I live half of the year out of a suitcase going from race to race, hotel to hotel. By the end of the racing season, I quite often forget about what clothes and belongings I have back in Australia. The worst part of being on one big training camp is that I always feel like I am sitting around waiting. I am just trying to kill time before I have to go to the next thing.

Waiting for the next race. Waiting for the next training session. Waiting for the next flight. Waiting for the next hotel. Waiting to go home.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Volta do Rio Grande do Sul

This post was originally posted for Conquista Cycling Club & can be found here...

Heading into the Volta Ciclistica do Rio Grande do Sul was a total mystery. We had little information about the race other than how many days it lasted and we stepped onto the plane blindly. The one thing we knew was the weather, which decided to do a 180ᵒ turn after our first two days there. James Glasspool had done the race in 2015 so almost every sentence he said was, ‘Last year, we….’

The day before the race was insanely hot and humid. After arriving from Europe, this was a bit of a shock to the system. We set out for a couple of hours on the bike to stretch the legs and try to shake some of the jet lag, however, it did not all go according to plan. Without any phone reception or maps, we managed to find ourselves on a section of gravel road. When in a new country, this is generally not an uncommon occurrence. We normally navigate our way back to the hotel and enjoy the gravel roads as they are something different. Joonas Henttala was particularly happy as a recent cyclocross bike purchase made him feel like he knew what he was doing. This time however, the gravel got the better of us and after sweating it out while fixing two punctures, we looked like someone had thrown a bucket of water on us. One rider from an Argentinean team had decided to ride with us because he did not know the area and I’m pretty sure he had some huge regrets about that decision.

When we received the race bible, we were still not much wiser about the race as the scale on the race profiles were incomprehensible. According to the race book, the first stage appeared to have two climbs at the end of the race. However, in reality, it was basically 1 climb of almost 30km!! This, coupled with the hot temperatures and crazy humidity, meant that most of the peloton suffered with cramps and there were some big time gaps throughout the bunch. Andrea Peron suffered badly and I ended up pushing him for the final 20km. At least he owes me one now!

After a relatively flat Stage 2, the climbers were keen to show their form on Stage 3, where the race finished with the same final climb as Day 1. At least this time we knew what we were in for! However, five minutes before the start of the stage, there were rumors the stage was going to be cancelled due to a festival that was making it impossible to close the roads. Instead, we were told that we would be doing an exact repeat of the previous day’s stage! Since the race signage had headed out in the direction of the original stage, we raced without any distance, sprint or KOM markers! Unlike the climbers, I was pretty happy with the decision.

After Stage 4, we changed hotels and moved into something that many of us had not experienced before -- all six of the riders sleeping in one room! They managed to squeeze six single beds into one room with about 30cm between each one. That night it felt like the set of the Brady Bunch, but I’ll have to admit, it was probably the best team conversation we had put together in a while. Sadly, all team bonding went out the window the next morning when it was a race to get to the bathroom first!

Before the final stage, a strange mist had set in and visibility was at around 50m. The race looped around for 40km before descending a long climb, turning around and coming back up for the finish. As we approached the start of the descent, the race was suddenly stopped and pushed to the side of the road. The commissaires told us the descent was to be neutralized and we went down the 20km at around 20kph the entire way. By the time we reached the bottom, my arms were cramping from squeezing the brakes the whole time! With the change to Stage 3 and the neutralization in Stage 5, this meant that we did not have to descend down a mountain the entire race!

When a tour finishes, usually the riders go their separate ways as they take different flights back home. Since we were all heading back to Europe, we found ourselves waiting around together for the same flight the following evening, which meant we had about eight hours to kill. Some guys like to sleep for as long as possible. Some guys will head out to the local shops and usually buy shoes or electronic goods that they don’t need. We decided to walk the streets and head to the only place we could find that was open… a Carrefour Supermarket. Exciting stuff!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

My Back Pages...

This post was originally posted for Conquista Cycling Club & can be found here...

I grew up in rural Australia where a bike serves no real purpose other than getting to school and back. As a kid, I rode my BMX around town and preferred playing team sports such as soccer (aka football), cricket and rugby. I had no idea what the Tour de France was, and for me, the most important feature of a bicycle was not how aero or light it was, but if it had stunt pegs on the back so I could ‘double’ my friends. After high school, I let myself go. I was overweight and had taken up the bad habit of smoking. I relocated to the city to study and moved into a shared house, which included a triathlete. One Saturday, we were sitting on the couch watching a triathlon on television when my girlfriend made a remark about a triathlete's physique as he ran out of the water. Being slightly offended and highly competitive, I made a bold claim and said 'I could do that.' It was quickly met with laughter.

I guess it was out of spite, but I quit smoking, sold my car, purchased a road bike and within three months I did my first triathlon. After a couple of years battling away in triathlons, I began to realise that I actually hated running and was not a natural swimmer. I was frustrated that I couldn’t be as competitive as I wanted to be, so I decided to try my luck at cycling.

At 21 years of age, I was a relative latecomer to the sport of cycling. I didn’t know any cyclists and knew very little about the sport, so I really threw myself into the deep end. The learning curve was steep, and I have several embarrassing stories of doing things the ‘wrong’ way, like when I purchased and rode around in a wind-vest in the middle of summer because I thought it was a short-sleeved jersey. But I’ll save those stories for another time…

I started at the bottom, riding and racing with my local club team before getting the opportunity to race in National Series events. I was progressing and racing for a domestic team in 2009 when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes while at a National Series race. I was told that endurance sport and diabetes was a very difficult combination and that I would need to stop for a while. I was devastated and in my mind, I had already sold my bike.

Fortunately, I had some good friends who were not going to let me mope around and I was back on my bike within two days. Riding and racing with type 1 diabetes was another steep learning curve, and it was a few weeks before I took to the start line again. At the end of 2010, a friend of mine managed to put a good word in for me and I was able to race my first UCI race in China for a Continental Team. I trained my butt off for the race and came away with a good result and received a contract offer for the following year.

This year marks my fourth year racing with Team Novo Nordisk, a Professional Continental team comprised entirely of athletes with type 1 diabetes. During the season, I’m based in Girona, Spain and race around Europe, Asia & the Americas. Although racing and competing is my job, I genuinely love being active and outdoors. My favourite training ride is one where I can forget about heart rate and power zones and just go and explore the world.

At 34 years old, I’m truly the oldest guy on the team. In fact, I’m older than the team doctor and even the team’s CEO! I like to think that this gives me a slightly different viewpoint on life and racing, and hopefully I can share some of these ‘behind the scenes’ stories.