As the New Year rolled over from 2017 into 2018, it’s often a time for to look back at the memories of the past season both on and off the bike. As I flick through my photo reel looking at the images that were captured throughout the season, there are plenty that made me smile.
There were a couple of pretty low moments too. But thanks to the amazing people that I have around me, I always managed to bounce back and then celebrate with those people when the good times came back around. 2017 was a roller coaster season, a character building season that I could reflect on before putting it behind me to focus on 2018 and start again with a clean slate.
With an earlier season finish than previous years, I was able to completely switch off for a couple of weeks and enjoy a much needed off season break that was varied, with a little bit of travel and plenty of cross training activities too.
My off-season holiday started with a very spontaneous trip across the Atlantic to the city that never sleeps – New York City! I have a number of friends who live out there, but it’s not the most ideal place to visit for a change of training scenery. So I thought what better time to visit and enjoy the local lifestyle than the off-season, when I don’t need to be worried about training or needing to get enough sleep. It was a non-stop trip full of plenty of catch ups, coffee shops, great food, shopping, dancing and random adventures. I even left the city with a fresh new hairstyle courtesy of my friend the NYC ‘VeloBarber’ who I gave free reigns to get creative with my hair and do something ‘different’.
Normally I don’t like to touch my bike at all during my off-season period, but sometimes I make exceptions. After returning from NYC back to Europe I joined up with the last 4 days of the London 2 Monaco charity cycle, helping raise money for the Blue Marine Foundation. A foundation that is working hard to help save the worlds oceans from over fishing and plastic pollution. A cause I care about a lot, so it was a ride that I wanted to support to help raise money.
It also turned out to be an amazing charity ride to be apart of, I was lucky enough to join the ride once it hit Provence. First day took on the iconic Mont Ventoux, a climb I’ve actually never done before, and I was happy to enjoy it at a very leisurely pace taking in the views. Then over the last days we rode through Provence and into the Alpes-Maritimes before finishing outside the Princely Palace of Monaco greeted by none other than HSH Prince Albert of Monaco II.
The terrain and picturesque scenery that I rode through over those 4 days was some of the most beautiful I’ve ever ridden. That combined with perfect late September weather and just simply riding my bike, it was so refreshing. The camaraderie within the group too was amazing, and I left with some new and fantastic friendships. It was a fantastic experience for a really important cause, a ride I would recommend anyone to sign up for in the future if they’re looking for a challenge and care about helping save the worlds oceans.
Next on the agenda was changing to the fat tires and having some fun on the dirt at the Roc d’Azur, a massive mountain bike festival in the South of France. What started as a random comment from my Canyon//SRAM teammate Pauline Ferrand-Prevot at Plouay back in August saying that I should do it. Turned into actually getting on the start line and racing with her at this great event. I went in with zero pressure or expectations, I just wanted to have some fun and enjoy challenging myself in a different discipline to that of what I’m used to. I had a blast, I was able to be of some help to Pauline in the early part of the race before she went on to win. I was pretty happy to finish a respectable 12th and just loved every minute of it.
The last of my ‘off season’ activities was none other than taking on a marathon! The Budapest marathon to be specific. I always come up with these silly ideas with good intentions, and then it comes around quicker than I expect. I didn’t really train properly for the marathon, despite my best intentions. I came to the start line without having ran further than 10km in a single session and only a total of 60km of running in my legs. So I wasn’t feeling overly confident, but I had a goal to try and beat my time of 3hr38min that I did in my first marathon back in 2012. It hurt, a lot! But it was one way to see the beautiful sites of Budapest, and when I crossed the finish line with a time of 3hrs21min I was pretty stoked and very surprised too. I still am not sure how I pulled it off, but there was a great sense of satisfaction after crossing that finish line. It took my body a few days to recover, but eventually I was back functioning again and ready to get onto my bike.
I know, for the average person this doesn’t really sound like a very relaxing off season. But for me, I’m someone who can’t sit still and has endless energy. So it kept me busy whilst keeping off the road bike and the daily training regimes. After 6 weeks of ‘different’ activities, along with plenty of nice and relaxing times with friends away from my sporting activities. I felt refreshed and ready to get stuck into the pre season training.
The pre season consisted of plenty of great miles on the road bike, rebuilding the fitness and strength slowly but surely. It was combined with sessions in the gym and I also started some boxing trainer with a trainer in Monaco. I loved that training to help compliment my time on the bike, the agility, focus, speed, strength and power that’s required. The sessions were super intense but something I looked forward to every week.
Before heading back to Australia for Christmas and the start of the 2018 season we had a short training camp ‘meeting’ with the complete 2018 Canyon//SRAM team. It was exciting to meet the new signings on the team, get set up on our new equipment, enjoy a few mountain bike rides in the snow and enjoy a more ‘relaxed’ camp to what we’ve done in the past. It was a great way to help build the atmosphere and foundations amongst everyone before things get too serious as we get closer to the racing season. The team already has a great atmosphere and there is a real motivation about the group. I am really looking forward to getting started racing with the team in 2018.
I returned to Australia for Christmas and the New Year to spend it with my family and continue my pre-season training in the sun. Time has flown by and tomorrow I will be pulling on the 2018 Canyon//SRAM colours to start my first race of the season, the Australian National Road Race Championships. It always comes around quicker than you think, but hopefully the work i’ve done over the last few months both on and off the bike will have me ready to kick start the new year strongly and successfully.
Before the new season starts though I just want to say a big thank you to all my fans, sponsors, partners and of course my team, my family and good friends for continuing to support me above and beyond. It’s always motivating to hear from everyone on social media and to meet fans at the races. Thanks to every one of you who has given me a shout and lets make 2018 the best year yet!