Thursday, 12 May 2016

Idiosyncratic Athletes

Of cuts, bruises and defending last place

Daniel Lloyd gave viewers a great insight into the ways of the pro peloton yesterday. As the Giro d' Italia wound it's way towards Benevento, the former professional cyclist turned TV pundit related an interesting observation of his days with the now-defunct Cervelo Test Team

Working primarily as a domestique, one of Lloyd's key responsibilities was to deliver team leader Carlos Sastre to the bottom of an important climb in a good position. This function is easier than it sounds, where the domestique's role is to shield their GC rider from the wind and elements all the while providing bottles and whatever other assistance the team leader requires. Conventional wisdom and logic dictates that being towards the front of the peloton is pretty much a given in order to go with the main breakaways. Not so for Sastre who insisted on staying towards the back end of the bunch literally to the foot of a key climb, providing Lloyd with a few butterflies to say the least. The fact that Sastre literally rode through virtually the entire field once the road veered upwards might seem surprising. That he was in the top three over the summit is simply astounding. Or is it?

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The Joy of Racing Shape

The Ebbs and Flows

Being in race shape is a great feeling.

On form; in the zone - call it what you like but being in state of peak physical and mental fitness for competition is truly wonderful, not to mention intoxicating. Everything feels easy and just seems to fall into place, true synchronicity on a personal scale if you like where flow predominates over any type of ebb.

Whenever I think back to my own periods of peak running fitness I'm initially left with a feeling of happiness and sheer exhilaration. The deeper reflection that often follows my "head in the clouds" nostalgia tends to bring me a little closer to earth, with memories of the little niggles, morning tightness and the sheer intensity of race pace flooding back into my conscious. Those fast 10km times or freakishly fast cross-country races look great on paper, but there is always a price to pay leading up to or immediately after such super-efforts.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Gordo Byrn on Middle-age Athleticism

Life Beyond Elite Athletics

"If you have a spouse and young kids then following a high-performance lifestyle will lead to bad outcomes for your marriage. No amount of external success can compensate for a lack of personal presence."

Gordo Byrn has lived a life less ordinary.

Investment banker to mountaineer; runner to elite triathlete; Byrn's life has seen several transitions (sic) and all with good reason. His willingness to share his journey(s) sets him apart and Byrn kindly agreed to wax lyrical on his latest life-adjustment: from elite athlete to devoted a devoted husband and father.

Nature Gym: How have you found the transition from high performance lifestyle to an active one? Any difficulties or challenges along the way?

Gordo Byrn: I've found it surprisingly easy. My expectations for the transition were completely wrong - especially with regard to body composition, strength and overall energy.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Dominique Scott-Efurd: Two continents. Three distances. One goal

From Arkansas to Africa and back

Dominique Scott-Efurd is not afraid to travel.

After missing the South African 5000m qualifying criteria by a whisker (read: one second) at the Stanford Invitational on 1 April, the Cape Town-born and US-based Scott-Erfurd made the decision to return to home shores a fortnight later.

The reason?

Another shot at satisfying SASCOC selection times by achieving an Olympic "A" standard qualifying time at the South African Track and Field Championships at Coetzenberg, Stellenbosch.

But as any rational thinking athlete knows, plans are bound to change owing to many factors, practicality being to the fore.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

One Photo, A Few Words 8.0

“42x24 gearing is for sissies”

“The looks on our say it all I guess,” says Mark Blewett of the retro header image. ”Just sheer acceptance in knowing that another stage from hell is awaiting us.”

The setting is a bus shelter somewhere in England in May 1992. Blewett is sitting in the company of his fellow South African teammates listening incredulously to the stage briefing for that year’s Milk Race, then one of the most prestigious pro-am stage races on the international cycling calendar.

“You can see that we are also basking in the sun; I think that photograph was taken midway through the Milk Race and it was the first sunny day with no rain.

“Greg Von Holdt (on Blewett’s right) is sporting bandages after a massive crash a few days earlier. His expression pretty much sums up the mood in our camp at that stage. We were in a small coastal town and the neutral zone was barely a kilometre before heading straight up an out of category climb to start things off.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Warming down with Rudi Van Houts

Stretching, breathing and the Iceman

It is late afternoon on day six of the 2016 ABSA Cape Epic. The Boschendal mobile home village is abuzz with activity in preparation for dinnertime – mechanics are cleaning and adjusting state of the art bicycles, massage therapists are kneading the bodies of exhausted riders and, in some cases, chefs are preparing copious amounts of real food for professional riders with specific dietary requirements.

All this and more is taking place under the idyllic surrounds of forests, vineyards and majestic mountains. Talk centres on the day’s happenings as well as what will happen tomorrow. Yet one pro rider is not participating in any of the above. The reason? He is breathing – very deeply in fact.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Sporting Renaissance Men

Dogmatic specialists or Social Entrepreneurs?

The positive influence of diversity, adaptability and constant challenge is recurrent in Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s writings. Reinforced in Tennessee William’s essay “The Catastrophe of Success,” both authours reckon that the human race is designed for challenge and discomfort, where excessive comfort and security is to die a death of sorts (William’s coinage).

And they might well be right.

Few, if any, pro cyclists spend their off-season trekking in the Himalayas. Fewer still have a myriad of eclectic hobbies, interests or sideline enterprises. But then Adam Hansen is not your usual bike rider.