After bursting onto the scene with a stage win at the Tour de L’Avenir last year, Australian Nick Schultz is now into his first year as a professional with Spanish Pro Continental team Caja-Rural Seguros RGA. With a couple of top-10 results already under his belt this year, the 22-year old Brisbane native is now residing in Girona, Spain.
In his first rider diary for CyclingTips, Nick lifts the lid on trying to balance a normal lifestyle with competing in WorldTour races.
Hello and welcome to a blog about the life I lead on either side of the races I compete in throughout the year. The 2017 season is my fifth year living abroad in Europe and my first in the professional ranks.
The option for a ride with a pro Spanish squad materialised early in 2016. This certainly piqued my interest, as it offered me a chance to really try and embrace the Spanish culture, learn their language, and become a more open and life-experienced person, rather than just a bike rider.
In the grand scheme of things, as athletes, we have a relatively short career and I like to take an approach of trying to get as much out of it, both on and off the bike. It has been a long, old slog to get to this level, and now that it has finally happened there are certainly some perks.
First and foremost, I now have an apartment that I don’t have to share with half a team. I live in the centre of Girona, and I share a nice apartment with a mate of mine from New Zealand, Hamish Schreurs, who is a rider with the Cycling Academy team.
Secondly, I now have a more widely spread race calendar with pretty good travel plans, meaning that time at home can be maximised to keep the head happy and the legs ticking.
My first year in the pro ranks didn’t get off to the smoothest of starts. I enjoyed a relaxed off-season back home in Brisbane, and decided to miss the Aussie nationals and head to Europe at the start of January to get settled, pick up my new Fuji bike and later head to the team training camp in Benidorm, Spain.
Soon after arriving, I was informed that I would have to return to Australia to obtain a National Police Certificate before the final parts of my visa could be completed. This was a blow that meant missing the first few races of my season — Mallorca, Valencia, and Algarve.
After this unintended sojourn to Australia, I returned to Europe and quickly got my first race underway in Portugal at Volta ao Alentejo. It was a five-day tour and a good one to kick things off. It wasn’t a super high level, which allowed me to find some race rhythm before heading to Volta a Catalunya where my mind was blown away with how fast those guys ride. It certainly seemed a lot easier watching from the couch in years past.
Leading into Catalunya I had a lot of work to do before I was to be in any sort of shape to start a race like that. It meant that I led quite a strict lifestyle through that period. I would wake up, go for a little walk through town, eat breakfast, train, eat, recover, eat, and do it all over again. On a personal level, this type of lifestyle isn’t sustainable for much longer than a month. But it needed to be done, and it got the body into gear for the first part of the season.
In terms of the racing side of things, it was tough — really tough. I think that the prestige surrounding the race means that a lot of guys come to Catalunya with some serious form and very well-drilled teams. Much to my surprise, there wasn’t really a consistent style of racing from day to day. Pretty much anything could happen at any moment, meaning there wasn’t much time to discuss who had the best flavoured rice cakes on a given day.
The penultimate stage was hectic and after 30km of racing there was a descent that split the peloton, causing havoc and resulting in 50 of us missing the time cut by about a minute. Another 50, including Chris Froome, only just made the finish in time. Interestingly, a lot of riders thought that a group of that size would never be eliminated by the race organisers. As it turned out, despite riding as hard we could to the line, rules are rules and we had to cut our race a day short.
After getting an arse-kicking for a week in Catalunya, I returned to Girona and my normal routine. My main interests off the bike include making sourdough bread, and playing guitar. I find that these small things really help me stay relaxed and keep my mind occupied when I’m not training. I have quite an obsessive personality with these things and can find myself waking up, excited to see the progress of my sourdough starter, or anxious to cut the loaf I had baked the previous night.
Most days, after training, I find myself spending upwards of an hour playing guitar and almost getting lost in that world. When I was going through school, I was right into the music scene and have never lost my love for it. Strumming a guitar is a brilliant way to kill time and get lost in another world.
The third interest that keeps my mind busy is an Instagram account I created to write muffin reviews. It’s called MuffBeGood and it’s something that I like to keep ticking over. At this time of year, I rely mainly on the page supporters to send in their reviews as I shouldn’t be eating a muffin a day if I’m thinking about the waistline. It’s something pretty silly, but it’s fun to do and, again, contributes to keeping the mind busy outside of the races.
Every so often a muffin presents itself such that it cannot be overlooked and today the @the_roastery_cafe delivered that such baked good. Blueberry, dark chocolate and orange was an unexpected fusion that sat up there amongst the other great combinations of our time like ham and cheese. Chunks of chocolate oozed from this fresh out of the oven offering only adding to the pleasure a warm moist muffin gives on a wet morning ride. Not much improvement could be made here other than a crispier crust means that this bad boy rates 9.5/10 on the #muffinmeter Thanks @rex_dexter
Getting all of these elements into place was pretty important following Catalunya and it meant that I was refreshed, happy, and ready for a busy block of racing including a few one-day races in Spain and some stage races in Italy and France. I had some reasonable performances and results throughout that block and it’s reassuring to know that the hard training on the bike and in the gym is paying off. [ed. Schultz was sixth in the Klasika Primavera de Amorebieta (UCI 1.1), fourth on a stage of the Tour of the Alps (2.HC), and second on a stage of the Rhône-Alpes Isère Tour (UCI 2.2).]
The team has been excellent in providing a relaxed environment where I can take my time and progress steadily. It’s up to me now, to continue learning Spanish and immerse myself in the great team atmosphere.
With the Tour of Norway and the new Hammer Series on the horizon there should definitely be some great racing coming up. The Hammer Series is a new three-day event put on by Velon, which I think will provide a really exciting and aggressive racing platform. The public will get an excellent viewing experience due to small circuits and new team racing concepts that haven’t been used in the past.
Away from the racing, Girona is a vibrant town and there are plenty of great people to spend time with and detach from the world of high-performance sport. I’m pretty lucky to be a beneficiary of such a great lifestyle in between races.
Until the next time — adios!
About the author
Nick Schultz is a first-year member of the Spanish Pro Continental team Caja-Rural Seguros RGA. He lives in Brisbane, Australia, and Girona, Spain. His breakthrough result came with a stage win at the 2016 Tour de L’Avenir.