Nick Schultz diary: Family visits, fighting illness, and the best rides in Girona
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 handful of top-10 results already under his belt this year, the 22-year old Brisbane native is now residing in Girona, Spain.
In his second diary post for CyclingTips, Nick takes us inside the world of the professional cyclist, with all its various ups and downs.
Hello again. It’s been just over a month since my inaugural blog and it has been an eventful period, especially off the bike. I’ve only raced once since I last wrote so, in this diary entry, I have taken the opportunity to cover some other life matters – not just bike racing.
A few race tidbits first though. Following my last blog, I went to the Tour of Norway. It was a five-day race which offered quite a few opportunities for different styles of riders. I enjoyed the week and came away with some positive results, putting me in good stead for upcoming events. [ed. Nick was sixth on stage 3 and finished an impressive seventh overall.]
I was down to race the Hammer Series organised by Velon and then the Route du Sud in France. I travelled to the Netherlands the day before racing was scheduled to kick off in the first of those events and found myself coming down with sickness. I participated in the well-organised teams presentation before flying home and starting a course of antibiotics to treat the tonsillitis that had hit me.
With Route du Sud on the horizon I was pretty focused on trying to recover as quickly as possible, but it wasn’t to be. I ended up having seven days of rest to fully recover and came back slowly with the second half of the season in mind.
The team management was excellent in this scenario and prioritised my health and development by allowing me to sit out the Route du Sud. It was a big weight off my shoulders as it is never fun to begin a race when health and fitness aren’t quite right.
Having conquered tonsillitis and with a busy end to the season looming, it was time to get back on the bike and work on regaining the form I had. A long period without racing is now on the cards before things kick off in earnest. This period will allow me to take things slowly and find a tranquilo routine without the self-inflicted stress that often accompanies the lead-up to important races (which is just about every race for a neo-pro).
And so to other matters. I’m writing this blog from the Isle of Man where my girlfriend Lizzie was born and raised. She is a pro cyclist and currently lives in Girona, but with the British National Road Championships being held on the island, it was a great chance for her to spend some time at home.
As this sport has us both constantly on the road at different times, and travelling to different locations, I jumped at the chance to travel with Lizzie and spend some quality time together on her home turf. Meeting her family for the first time had me pretty nervous and stressed, but the warm welcome and island environment quickly put me at ease.
The beautiful change in scenery and the good company have made for a great way to get back into the swing of things and, at the same time, relax and refresh. Although not a big place, the Isle of Man doesn’t suffer from a lack of good quality roads and I have been impressed with how interesting and diverse the rides can be.
With plenty of eye-catching landscapes and the constantly undulating roads, time flies by pretty quickly. And, so far, I’ve been lucky enough to witness three out of the 10 annual sunny days – an added bonus!
The roads and temperate conditions in and around Girona are a motivating prospect for the block of training at sea level I have planned when I head back home at the end of June. When that’s done and dusted I’ll be really knuckling down for an intense two-week block of training at high altitude in Andorra.
Time to reveal a little more about the life of a cyclist living in Girona. The city and surrounding municipalities provide a decent range of training options including riding along the beautiful Costa Brava or heading inland to the mountains. Typically, I find it hard to steer clear of the rolling coastline, but when some bigger hills are required and the coastal sun is a little too warm, I’ll head inland.
There is rarely a time in Girona when you can’t rustle up some ride company even at very short notice. Pro riders, elite riders … in fact riders of all levels are a dime a dozen both in and out of town so it’s very easy to link up with friends to head out training.
Back in Australia there are plenty of specific groups that leave on a daily basis at a set time, but this isn’t the case in Girona. Most of us just work around each other’s training and other commitments to see if a group would work on any given day. It’s another bonus that comes with living in a place that many cyclists from all parts of the globe call home.
If you’re ever in town, here are Strava files for the two main rides I mentioned:
A couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have picked Girona as a place to live. I was immersed in French culture having lived there for three years and saw myself staying for as long as my career in the sport lasted. It was the move to SEG Racing Academy in 2016 that had me heading to Girona where the team has an apartment. The city appealed to me pretty much straight away and I quickly found myself feeling very comfortable and at home.
I’m not able to pinpoint the exact reason for this as I think there are a lot of factors that aided the transition. An abundance of English speakers certainly didn’t hurt and is something that enhances the social life outside of the sport. The town’s vibrant feel simply added to the whole package.
In Girona and many European cities it’s the little things that help make life just that little bit more cruisy – practices and customs that aren’t very common in Brisbane such as: daily fresh produce markets supplied by local farms; the ability to step out of your front door and access supermarkets, restaurants and cafes on foot within five minutes; and of course, siesta.
Although some of these things can take time to adjust to, the relaxed mentality of the Spanish is something pretty special when it’s embraced. Their value for taking more time to enjoy meals and spending time with family and friends is perhaps a reason for their bubbly and animated lifestyles. This, in turn, has a positive influence on the quality of life in Girona, making it easier to spend long periods away from friends and family back home in Australia.
At first, living away from Australia was quite difficult. The Aussie environment and lifestyle presented a contrast to arriving in France (mid-winter) with no friends, family or even an English-speaking contact to help me find my feet. It is no understatement to say there were some challenges on the way to achieving my current comfortable and organised lifestyle.
I initially moved to France in 2013 as a first-year amateur and straight out of high school. My French vocabulary was non-existent and I had virtually no life experience outside of living at home. Armed with a sense of adventure and a determination to make my life choice work, I arrived in the small town of Roanne about 100km west of Lyon.
It took time to adapt, learn the language and get my head around a foreign culture so incredibly different to anything I had experienced in Australia. After a year away from home, things got easier and that trend has continued ever since.
My current happy state of mind is due, in part, to an early exposure to some challenging ‘on the fly’ solo decision-making at a young age, that I otherwise would have avoided or at least made with help from family and friends back home in a secure environment. That’s not to say I didn’t have support from friends and family, because I had an immense amount. However, the reality of living on the other side of the world means that sometimes a simple point of call to vent some frustration was the extent of that support.
For any young rider heading overseas, facing these types of hurdles will certainly build character, resilience and an ability to adapt to life in any foreign place. You just have to stick out the tough times and live through it.
With some hard training and preparation ahead, my mind is focused and my legs are willing. Hopefully, the next time you hear from me I will have some racing news! If there is anything in particular you would like to hear about life on or off the bike, please post suggestions in the comments section.
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.