Nick Schultz diary: The lead-up to my Grand Tour debut

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Twenty-two-year-old Australian Nick Schultz is a first-year professional riding for the Spanish team Caja Rural-Seguros. Schultz has been blogging for CyclingTips throughout the 2017 season and returns today with a post about his upcoming participation in the Vuelta a España, the first Grand Tour of his career.

Congrats to Nick on his Vuelta selection and we wish him all the best in the weeks ahead!

Hello to those reading.

In the six weeks since I last wrote, a lot has happened and I’ve been pretty busy. After a enjoyable visit and reset in the Isle of Man with my girlfriend and her family, I headed for some high mountain training in Andorra. Andorra is a touch under three hours by car from Girona and provides a convenient location for altitude training. I was staying in the village of Soldeu, situated about 1,800m above sea level. I spent a total of two weeks training in Andorra and racked up some long solid base k’s. With a spot in the Vuelta all but locked in, the motivation to train was not a problem.

For the first few days training at altitude, it is standard practice to take it as easy as possible and let the body adapt to the abnormally thin air. This can be pretty stressful and most athletes tend to struggle, especially when a long period of time has elapsed since their last block at altitude. And the terrain in and around Andorra presents difficulties when it comes to ‘taking it easy’ as the roads are either up, or down!

As the body adapts to the thin air and the sensations begin to return to ‘normal’, some harder training can be undertaken. Eventually the efforts feel much like any training plan at sea level. A little more emphasis does turn to listening to the body and making sure that you can read the signs of getting bogged down, but in general, you return to a comfortable equilibrium.

I chose to spend two weeks at altitude, rather than the more-common three or four due to the fact that I often find spending a long period of time on the side of a mountain quite head-cracking. Two weeks seems to be my sweet spot and I can maintain a high level of training for that amount of time, without feeling like it’s a massive sacrifice to be completely isolated. I’ve never been a big fan of training camps but when I go somewhere of my own accord, I seem to have a more positive mindset and can work really hard.

Gonna head out to the country, find a place where I can breathe…

A post shared by Nick Schultz (@schultzie1) on

After the two weeks in Andorra, I spent a few nights in Girona, recovered, socialised and then set off to Pamplona where the team has its service course and offices. For a week, a sponsor of the team, ‘Bed4U’ hotels, played host and had quite a few of the riders come and go as we tackled some Spanish one-day classics which included Classica San Sebastien.

The last one-day race was held the day before the five-day Vuelta a Burgos kicked off — a crucial preparation race for the Vuelta a España. Having spent nearly seven weeks away from racing it was fair to say I was struggling quite a lot with the one-day races, due to a lack of race rhythm. However, these races served as an excellent tune-up and I was beginning to find my legs as Burgos progressed and our team had Jaime Roson ride to fifth on GC.

With the one-day races and Burgos done and dusted, I returned to Girona for four days of recovery. I didn’t do much, aside from small coffee rides and complete days off the bike. I went for a small hike in the hills surrounding Girona to inject a bit of variety into the routine. Feeling fresh again, and with the Vuelta only 10 days away, I undertook two blocks of training. I focused on some strength work and also some motorpacing to try and maintain that race feel in the legs.

With Burgos done, the grim moment of taking the TT bike for a spin came… #ripgouch

A post shared by Nick Schultz (@schultzie1) on

As I write this, it is Tuesday evening and I am currently taking a break from packing my suitcase for the Vuelta. It’s an odd thought and, to be honest, I wouldn’t have imagined being selected for the team when I was at the team’s first get together at our January training camp in Benidorm. I have to say a big thank you to the team for having the confidence in my ability and choosing me to be one of riders on the start line in France. It’s quite daunting and even small things seem different to any other race.

Even packing my suitcase – what does one take to such a long race that will traverse numerous climate changes? Coffee supplies? At this stage, I can see a few funny looks from the team staff when I arrive with four suitcases and half of my apartment with me, trying to bring a sense of home-based normality to the chaotic time on tour.

In terms of ambition – it’s something very hard to specify. Looking ahead, I’d love to arrive in Madrid, but I want to approach the race day by day and get the most out of every stage. Whether it be a collective goal with the team, or a personal goal, my aim is to give everything I have across the three weeks and see what that brings. I’m well aware that the level of the race is as high as it gets. For me, WorldTour race days are few in number and I will be looking to learn and grow as a rider and a person throughout the journey.

All things going well, I will aim to check in once or twice throughout the Vuelta and let you know how it’s going.

Until then,

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