Sports Marketing Manager, Mountain Bike and Triathlon
Specialized Global Marketing
I am an Irishman, come from a farming family and have five younger brothers, which meant I had to stand my ground from a young age! In my early years I was a competitive swimmer and runner while been a fan of cycling mainly due to the successes of Irishmen Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche in the pro peleton.
It was only at the age of 21 that I discovered triathlon via a university friend. I pursued triathlon through to 2001, where I was North American Age Group Champion and then raced at Elite Level. It was in 1999 that I discovered Stellenbosch, South Africa and met long-term friends and Specialized Athletes Conrad Stoltz and Christoph Sauser.
In 2001 my career took a swing after being offered the position of Sales and Sports Marketing Manager for Oakley in Ireland, which I held through to 2005. During this period I raced both mtb and road bikes. In 2004 I reignited my triathlon passion, returned to racing, won a national title and in 2005 left Oakley to focus solely on triathlon.
Once again my career took a spin, with Specialized offering me the position of team manager for their global factory MTB team in 2006. There have been so many memorable moments: 2006 with Susi and Liam Killeen 1-2 at Mont Sainte Anne, Susi’s World Title in 2009, however, most cherished for me has been the opportunity to work with so many great people first and foremost. A great athlete is awesome, but a humble attitude raises the bar for me.
In February 2009, I commenced with the position of Sports Marketing Manager for Mountain Bike and Triathlon at Specialized. The position is so challenging, so rewarding and exciting. Rock on ……!
|Born||January 12th, 1968|
|2nd overall tour of virginia|
|7th overall tour 1998|
|8th stage of best tour|
|stage of tour 2005 winner best year|
My fourth week on the roadApril 28, 2010
The time has, as always with life at Specialized, been flying by, largely due to very interesting, varied yet challenging days. Life is good though! First up was the first round of the ITU World Championship Series in Sydney. I met our athletes and was big time impressed with the event and the job the International Triathlon Union (ITU) are doing.
It hit home in Sydney! The true realization of how cool being there was! He might be the Olympic Triathlon Champion, but to me he is still Jan. We are always giving one another s**t, but in a fun way! So having breakfast with both Jan and Simon Whitfield was really cool – what legends and what down to earth lads. I’ve so much respect for both. Just when I thought meeting these two Olympic Gold Medalist was unreal, I met and had a good chat with one of the world’s greatest ever track and field athletes, Dr Edwin Moses. What a legend. Edwin as chairman of The Laureus Foundation is working positively with the ITU on charitable projects.
Barbara Riveros is one of the most bubbly, positive people one can ever meet. She’s got this amazingly great feel good factor amount her. I can’t explain it, but she’s so appreciative, kind and thankful. I respect her so much. Admittedly it took two laps on the run for me to realize it was Barbara who was turning the screws at the front. Her victory was well deserved – who ever said that countries without major funding and infrastructures cannot produce champions!
Life at Specialized HQ is foot to the floor in 7th gear (if it’s an M5 you’re in!!!) all the time, but great all the same. My new S Works Tarmac SL3 arrived, which meant some good lunch rides, I’ve been using the gym a lot, in keeping up with Naudee’s prescribed program! I will lay down the gauntlet, when I eventually get home to Stellenbosch, at least that’s the plan.
Straight after Sydney and it was right into the Sea Otter Classic. That week was busy. We had huge success across all disciplines and the team seemed to have a great time. It was good getting most of the XC, DH and Free-riders under one roof. It’s not often we can get everybody together.
The Icelandic Volcano caused some head scratching! How do we get the team over to World Cup Number 1 in England one week later. The team boarded the first available flight out from San Francisco. I decided that another continent in another week was too much, so cancelled my trip to England. The team had to drive from Frankfurt to England, due to their connecting flight being cancelled – not an easy trip. I know the team won’t be 100% happy after England as a whole, but it’s early days. Burry trading blows with Julien and Nino at the front was special. I would love to have been there to see it myself.
So without an English trip on, this past weekend I caught up on emails and admin because this week was always going to be hectic. Coming up this weekend are two of triathlon’s mystical events, Wildflower on Saturday and Escape From Alcatraz on Sunday. All of our long course triathlon team are taking part. I head down to Wildflower tomorrow, Thursday and am really looking forward to the weekend ahead. It's up to Alcatraz on Saturday evening - rock on!
The season is under-wayApril 8, 2010
A little jetlagged after my trip from Cape Town to Sydney, some light blogging should kick start my appetite to go through the emails; that these days consistently hit over 100 per day!
Reflection has definitely set-in, since 30 November was my last blog! WOW another South African Summer has passed! So much has happened including too many great times to list around the paradise that is Stellenbosch; The Total Sports Challenge an event where many of my good friends raced together on the winning team, we had a Specialized Team Camp in Stellenbosch, I had a work trip to head office in Morgan Hill, attended a very interesting Abu Dhabi International Triathlon and The Cape Epic has just finished and with that the serious MTB racing is about to begin.
The mountain bike program has always been a figurehead at Specialized and I’m super proud of the evolution within this team over the last few years. The season ahead is definitely one to be excited about. The downhill calendar looks good for Monster, The XC Team seem to have great form and a good appetitive for the racing on the horizon and I am working closely with the free-riders on some new plans. It’s also great to see the start of a free-ride world tour. They too deserve the opportunity to have a world ranking.
I’m also very proud of what has been achieved in such a very short space of time on the triathlon side. Specialized have had a strong presence in Long Distance and XTerra, but we’ve bolstered this up with some new athletes and added an ITU element, which is crucial. This bolstering up completes the package and lines things up positively over the months and years ahead. It’s early days yet and there’s a long way to go, but it’s a road that we are super motivated to develop.
So I have arrived in Sydney and at hotel check-in bumped into Lisa Norden, who seems happy that the season is about to kick off. It’s good to see Lisa again. Last September seems so long ago. Although, I’ve spoken to them at length, I’ve actually yet to meet Simon Whitfield and Javier Gomez. The two lads are most certainly iconic and I can’t wait to chat with both.
The long distance triathlon racing started in Abu Dhabi and China, the serious MTB Racing kicks off in two weeks time at World Cup # 1 in England and the pace ignites this weekend here in Sydney for the first of the 2010 ITU World Triathlon Championship Series Events. I’ll keep you posted on things as they develop.
Before signing off, I wanna let you in on something that’s brought a big smile to my face: my new 2010 Specialized S Works Stumpjumper! It’s insanely good and so capable. I’ll give you a quick idea. We have a single track in Stellenbosch, that’s rocky, loose to very loose in sections and so long that it’s hard to always find the right line. On my Epic, which is an amazing bike, pushing the limits of my abilities I’ve hit 18 minutes 50 seconds on this trail. Two weeks ago and my first outing on my S Works Stumpjumper, I hit 18 minutes flat without really taking chances! Bearing in mind that one section has been completely ridden out since the Epic’s time was set, I’m big time impressed, plus on the Stumpjumper it’s so much fun! The Epic is the best race bike for sure, but if you want a fun trail bike, then the Stumpjumper is the bike, no doubt!
Time is flying by ….November 30, 2009
Where does the time go? To Hell and Back finished weeks ago and I still have not had the time to write about it. Since then so much has been going on.
To Hell and Back was a disappointment. I dropped off the lead group of five, but not by far on the day’s first big climb, but fought my way back on, on the undulating roads and things were looking good. I was on track for a top five. But then that hissing noise started and the slowest puncture repair ever began! By the time I got going again my race was over. Day two and I didn’t have the mojo and instead enjoyed the scenery, which was stunning. I was delighted for my good friend XTerra Triathlete Dan Hugo, who won the overall race. As always “The Hell” is great fun. The Stellenbosch crew had a good time.
I’ve been keeping busy since “The Hell”. I took a one-week break from the bike and I am back in Naudee’s gym, which is brilliant. Naudee has hit us with some insane workouts, which I am relishing. Office life has been busy, but I’ve a great routine here in Stellenbosch, so I can push through things. The athletes are starting to arrive into town. First to arrive was my fellow countryman Gavin Noble, who is staying with me. I picked Gavin up and we drove him to get his hire car, a 1970’s VW Beetle christened Blue! Irish humor has definitely taken over in “The Bosch” with many shaking their heads, but Gav and I have many laughs! The biggest laugh of course was winning the rugby this past weekend! Not a bad thing to be sitting around a room full of Africaan’s and giving them a good kicking in their favorite national sport!!!
The weather too has been picking up in Stellenbosch, with consistent temperatures in the mid 20’s and sometimes-high 30’s! Last week I took my first dip into the outdoor pool and managed a km. I have this itch right now to do some swimming, so who knows, but I might venture down with Gav a couple of mornings here and there.
There’s probably more to report, but nothing is coming to mind right now.
To Hell and BackNovember 5, 2009
It might not be the World Championships, but here in Stellenbosch it’s most definitely The World Championships in many local’s minds!! Every year a swarm of us buzz our way to Oudstroom, for the annual “To Hell And Back” MTB Race. The race is an out and back event. We ride in to this really remote valley called The Hell (about 60km) and the next day we ride back out. It takes about 5-7 hours in and out depending on how fast you want to ride. Last year I surprised myself with 10th. This year the pressure is on. Let’s just hope the nightmares of that pass where Susi pushed me don’t come back to haunt me! The first climb on day one is up that bloody thing! They called it the Swartberg Pass!
Tomorrow I take that drive to Oudstroom with Ernie “The Genius” Gruhn and Nordan “VO2 Coach” Jordan. All the crew are going and it’s going to be some fun. After we’ve race in, we spend the day sitting around eating drinking and talking crap!!! I am excited!
The Cape Pioneer and riding with “The Swiss Cookcoo Clock”!November 5, 2009
The evening of Thursday October 15th and I arrived back in Stellenbosch with jetlag, which I suppose I am getting used to and a holiday on the horizon. Not just any holiday, but a six-day “fun” stage race with my good friend and World Class MTB’er Christoph Sauser. Next morning I dragged my sleepy body to Greengate a local café we frequent here in Stellenbosch, for a much-needed caffeine hit! I was greeted by XTerra man Dan Hugo and team mechanic Dylan Van Der Merwe!
Dan: “Bobby how do you feel about The Cape Pioneer?”
Me: “I’ll be grand Dan, we’ll just take it easy and sur how bad can it be”.
Dan “Bobby seriously now, have you checked out the profile”?
Me: “No haven’t got to that yet”
Dan: “Bobby I think you should check the profile”
Me: “Sur I better I suppose”
And on we went with our coffee accompanied by quite a few chuckles from their corner! Damn this must be harder than I thought I pondered! “The Little Shit” better not kill me I thought to myself … he is getting a phone call.
So I wandered back to the office a little mindful of the impending event. A quick look at the route online and alarm bells sounded! Hold crap! A quick call to Switzerland.
Me: “Susi shit this thing is bloody hard! You told me it would be easy. Holy crap!”
Susi: “We’ll just ride easy. It will be grand”
Me: “Susi there’s over 2,500 metres of climbing some days. I am dead!!”
Susi: “Ah we’ll be fine”
The Swissman has broken a few partners in his time (anyone who knows The Epic knows the deal!) and I hoped the Irishman wasn’t going to be his first Irish victim!
I love driving (one of my favorite things to do), so I blasted down to Oudstroom (just over three hours), where I met Susi and the next day Monday Oct 19th the race kicked off. With about 100km of riding per day with elevations gains on some days of over 2,500 meters, this was going to be a tough event.
Rather than conserve energy on day one I rode pretty hard for me mainly in second place until with 40km to go the wheels came off the cart. Big time cramping started and did not stop until I was on the massage table!! It was agonizing!
Day two and stupidly I rode pretty hard early on and when we hit the day’s major climb (The Swartberg Pass) I clicked the stopwatch, as I wanted to get a split. In two weeks time I was going to see this pass again in The Hell MTB Race an event I placed 10th in last year. Today was going to be a good reconnaissance mission! Well that’s what I thought!! About 2km later my legs exploded, not in a good way, but in a bad way! I crawled up the climb and at one point Susi pushed me!!! A photo was taken little to my knowledge!
The next morning I woke, turned on my phone and the text messages, emails etc just poured in! Abuse from the Stellenbosch boys!! I was now infamous, but for the wrong reasons!! Apparently there was a photo of me being pushed up a climb in a national newspaper!!!! Christ!!!
Day three and I tried hard to make amends! The leaders went early and after a bit of a tussle on the final paved road Susi and I rode to second. Squirt the third placed team on the day, did have many mechanical problems though. Day four and five were hard hard hard! I struggled but pushed as hard as I could! The highlight was definitely the stage five-podium girls!!!
I still had to redeem myself. I threw caution to the wind and attached early on in stage six, Susi came across near the top of the climb and away we rode. We won the stage! Take that yee Stellenbosch ******** I thought to myself!! Haha!
It was a very tough but awesome week. Susi and I had many laughs and met some sound people.
It’s so good to be back in Stellenbosch now, my own sofa TV, coffee shops and office. I’m a guy of routine and back I am!
The end of an amazing trip and what’s in storeOctober 14, 2009
I have let the blogging seriously lapse over the past few weeks, but to be totally honestly I’ve been in the fast lane with my foot firmly to the floor! As I sit here on Delta Flight 200 from Atlanta to South Africa I have been reflecting on an insanely hectic, but awesome trip. I might be shattered, but I am also smiling! Canberra, Gold Coast, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Utah, San Francisco, Hawaii, San Francisco – have I forgot anything. I have made some great new friends and caught up with many old ones.
From the beginning – this is going to be a long one! The team’s performances in Canberra was exceptional especially Lene’s silver medal and Burry’s World Under 23 Championship Title. Leaving the cold weather of Canberra I arrived to the Gold Coast for the World ITU Triathlon Series Final. The purpose of my trip was to access where the ITU is at and how Specialized can get more involved and what athletes we may or may not sign, which for now will remain top secret! Although, The Gold Coast was a good experience, I cannot believe that such an urban sprawl could be one of triathlon’s Mecca’s. Give me Stellenbosch any day. My good friend Tim Don gave a big nod of agreement when we broached that subject. He may be Olympic Champion but to me he is still Frodo and has not changed one bit. The champ is a true gent. We had breakfast every morning and one monster night out, once the racing was done! I bumped into many old faces including Jan Rehula, which brought back memories of those weeks when I raced in Asia in 2005! The racing was unbelievable in both men’s and women’s events. Alistair is a huge talent and awesome to watch, while the Moffat, Norden battle was tight to the line, although if I am being honest, Lisa was the stronger of the two, despite the result.
From Australia it was straight to the office in San Francisco accompanied by the worst jet lag this year, which is a big statement! I arrived on a Wednesday evening and at 7am Thursday morning I found myself on a 100-mile bike ride over three major climbs with the Specialized crowd in aid of cancer. I just did day one, while they rode for another six days to Vegas! I was happy with myself to be always at the front of the climbs, which will lead me to my final point a little later i.e. the motivation behind that ride. I need to ready myself for a bigger challenge!
A busy week and before I knew it I was in Las Vegas for Interbike, which is the World’s largest bicycle trade show. I had a series of meetings day after day. I have never been as tired. That place is hectic. We had one monster night out, but what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! Vegas although interesting to see, is definitely not a “Bobby Place”! I almost kissed the ground on Friday September 25th when I landed in Odgen, Utah. I was there to watch my great friend Conrad “The Caveman” Stoltz take his seventh USA Series Title. I had three of the most memorable spins, the last up this 1.5 hour single track with “The Caveman” while the descent was even better than the climb! The views over the salt lakes where the cars do the drag races was awesome. Spending time with Conrad is always a treat.
The following week I was back to the office with a busy schedule through to Saturday, but I kept Sunday open and my first day off. I drove north of San Francisco where I met my long time Irish friend Conor. When I last visited in February I talked Conor into buying a MTB. Now he is hooked. We did the most stunning five-hour relaxed ride through Marin County, the place where MTB started. The views over looking San Francisco were unreal. MTB’ing can take you to places nobody else can go. Conor’s passion for cars is as strong as mine. Before leaving, driving Conor’s monstrous M5 gave me goose pimples! A nice car is one of the things in life than sends my heart really racing! The M5 is much more than that. It’s truly one of the Worlds Greatest Cars, no question and to me it’s like a drug. I suppose everybody has a passion. Cars are certainly mine.
The next day and I was on another plane this time for my third World Championship race, the mystical Hawaiian Ironman. I have never been to Hawaii before so I was excited about this trip. Quite a few from Specialized HQ traveled to Kona, so we had a real family atmosphere. It was here that I finally met a new top friend, three-time Hawaii winner Peter Reid and his sound girl friend Malaika. Peter, now retired, is still very much part of the Specialized family. What a down to earth sound guy. We had a great time. The Caveman was also with us as was Desiree Ficker, who I only got to know on this trip. She’s a brilliant girl and dead dead sound. She is talking about coming to the haven that is Stellenbosch this summer! I will get to the racing in a second, but highlights were the cliff jumping, swimming with dolphins, biking with Peter, spending time with the Specialized crew and I have to say pacing Conrad in parts of his swim set one of the days. It almost killed me, but it did make me realize that I should keep up a little swimming and not let it slip totally.
Horses for courses I suppose. Having seen the Ironman I know it was never an event I would have aspired to doing, but credit to the athletes. It’s a stupidly tough day. The heat and humidity is a massive factor and I don’t think people realize how bad it is until they get there. I was struggling and I was not even racing! I wormed my way into the lead car and saw all the action up front. What more can I say – it’s really hard. The one comment I can make is that there is bloody drafting in Ironman, which I was not impressed with. I saw the packs first hand from a car. Solo breakaway man Philip Graves had no chance, but a gutsy effort all the same.
From Kona it was back to San Fransicso and head office in Morgan Hill for two busy, action packed days, which is always the case at Specialized. I suppose that’s what keeps the fire burning and makes life interesting. I had planned to stay longer and see Conrad’s Worlds in Maui next weekend, but I really needed to get home. I have another fish to fry and I need to unwind! The Caveman will kick ass without me.
What have I got myself into! I did this MTB Event called “The Hell” last year. All of my Stellenbosch friends do it. It’s a real social affair. I surprised myself in this two-day MTB stage race to place 10th overall in 2008. Well “The Hell” is fast approaching (November 7th and 8th). At the time it sounded like a good idea, I just hope this trip hasn’t taken the wind out of my sails. Next week I suppose in preparation for The Hell (or an early grave!!), as a mental break I am doing a six-day stage mountain bike race called The Cape Pioneer, featuring about 100km of MTBing per day. If that is not enough, my partner is some guy called Christoph Sauser!!!!!! I hope I have the energy to blog more frequently next week! It’s going to be ….. hmmm …. interesting! Rock on!
One World Championships over and now another one.September 8, 2009
I arrived in The Gold Coast on Monday at lunchtime, tired, hungry, drained and hoarse! I craved food and SLEEP! I raced in 20 million directions over the weekend, but it was worth it!
Burry Stander was dominate winning The Under 23 XC MTB World Championship Title. “The Kid” looked strong from start to finish was always in control and crossed the line with a big smile and a huge sense of relief. Burry was the favorite and sometimes being the favorite creates unwanted pressure and expectation. Burry did not disappointed though.
Lene looked sensational and rode so confidently. I was so proud of Lene and the way she has developed both on and off the bike. Leading for much of the race, only in the last half lap was she caught, by Irina. It was a very hard way for Lene to loose, but in the aftermath a silver medal is something to be very proud of.
Rafa did well to make the final and a crash relegated him to fourth. I realized afterwards, unless my facts are wrong, that not one World Champion managed to defend his or her title. Susi was unfortunately in the same boat, but going in we knew the cards were stacked against Susi. He has had a tough season, but 10th was still a great result. Todd Wells did very well to finish a career best 8th with the 3rd fastest lap in what was arguably one of the greatest MTB races seen in recent years.
On the final day all eyes were on downhill. The nature and design of the course was stacked against Sam Hill. It does not suit his racing style, but he did very well to finish fifth. Both Kyle Strait and Cody Warren also impressed, by finishing in the teens. Brendan was disappointed with his run.
It was great to see everybody again, but as I said I was shattered leaving Canberra. The Gold Coast has been cool so far, although I am only here a day. I spent most of yesterday afternoon with Jan Frodeno catching up, then last night met up with my old Coach Libby Burrell who is now ITU Development Director. Libby introduced me to the ITU Development Team, which is a really impressive story. The team are just off a 10 day training camp. I had breakfast this morning with Jan and then did a three hour ride. Damn the roads here are busy. I spent a lot of time scratching my head at the thoughts of The Gold Coast being one of the triathlon's meccas. Give me Stellenbosch any day! On the way back from my spin I bumped into the one and only Tim Don. Great seeing Tim again too.
I will keep you posted as The World Cup Series Final gets closer.
I made it “Down Under”September 3, 2009
It’s Thursday night, I landed in Canberra last night and I am doing anything and everything possible to stay awake!! So here goes my blog! Travelling east to west or vice versa is always tough and with an eight hour time difference from Cape Town it takes it’s toll.
I finally found my feet late this morning, headed for some coffee with Benno and then up to the race venue, which is awesome, except the crowds are missing! Let’s hope it builds up over the weekend. I managed to see everybody apart from Rafa and all seem to be well and gearing up for their biggest race of the year. Burry “The Kid” is first up tomorrow in the Under 23 race. On paper he is favorite, but we each agree that anything can happen, which he is very mindful of. It ain’t over till it’s over!
Benno and I walked the XC course today. There are some little changes from last year but all in all it’s pretty similar. My biggest concern or message to the riders will be in relation to the locations of the feed zones. From the start to feed zone one could be 3.5 – 4 km, with some fairly hairy rocky drops and some jumps. If risks are taken and a mechanical ensues it’s a long run to the feed and covering that distance on foot will most certainly cost somebody the race. From the start the course quickly enters a long single track section, where passing will be a near impossibility. Being near the front is crucial. Getting caught behind a crash or mechanical could mean a lead group getting away. That happened last year and the break away was never seen again. So it’s also important to be near the front early on and into that single track.
So there’s a busy weekend of action to head. I will keep you updated.
My biggest trip of the year!August 31, 2009
Monday evening and a good way to end any day: big open fire and some chilled out “Bobby time”! I love my sofa and pad here in Stellenbosch, but tomorrow I say goodbye for EIGHT WEEKS! I have a long trip ahead, but a pretty cool one. Before I get to that, the weather has been class here in SA with 27C on the car’s thermometer today – not bad. My form on the bike is getting there with 15 hours last week! It’s nice to have that electric feeling in the legs again! I brought my S Works Tarmac SL2 out twice this week. I haven’t ridden on the road here since my tri days, until this week that is, but must do more of it cause that bike feels so special.
As always before any trip I am busy. There are so many things I need to do plus I cannot find my driver’s license, which is going to be a problem! Please show up! I checked inside and outside of the car today, but no sign … then the idea of selling the car hit me, which is another story in itself! That created some more unnecessary admin, but if I set my mind to something, there’s generally no going back!
So tomorrow I leave for Australia. I go to Australia to support the team in the World MTB Championships. I really hope things go well. I am in Canberra for five days, then it’ north to the Gold Coast for a week to watch the ITU World Championships Series Final. I am really looking forward to seeing those races and catching up with old friends. I leave Australia on September 15th and head to the office in San Francisco for a few days, then to Las Vegas, for Interbike, which is the Worlds biggest bicycle trade show. Five days in Vegas and it’s to Utah to support Conrad, Dan, Melanie and company in the USA XTerra Series final. I might spend a few days with “The Caveman” or Dan, then it’s back to the office for a few days. Next up is a week long trip to Kona, Hawaii to support Macca, Terenzo, TJ, Ben and all the team in the Ironman World Championships. The next day it’s back to the office in San Francisco and the following week back to Hawaii this time Maui to support the XTerra crew once again and their World Championships! Finally it’s back to Stellenbosch and the start of summer! Yer man Mr Pink AKA Gav might have arrived by that point! Lots to report on so I will keep you abreast!
Top of the mornin’ to yeah!August 21, 2009
It depends, but it’s one or the other! Wake before six and to the office or before seven and straight to Basic. Bike to work - I bike to work everyday on my ultra cool Specialized Langster New York. Boy does that bike attract attention!
Basic is special. Our little coffee shop, located on Church Street, the epicenter of Stellenbosch, is my consistent start to everyday, when I am here in “The Bosch”. It’s a social start to the day, where the lads meet up and talk a sense and crap combination, before our days truly kick off. We’re there anywhere between 7:30 and 7:45 and the group dissembles around 8 ish. We are Bobby known as “Die Eir” (“Irish” in Africaans!), Ernie “The Genius” Gruhn (he’s an accredited genius!!), Naudee “Coach” Jordan (instigator of “The Beast” workouts), Francois “Diesel” Maritz (Big torque curve on the bike & in the gym!), Big Piet (6ft 5 and weighing in at 115kg), Paul “Die Coppa” Haumann (Die Coppa is Africanns for “The Head”) and we might have a guest appearance from Murray occasionally. Most of the lads are traders, so I learn my bit about the markets, but sport and lads talk is mainly on the agenda.
Porridge with water, then two hard eggs on whole wheat bread with two cups of coffee and I’m fit to kill it any day!
WhistlerAugust 17, 2009
I am now back in good ol’ Stellenbosch, having recovered from the jetlag following my North America trip, but boy was it worth it!
After watching Lene smash it in Quebec, I then travelled right across Canada to Vancouver airport first and then a drive two hours north to the infamous resort town of Whistler. Boy it’s a big country and the flight was longer than going east and Montreal to Dublin!
I’ve always heard great reports about Vancouver and although we were just passing through, the cities beauty and the countryside on the way up blew me away. If you get a chance to visit this area of the world you will not be disappointed. I would love to visit Vancouver and check more of the city out. It was dark by the time we arrived in Whistler, but bright enough to check out our hotel, which was amazing. I knew on touching base that it was going to be a good trip. Waking up the next morning and looking out, I was very impressed.
I was in Whistler to catch-up with our free-ride team of Darren Berrecloth, Matt Hunter and Trond Hansen, plus spend time with our Downhill athletes of Sam Hill and Brendan Fairclough (both Monster Energy Specialized) and Specialized Team America (Kyle Strait, Cody Warren and the two Mulally brothers). Alongside this we were also doing our long travel media launch. Although, seeing many a long travel bike, this week served as the first time I have ridden a long travel bike! I definitely needed it on some of the knarly trails we did!
The trail network in Whistler is unreal. I have heard it’s the best in the world. Well I haven’t visited anything better! There are trails there for all ability levels and many there to challenge even the best. I was most definitely challenged by Hill and company on a few spins! My head over the handlebar stunts attracted the attention, that’s for sure (there are no photos I am aware of thankfully!!!). What’s cool though is that it’s a real family place. You can be out on a spin and meet a whole family or packs of kids getting instruction, while riding along these board-walks and stuff. Anyway, the long and short of it is that I would go again.
The highlight for the engineers and our Scottish mechanic Sandy was at my departure. I was packing my bike away just before my airport departure and noticed, aided by the fools joking around me, that my rear wheel was abnormally heavy! Anyway, I quickly learned that for almost a week I was riding around with my wheel full of water! No wonder everybody was trying to up the tempo on the climbs! My reply to Sandy will come when he least’s expects it!
Moving the envelope.August 15, 2009
Drawing lines of comparison is hard. How do I compare the 2010 Stumpjumper, a bike I first rode, with a big smile on my face, in Whistler, Canada last week.
Cars are also a huge passion of mine and there lies my comparison. In 1999 BMW launched the E39 BMW M5 with 400bhp on tap, a six speed manual gearbox and a level of balance unheard of in a saloon of this size. It’s a great car. In 2005 the eagerly awaited BMW E60 M5 arrived. I had my first opportunity to drive it in February. With F1 derived genes, including a 7-speed sequential gear box, transferring 507 horses of power to the rear wheels, this car had my hair standing. Its leap forward was huge.
The current Stumpjumper has been the best bike I have ridden from the Specialized stable. With a weight comparable to the race bred Epic and the Brain system front and rear, it’s been an insane machine. I have been looking forward to the new Stumpjumper for sometime now. When I heard there was an XL onboard with the Specialized fleet of bikes last week, I was eager to locate it. The bike is amazing. For me, there are two very noticeable differences. Number one if the stiffness when climbing and the power transmission via the brain suspension system on the rear, which is solid and locked out when required. I could not believe how pleasurable climbing was over the old bike. Secondly, the ability on the fork to lower the front, when climbing really helped on the very steep stuff. I am a tall guy. on the old bike, sometimes on very steep climbs it was a challenge keeping the front wheels on the ground.
Now I must patiently wait for the arrival of a new Stumpjumper!!!
Lene wins in CanadaAugust 3, 2009
Lene was at her best today, but I knew as did we all, that it was only a matter of time before Lene clinched her first world cup victory, which I believe to be the first of many to come! Lene has consistently evolved as an athlete since joined Specialized in 2007, which is testament to her dedication. Her victory is one thing, but her personality brings her result to a new level. Lene is super relaxed and one of the most humble athletes one will ever meet. I cannot say enough good things about her. She’s dead sound.
To have three-world cup overall leaders jerseys in the Specialized Stable is not bad. Sam, Burry and Lene will do their best to defend with one downhill and two cross-country world cups to go.
My bags are packed now, with next stop being Whistler, Canada for a media launch of our long travel bikes, plus some quality time with our free-ride team of Darren, Trond and Matt. I hear Whistler is unreal with Vancouver being one of the World’s most beautiful cities, so I am looking forward to that. Sam Hill said he’s also going to teach me to go downhill!!! Time will tell! The trails are supposed to be unreal and word on the street is that I get my first opportunity to ride the 2010 Stumpjumper, a bike I am eagerly looking forward to.
The Imana Finale and CanadaAugust 2, 2009
Wow over a week has passed since day four and the final day of the Imana. The long and short of it, was a day which was breath taking. Enough said about the amount of times we got lost, to the point where Dan and I didn’t even finished the stage inside the top 10, however, our third place overall was secure, a position I have to say I am really pleased with. The after race party was Epic although the bus and plane ride back to Stellenbosch the following day was not so Epic! We were pretty tired from four days of pushing and a night out that ranks high amongst night outs!!! Words can’t do an event like the Imana Wild Ride justice, but I hope these photos depict a snippet of the beauty we encountered.
I arrived in Canada on Thursday, with a flight via Frankfurt. Although, the flight is long, it’s not so bad and the Lee Child novels featuring the Jack Reacher character along with a steady flow of emails in need of responses, keeping my mind occupied. “He’s just not that into you” was also one on the in-flight movies!
Seeing the team again here in Bromont has been awesome. It’s surely a great bunch and I have to say I do miss not seeing them as frequently, although we are in touch almost on a daily basis. As I type it’s just before the women’s XC Race here in Bromont. Lene is busy warming up and my fingers are crossed for a good day. The humid conditions I think will suit her. As for the other three characters in Burry, Susi and Todd time will tell as to their race. Burry is doing superbly; with his number two place depicting second overall in the world cup standings, a clear indication of that. Meanwhile Todd showed great form last week until a lap to go, when his legs just failed him. Susi I think will be one to watch. His season has not gone to plan, which is making the Swissman even more determined, a determination that can hurt the very best of riders.
Right I am going to get into position in order to feed Lene her splits and race info. Adious.
Day Three: Sand storms, followed by pelting rain & typical Irish Weather!July 23, 2009
I have been visiting South Africa for almost a decade and today was possibly my first glimpse of real Africa!
We lined up on the grid in third position, two minutes behind Subaru Team 1 (the overall leaders) and a further two minutes behind Subaru Team 2. Today we had to dig deep. We knew this on the start line. The plan from the start in The Haven was to ride hard, which we did down the first fire road and then up the other side. We just hammered on this fire road and following that on the singe track section and onto our first beach. My Stumpjumper just eased over all of the bumps and ruts. It felt totally at home with everything that was thrown it’s way. We kept looking into the distance to see Subaru Team 2, but they were out of sight. They must have been flying, because we were cranking!
There were no sharks that I knew of, or Rhinos for that matter today, but lots of cattle roaming around. They stuck me as very lazy cattle cause they weren’t too bothered by us as we whizzed past. They were more focused on eating grass! About half through after plenty of walking sections, we hit the first of these villages, where the locals live in these dome like mud huts. It was an unreal experience to catch this type of glimpse of Africa. It’s makes you realize how others live. The people here are very friendly. You know the race is called Imana. As we passed through I was asking the kids, which way do we go and they just kept saying Imana. Dan and I although riding hard also laugh hard. I was like Dan maybe they don’t understand me or Imana might mean left or right!! We had a chuckle!
After these little villages and the lazy cattle, we started to climb high up the steep coastal edges. It was like the most beautiful spots on Ireland’s west coast, only almost more breath taking, which is a big statement. It was here that the wind started to pick up. Dan almost got blown off coming around an open left hander, while all 93kg’s of my Irish Muscle (!!) managed to keep the two tires planted, but the wind was so strong only barely! The last 11km on open fire roads were tough with a howling wind, Irish Rain and low temperatures, there was a chill and the climbs were never ending. We made the finish though in just over 2.5 hours once again in third position. Subaru Team 2 caught Team 1 so there’s an interesting battle on tomorrow’s final day, which is also going to be the longest! We might back off the gas tomorrow given the longer day and also the fact that we are secure in third with little hope of moving up the GC.
It’s 10pm so time for bed …. Night night!
Day Two: We avoided the Rhino’s & the sharks!July 22, 2009
From one great place to another, we are now in the Haven Hotel right on the sea, after our second day in the saddle. Today was stunning. Africa has it all!
We started today in a time trial format where the winners yesterday went first and so on. We started 11’’ behind Subaru Team 2. The plan was to close the 11’’ deficit as quickly as possibly, but before we knew it Subaru Team 2 were taking short cuts and were extending their margin. It was a nightmare, with our lack of local knowledge really killing us. On the legs front Dan and I had good form and rode well, which is positive. I did ask the locals for directions – I don’t think they have ever encountered an Irishman before!
You can never get bored in this race. You are always thinking about what way you should ride and there’s obstacles of all sorts littered everywhere. It’s by far the most fun event I have ever done. It’s also the most beautiful.
There were many funny, tough and entertaining moments all mixed together. I suppose on wake up at 5am my fellow housemates enjoyed some Irish Spirit …. The Fields Of Athenry and Danny Boy were playing hard from my laptop, just for the craic – the Africans were highly entertained!!!! I even sang some Frank Sinatra, without the influence!!
Out on the course, first this little s**t of a dog chased us, I told him to p**s off, but I don’t think he understood “Irish English”. He eventually gave up! Then there was the river crossing, where the sharks can be. I got caught by the current and felt at one point like I was going to end up in Antarctica! I keep telling the African’s that I am not worried about the sharks …. There’s none in Ireland because they are afraid of us. I am confident they’ll eat Dan first!!!!! Every night there’s a movie with the days highlights and I have no doubt my river crossing episode will be shown for all to see!
I am tall, but when we hit Rhino territory, the bloody grass was so high. It was a maze and this is where we lost time. We could not find the Rhino tracks which lead us through … thankfully we did not see The Rhino’s either, but there were big pieces of Rhino S***t and footprints!! Trust me their piles of s**t are way bigger than that of any bull I have seen back home in Ireland! Good thing we did not meet face to face!
We ride well on the beach, where the one ‘tri pro’ (Dan) and the one ‘has been” (me!!) hit the big ring and grind out the watts. At the river crossing we had Subaru Team Two literally meters in front of us (they had just crossed as we started to cross), but once again they disappeared on some short cut. It was irritating! We also hit “The Mothers” as they are called, meaning a mother “f*****r of a climb, but not a climb you can bike. Yes you have guessed it. The bikes are on our backs! That was hard.
The Stumpjumper has been flawless. My back sometimes gets tight, but on the Stumpjumper it’s such a comfortable smooth ride, I have zero problems.
Who knows, but it would be nice to fight for second position tomorrow. They now have about 4 minutes on us, but it’s possible to make amends, once we don’t get lost!
Horsepower and my Stumpjumper!July 21, 2009
Well day one is down and 43km of breathing taking coastline, unlike anything else I have ever seen. Africa is a very special place. We even had dolphins to keep us company right along the route! So as pointed out yesterday we identified the local strongmen who knew the route and from there it was a matter of horsepower to hang in there and more specifically my horsepower, given that I am the weak cog here, partnering XTerra Professional Dan Hugo. There were times today, where I wished for just 30 minutes of my 2006 triathlon biking legs or 30 seconds of Susi’s legs!
I was never one to fear laying the horsepower down from the gun and without being biased I was definitely on the most superior bike of all. My S Works Stumpjumper is one incredible piece of equipment, the brain suspension front and rear takes away the thinking and at times I found myself riding sections, which others did not. I knew when there was bumpy stuff I was glad to be onboard my stealth weapon. I can’t wait to test the next generation (2010 model) due soon!
So Dan and I were in the mix from the gun and broke away with the two other Subaru Teams. The pace was high and I was in the red zone from the word go! I pushed so hard and haven’t hurt like this for sometime! We lost contact with these two teams early on, because they were riding so aggressively. Fortunately, we always kept them insight. We could see one of the Subaru Teams breaking clear from team two, so we just worked hard to keep team two in sight, which we did. We could also see team one for most of the race. In the last 10km with Dan setting the tempo (he is strong), we lay down whatever horsepower we could and caught Subaru Team two. With the helicopter hovering right beside us, I felt like I was riding up Alp D’Huez. We could not attack cause we had no idea where to go, so we just watched and followed. On the last river crossing, which the Stumpjumper ploughed through (no sharks!!), we were right there, but on the running section 10 meters further on and 100metres from the finish my legs exploded … we finished 3rd, 11’’ off second and 3’50’’ off the leaders. Not a bad day on the racing side. I am really pleased to be honest, but more than that I am enjoying one of the greatest sporting experiences I have ever had! Dan is a gent, we are having good fun, plus there’s a big bunch of characters also here from Stellenbosch.
Excited!!July 20, 2009
I got the call a few weeks ago and now “D-Day” has arrived and The Imana MTB Race on South Africa’s Wild Coast. I have been told many things about the event and what to be wary or beware of, whatever way you want to put it! The Wild Coast is South Africa’s description of ‘Real Africa’ in South Africa. I arrived here on Saturday with friends and so far it’s stunning, plus plenty of laughs. Friends Paul and his girlfriend Mona are riding together (this event is a partnership like The Cape Epic), Wynand is riding with Frederick, while I am riding with Specialized Athlete and the upcoming XTerra South African sensation Dan Hugo.
So some facts first. There’s a ten-year waiting list to get into this event and with only 140 starters it’s exclusive (don’t ask me how the Irishman got in)! I have been for the past two days at the start of the Wild Coast in a place called Cintsa, which is about 100km eat along the coast from East London. It’s truly amazing. So far I have seen Wild Pigs and while riding on the beach each day, have had school of dolphins swimming parallel to me, surfing the waves. It was class!
I have done literally no background research on the event itself, so since Saturday, have been trying to do some recon. Unlike most events where the route is marked, this event features a start-line and a finish and apart from that you must make your own way. Dan placed second last year. Apparently, they had the legs to win, but the local team who knew all the short cuts were a step ahead. My guess is this year, we will follow other local teams quite a bit, if as Dan correctly puts it, we have the firepower. I am definitely the weak cog, so time will tell on if I can rekindle some of that muscle memory from those tri days.
So here’s some of the low down. There are many full depth river crossings etc, but three where we must get into a boat! Why ….. so one of the rivers has some freshwater crocodiles and the other two are infested with sharks! No joke! We also must cross a nature reserve full of Rhino’s … Christ! Most of the race is on the beach and takes places all along the coast, so I have mounted 2.4 tires and intend to run a low pressure of 25 PSI, which should give great traction. I have tested this in the sand over the past two days and it’s definitely a big big help.
The race itself takes place over four days. The stages aren’t very long in terms of km’s, but possibly long time wise given what we have to endure. Honestly, I have never been as excited about an event. Last night we hit the bar so there’s a few sore heads this morning, but we are having serious fun and I am looking forward to a lekker ride as they say here in South Africa. I will keep you posted on events as they unfold.
Ironman FrankfurtJuly 6, 2009
Despite my years of triathlon, Ironman Frankfurt was only the second ever Ironman that I have witnessed, the other being South Africa way back in 2001. It’s an incredible event, most impressive being the final moments where people crossed the finish line, before it’s game over. What a party and atmosphere. As a triathlete it was never my thing, but I can see why it is for others.
Macca and Terenzo both had tough days. It’s Terenzo’s second ever Ironman, so he’s new to this in an event that takes time to hone. The swim went to plan for Terenzo, exiting in first with most major contenders, except Macca, who was three minutes back. The water was so warm and Macca was really struggling to keep cool.
The gaps remained largely the same throughout the 180km bike ride. I did not see the swim and opted instead to travel to feed one in order to support the lads, with Macca’s manager Scott and friend Derek. On lap one Terenzo looked ok, while Macca was on a mission to claw back some time. Lap two and already about 115km in and the event was taking it’s toll. Llanos was moving to the fore, while Macca, still over 3’ off the pace had moved up, with Terenzo’s young body going backwards, but still in the top ten.
The run was going to be really interesting. What a venue, with a run course up and down the river in Frankfurt’s centre. Macca had a 3’20’’ deficit to Llanos starting out, which is nothing in a marathon but a lot considering Llanos’s pedigree. Terenzo was back in 7th position and on the first lap looked very smooth.
On lap two of the four lap run it looked like the gaps would remain the same and hence the positions, but then Macca’s charge to first began and by the start of the penultimate lap he was running shoulder to shoulder with Llanos. Macca pressed on and developed a slight lead, while Timo, who appeared to be out of the picture earlier in the run was flying. He caught Llanos, and the duo then caught Macca, who had blown big time. Timo had an impressive course record victory (7 hours 59’ 15’’), while Llanos finished 2nd and Macca 3rd. I think Terenzo did really well to finish 9th. Not bad for a 24 year old in only his second Ironman.
Last night was good fun. Dinner with Terenzo and his friends, then we caught up with Macca and my old Oakley friend David Hyam. We laughed into the early hours.
Now it’s homeward bound and a few days in Ireland.
Ironman and Life in SAJuly 3, 2009
Ironman and life in SA
I left South Africa with a temperature of 26 degrees (not bad considering it’s winter). The past few weeks have flown by in Stellenbosch although I am going to be back there before I know it. I am on a short trip to Germany then home to Ireland to visit family for a couple of days an hope to be on African soil next Friday.
I will write a complete story about it soon, but I am really proud of the “Songo” charity that we created and what has been achieved. On Tuesday I brought the “Songo” group on a mtb ride in the hills behind Stellenbosch. It was awesome. They are such a good bunch and look the part in all their Specialized and Songo gear. For full info on the charity visit http://songo.info.
People ask me am I still training quite a bit and yes I am, but for fun! I can’t remember the last time I swam or ran for that matter, but I have been biking lots, plus Naudee’s gym twice a week is making me strong. Chin-ups, press-ups and the like are something that I can just bash out now, but laps in the pool are not!!
Two weeks ago, I did this really cool MTB Race in Greyton. It’s a stunning area about 1.5 hours from Stellenbosch. I did it for fun, stopped took photos and chatted with different people. After the Greyton event I had a few beers with friends and watched the Lions loose their first test (nightmare!). Of course I listened to lots of crap!
Dan Hugo and I are doing what is rumored to be an unforgettable event on the Wild Coast of South Africa (near Durban) later this month, called the Imana Wild Ride. I am now proper excited and really looking forward to it. Apparently an entry is a very rare commodity, but somehow, unknown to me I have an entry!
I arrived in Frankfurt this morning for Ironman Frankfurt on Sunday. No I am not taking part!!!! Chris “Macca” McCormack and Terenzo Bozzone are both taking part and I am here for moral support! I have actually never been to an Ironman before, so it’s cool to be a guy in the background just watching everybody and what they do as the big day looms! I was in the pro meeting earlier today, which was the same old stuff …. I’m happy to be here, but also happy to be watching from the sidelines. I saw some Irish Athletes too, which was cool. Tomorrow night Jan Frodeno is going to come through and say hello, so I’m really looking forward to seeing him.
That’s it from me.
Back on African SoilJune 15, 2009
It hasn’t been a normal trip, with the new job commencing, taking the time to adjust and making the time to meet new people, plus of course spending time with family, meaning that I have been away longer than I normally would expect to be. This has been my longest ever trip with Specialized (racing in 05 in Asia was long too), but like anything new, it’s important to put one’s head down in order to get things moving smoothly.
I arrived in Stellenbosch on Thursday evening after the flight from hell. I opted to bring road (don’t know why I brought the road bike in hindsight) and MTB bikes, plus some other bits and pieces, including Hugo’s new Apple Laptop, Tim’s wetsuit and other requests from the USA! Aer Lingus weren’t so pleased. I still try to give them “I am an Irish Athlete story”, which doesn’t work (Ireland has gone and got itself too official; too overly serious!!), or maybe I no longer look like an athlete …. Hmmm! Maybe I should have told them that I am “a has been”!!! Fast acting by my travel agent and I was on my way to Stellenbosch with Iberia, via Madrid and Jo’Burg. In Jo’Burg emigration said that from their records I over stayed a VISA in 2006. I couldn’t remember a thing about that, except that I was eager to get home at that point. A small fine, quick talking and I was on my way! Finally, I arrived in Stellenbosch.
Being back has been good. I spent some quality time with my sofa and TV (!!!), had two absolutely awesome MTB rides on Saturday and Sunday and met up with my cousin and friends in Cape Town on Saturday night after the Lions victory over Western Province. Yes I am a big rugby fan, prefer watching games from my sofa, but couldn’t resist going to Cape Town afterwards. It’s also great to be back at my office, working from my usual position and simply getting back into routine.
I plan to be here until July 2nd, when I travel for a few days to Frankfurt for Ironman Frankfurt and following that will probably spend a little time in Ireland.
I must take more photos, but Stellenbosch, although it’s winter is stunning.
On other fronts the athletes are all doing very well. Conrad Stoltz had a legendary story over the weekend. It just sums up “The Caveman” – he’s as tough as nails!!!! You can check it out on his "I Am Specialized" blog or at www.conradstoltz.com.
A Day In The LifeJune 4, 2009
It must be from my triathlon days or an internal clock, but I am an early riser and most productive in the “wee” hours. So what’s on the cards today? I am generally up between 5:30-6:30am. This morning featured a 6am rise. Shower, then to my parent’s kitchen – I am in Ireland right now with family. At this time of the morning, there’s nothing but peace and quiet in what is typically a busy house. It wouldn’t be any other way. Our house is very open, people visit daily plus I have five younger brothers.
First things first, it’s fruit and some juice mixed with water, then maybe a pint of water (in Ireland we don’t do the whole milliliters deal – well I don’t anyway!). My day kicks off with some surfing (not the water type!!!). I won’t lie – I think facebook’s great and with my travels a great way to keep in touch with all friends and family dotted around the globe. So I pay a brief visit. It’s also great as a marketing tool and I try to post as much Specialized news as possible. From there I check various cycling websites like cyclingnews, velonews just to keep track of things and then it’s to Triathlon. I always check Triathlon Ireland just to keep in touch with things at home in Ireland, but I also visit “Slow Twitch”, “Inside Triathlon” and “XTri”. The ITU is also a great site and their coverage of events via the summary video gets a big thumbs up from me.
I will then scan through “I Am Specialized” and read some of the athlete’s blogs. I have a few favorite websites if I call a spade a spade. Two of the funniest characters I have met are Gavin Noble and Conrad Stoltz, their sites are updated almost daily and their blogs are always good for a read. I always try to check the Specialized Athletes (Susi’s one liners can also carry a witty heavy weight punch!). My surfing isn’t related to solely Specialized Athletes. I will always check in with friend’s sites such as Tim Don’s, Jan Frodeno’s plus I will read blogs from athletes whom I find intriguing and interesting. It’s always good to know what’s going on. I love athletes who are pro-active and update their sites regularly. Dan Hugo and Gavin are too good examples. In my opinion a website should be like a newspaper.
Back to the kitchen for round two! My brother has a grocery shop with an adjoining café one mile up the road, so his homemade brown bread is awesome with a nice cup of coffee - there's always a loaf in my parents kitchen. Not long after maybe 8am and my dad has arrived (he’s like a kid!!), my mum is running around and so the day of the busy house starts!
Some days if it’s a biggy I can have 150 new emails! Today my inbox reads 50 new emails. I am that person whose inbox is always empty. I pride myself on attempting to get back to people quickly, delete or move to my folder system. I can find an important email in a matter of seconds. Yes I am one of those organized people – well I try! If my inbox has something in there, then it needs to be addressed!
I have emails from some of our athletes today. Free-riders: Trond Hansen, Matt Hunter and Darren Berrecloth (all three in one day is not normal). Triathletes: TJ Tollakson, Terenzo Bozzone and Macca’s Manager Scott Fairhild. I also have four – five emails from Conrad (what a character) with one subject line “Tulip” so I know there’ll be some humor in there! The MTB Team are quiet today – nothing from their side., which is a surprise as there’s generally something from Benno our road and equipment manager.
I try to respond to all emails before late afternoon, meaning when the Americans arrive at their desks, they will hopefully have their desired answers or at least a start. Given that there’s currently a 9 hour time zone gap, I will work into the evenings, so I have some one to one time with the USA. Somedays I might have a conference call. On Tuesday evening I had two calls, which lasted 1.5 hours.
Apart from replying to emails, today is a day where I will be looking at 09-10 budgets, I will be finishing a 2010 product forecast order for all of our mountain bike athletes and triathletes. The forecast thing takes time. It’s important to plan ahead. Apart from athletes, I will probably end up today dealing with our accounting and legal departments plus PR (I see some emails from Nic our PR man) and most definitely our web team, which is really key.
In between all of this, I will hit my brothers café for lunch, I will fit in a bike ride or gym session (one of the beast workouts). Exercise is important for me & it’s very much part of the culture at Specialized, which I think is really unique and cool. On Tuesday I managed two sessions, which is not the norm (norm is one per day). Right now in Ireland the biking is unreal with the sun splitting the trees. I like to train with people, now that I am no longer a driven athlete. Sport for me is now very social yet it’s important to have goals. “The Hell” MTB race in South Africa in November looms on the horizon! That’s pretty much it for my day apart from a little kicking the ball with my parents bear dog “Ali” our Newfoundland.
I have one quirky thing I do everyday, when I have a chance. It could be in the evening before I go to bed. I am quite a passionate car enthusiast, so I can be found checking used car websites, typically autotrader. There might be a specific car I am tracking – don’t ask me what drives me! It’s not that I am purchasing either, I am just interested to see what type of price a car is commanding. I drove a friends M5 in February in San Francisco. That thing blew my mind (the best car by far I have ever driven), so lately I have been looking at their prices ………!
8:10am – better get to these emails ……..
Madrid World Cup and life in IrelandJune 3, 2009
After my visit to Morgan Hill I returned home to Ireland for a brief two days, before traveling to Madrid for the XC World Cup. I have always liked the Madrid course, simply because I believe it is definitely the most spectator friendly course, with the opportunity to see the action, if you are in the right place, about five to six times every lap.
Lene really impressed me, especially with her confidence off the line. It was so good to see Lene riding solo off the front of what is always a strong World Cup field. Lene’s 3rd place result show’s great consistency in what is surely a breakthrough year for the Norwegian who has been building gradually year on year.
The men’s race as always is fast in Madrid. Burry looked good in the early stages and I expected a good result, but later on you could see that the South African wasn’t firing on all 10 cyclinders! He did so well and rode so cleverly at the end to win the U23 and close points in the overall World Cup Rankings.
Todd must look back positively on his result, which saw him in the top 10 at one point on board his Specialized S Works HT 29er. Bearing in mind he started in 40th position on the grid, I am sure Todd will build on this.
Susi has had a tough start to the year. Things just haven’t knitted together as they normally would. He was carrying a very bad chest cold into this race, with flu like symptoms, but still managed to place 11th, which is commendable.
After Madrid I have been back in Ireland, spending time with family. The weather is fantastic, which is great given the unpredictability of the Irish Skies! I have been to many parts of the World, but Ireland on days like we have been experiencing is my number one place for road biking. My Specialized S Works Tarmac SL2 has been out on the Irish Roads daily.
While in Ireland I also watched TriAthy, a triathlon, which hosted a field of 2500 participants. Given that Ireland has just 4.2 million people, this represents a massive attendance for any sporting event. I had no itch to be in there in the thick of the action, but I really enjoyed watching!
What's he like?May 19, 2009
I’ve had a few people ask me, “so what’s he like”? Well the legend Macca has been on top of the game for over a decade now and I have no doubt will continue to be. I remember clearly his victory at ITU Worlds in 1997 and as we all know his Ironman Kona victory in 2007. Only three athletes in the history of triathlon, including Macca have achieved this rare feat.
An athlete with results is one thing; especially with results like Macca’s, but what sets Macca apart is his larger than life character! He’s a bloody funny guy, full of energy and the joys of life. He’s has an energy that never seems to quell. “The Caveman” Stoltz told me all about it over the years, but it was good seeing this first hand.
So on Friday morning I met Macca and Michael Murphy, a young Australian athlete 19-year-old athlete Macca has kindly taken under his wing, at the Morgan Hill swimming pool. They had just finished a 4km (odd) swim set and from there, like all triathletes we set out for a monster breakfast. I missed the swim, but still managed the Monster Breakfast!
Friday afternoon involved a tour of the Specialized Offices. On Saturday morning we met up for our ride. I arrived with the idea of doing three hours and then leaving the rest to Macca and the focused tri guys. Brendan O Brien our in house engineer who is busy training for an Ironman used some sort of hypnotic psychology on me and being a sucker for punishment I embarked in the 40 degree heat (100 in USA numbers!!) on the “4.5 hours loop” with “one climb and lots of flat”!
“Mass is the enemy of performance” …. Those words of Ernie “The Genius” Gruhn rang clear in my ears on the first climb. Damn I could always climb as a triathlete but nowadays my 95 kg’s is a lot more than my 83 race kg’s (I have added muscle you see!!!). It could have been an Irish ride …. We had Chris McCormack, Brendan O’ Brien, Michael Murphy and the odd one out in terms of names, Mark Cote our aero dynamics engineer who is also training for an Ironman. O’ Brien’s reverse psychology was bull***** when I hit the next climb and the undulating roads the whole way back to Morgan Hill. Three cokes and other bits and pieces kept me going, but five hours was a tad long! Towards the end Macca was a real inspiration …. “Bobby mate, name an Irish band”. Before I could muter anything he was singing away to U2, then Hothouse Flowers, mentioned Sinead O Connor – thank god he did not try Clannad. I hadn’t the vocal cords to bring The Dubliners into the mix, while Frank Sinatra although eager to get out, stayed inside!
Mentioning the whole Irish thing, I know his tan might not add up, but Macca’s grand dad is proper Irish and Macca knew exactly how he ended up “Down Under”. I remember the then Irish Triathlon Association having a development strategy, which involved signing foreigners, a joke at the time & to this day might I say! Well they didn’t do such a good job if that was their then strategy!!!!!
On Sunday Macca looked good to take victory in the Morgan Hill Triathlon. He even had time to wave at me in the car from the bike! At the end I got a little apprehensive that he had lost some of his ITU kick, but his kick is still very much there.
Overall it was great meeting the legend that is Chris “Macca” McCormack. He’s a rare character and one of the most stand out athletes I have ever met.
Bike to work day?????May 14, 2009
It’s all go at the moment. So I landed in Ireland last week, with my dad picking me up and taking me home ….. I was greeted by what was once a pup, but now a dog, that resembles a bear. He jumped into the car on top of my bike box. I was informed that this was his way of saying he wanted to go for a drive or swimming! Unfortunately, the weather was a bit CRAP (!!) and too cold to even contemplate an open water swim, but I am home next week and with summer hopefully looming, some swimming with the “bear dog” will be on the menu!
It was good to spend time with family. The time has certainly flown by since my departure to South Africa in October. I managed to get some biking done, one spin with Joe, who is in great shape and building up for The Ras. It’s his eight or ninth Ras. I have to say biking in Ireland is so good, especially when the sun is shinning.
I landed in San Francisco yesterday afternoon. Jet lag meant I left it until this morning to travel to work. I have two routines ….. routine one is bike before work with Erick Marcheschi (another lad from the office) leaving at 6:30am sharp, or if my lazy ass gets out of bed, have breakie, then stop by Peats for Coffee (Great coffee shop enroute) and be at my desk for 6:45am. Mornings you see are my most productive time and the office is quiet then. Anyway, this morning as I was getting out of my blue rental I meet Erick, Catherine and Specialized Owner / President Mike Sinyard all ready to bike. I am looking around and seeing most of the parking blocked off with cones and tape ….. I thought there was building or something going on! I was duly informed that it was bike to work day, meaning no cars! Well I didn’t know, so the Blue Rental is the exception although Mike did say he was thinking about towing it …. It could be bike to home evening for me!!!! The culture at Specialized is so cool. I don’t know a single person within the company who is not sporty …… there’s no cooler work culture to be around.
Here in San Francisco they call me “The Beast”!May 4, 2009
I can blame Global Marketing Director, Ben Capron and I suppose Naudee back in Stellenbosch partly and there’s a little bit of me in that mix too! So, this is how it all started. Since January in Stellenbosch I have been doing these crazy gym sessions, which if I am being honest adore. I was never a fan of the gym (I always got bored!), but these sessions add a much different ingredient … an addictive ingredient for those of you with a sadistic streak like me!
So when I came to The Specialized Offices in February naturally I did not want to fall behind the group back in Stellenbosch and seeing that there was a gym within the offices (how cool is that!), I kept my routine going – well I added a bit just to be ahead!
Slowly but surely interest came from within the Global Marketing Department. One lunchtime I was joined by a few, most notably Nic Sims! It was a toughie that day ….. Nic started out full of enthusiasm, but that soon passed! For five days after, Nic was found hobbling around the office. Nic should have been grateful to me for helping him find new muscles in his body, but NO …. I was accused of trying to break some of the office staff and hence Ben Capron came up with “The Beast”! Here at Specialized the name has stuck!
So for a couple of months nobody joined me, until today when new member of the sports marketing team, Kim joined me! Kim is a toughie and did really well …… let’s see if she hobbles in tomorrow …. I do think I have found a partner in sadism!!!
Wildflower, “The Caveman” and HouffalizeMay 4, 2009
With so much going on this weekend and a hefty workload at Specialized, I decided to check out the Wildflower Triathlon over the weekend. It helped that the trip was relatively short, with only a two-hour drive south from Morgan Hill.
The Wildflower venue is stunning and I could clearly see what this event is one of these legendary global events. It was cool to be there first hand. I stayed in a house with Terenzo, his girlfriend Kelly, his bro Dino, who is on a running scholarship in Oregon, his girlfriend Megan and other friends. It was only towards the end of the weekend, when one of his friends Phillipe asked me my last name …. It must have suddenly clicked with him, but Phillipe and I used to do battle ten years ago in the USA! We had a good catch up recalling the good old days! He told me that a few faces from those years gone by were still racing in the pro scene and doing well ….. It was nice to hear him say that I was one of the men to beat back then! Not any more!!!!
Although, watching the triathlon, which I really enjoyed, I did wonder on the drive down, if it would be something I would miss i.e. competing! The answer is that I am very happy where I am right now! MTB’ing has filled the gap left after my tri years!
Being accustomed to the bike race scene now and the driving associated with following a race, my gold rental (PT Cruise type thing) was found following every move on the bike, that is until some marshal on a motor bike and I had words ….. In California they didn’t seem to appreciate my driving style! Conrad told me only this morning, that there’s a few marshals out there who think they are GOD! Ah well, I kept quiet from there on, heading back to the transition area, got my Stumpjumper out of the car and followed the run, giving encouragement, while trying to keep well clear of the men in the yellow jackets! Terenzo was doing so well, but his young body, obviously tired from the efforts of the weeks gone by, had a tough day on the run. His course record still stands though …… Good job T. I have to say spending time with Terenzo this week has been really cool. He’s a real gent, dead sound and a good laugh to be around. I had a great time.
“The Caveman” as we say in Ireland is some man for one man! Well done on his first XTerra of 09 and to Dan Hugo on his third position.
Houffalize was a mixed affair with Rafa crashing out in 4X, Lene suffering from a bad start and finishing 12th, Todd laid out in bed with flu, Susi also with a flaky chest resulting in 12th. Burry too wasn’t feeling well in the days building up, but seemed to be better on race day. He had a bad start but the fighter in him pushed himself back up to 4th … WOW! The kid is impressive. He also won the U23 and is dominating those standings.
Another World Cup and Terenzo in FloridaApril 27, 2009
It’s strange not being at a World Cup after three years on the sidelines, shouting encouragement, giving splits and information. Offenburg I think was better this year, than last year. I can remember last year spending a lot of time huddled under a tree as the rain poured down! It was one of those days when it rained hard, then dried up, then rain again followed by more sun!
Freecaster TV has been such a great addition to MTB. At 6am Californian time I sat up in my bed and watched the men’s race. Sorry Lene …. I didn’t wake earlier! Benno called a few times …. After two calls he realized that I could give him more information about what was happening, than he could despite being there. Freecaster covered so many of the moves …. I could see Burry and Susi making their move, Todd in there with the leaders and later running with the bike and could report back what happened to Susi and most importantly, that he was ok.
Lene again impressed this weekend. She rode much of the race, especially the later stages with sore ribs, following her training ride tussle with a car on Thursday. That did not stop her. Burry “the kid” is growing and growing …. As for Susi and Todd I was really disappointed but that’s racing.
Over to Florida ….. I shake my head when I think about the range of ability Terenzo has shown …. Second in Ironman New Zealand, an almost 8.5 hour race and then second in a competitive St Anthony’s in a little under 1 hour 50 minutes. Being able to produce such broad ranging results is impressive. The man is in the office tomorrow and I am looking forward to finally meeting him.
“The Caveman” on cameraApril 23, 2009
I respect Conrad so much, the road traveled by “The Caveman” and how he has got to this point. The years living day by day as he made a name in France, his infamous breakaway at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 and his transition to XTerra, a sport he has dominated since 2001. Over the coming months many of the stories we don’t know about Conrad will be told!!! I know them all and will ensure we get the whole story behind the character!
Over the past three days after Sea Otter Conrad remained at Specialized in Morgan Hill. We have been shooting movies and taking photos of “The Caveman”. Keep your eyes on the triathlon section of “I Am Specialized” where the movie will be aired soon.
We’ve had our World Cup photographer Gary Perkin in-house over the past week taking many cool photos ….. these of Conrad are unreal!
Cape Epic, Pietermaritzburg, Sea Otter and Thoughts In GeneralApril 23, 2009
Sea Otter Classic:
Sea Otter is always a hectic week, but a very productive week for Specialized as a whole. It was really cool to have all the athletes in house for media training, tours and mixing it with the in-house people who make everything happen.
Once again Lene really impressed me at Sea Otter and looked so consistent through Short – Track and XC. Well done! On the men’s XC side excellence breeds excellence ….. The good spirited competitive nature of the lads is certainly raising the bar. Susi looked great on Sunday while all three were on another level in Short Track. I was really happy or Todd to win the overall on US Soil. Another surprise for the books for many, but not me (I have known his capabilities for many years) was XTerra Triathlete Conrad “The Caveman” Stoltz, who finished 8th in the men’s cross-country. One of the strong men of triathlon shows that he can mix it on the bike solely!
Over to gravity …. Mike Sinyard and I chatted for ages while watching each round of the Dual Slalom. A Specialized 1-2 in the shape of Sam Hill and Specialized Team America ride Cody Warren was so cool. Sam looked so sharp in the corners.
Overall we could have wished for a better Sea Otter.
Pietermaritzburg World Cup, South Africa:
How good was it to get the team back together. Joining us have been Burry “The Kid” Stander and Todd “The Character” Wells. These two have brought much humor and tough legs to the team. Monster Energy Specialized in the form of Sam Hill and Brendan Fairclough have joined the program, which sets us up we one of the strongest teams in the MTB arena. It paves the way for what we hope to be a good season.
Burry impressed in South Africa with third on home soil. Lene for me has grown so much as an athlete, since she joined our program in 2007. Her ride and third position in South Africa, despite being on anti-botics was for me, the best race I have ever seen her complete. I am really happy for Lene because she has certainly worked really hard.
Cape Epic, March 2009:
This event has grown from strength to strength and once again Burry and Susi returned to racing as a duo under the Songo.info banner. We all know the story now of Burry’s wheel and although the subsequent sanctions etc. were a little disjointed, we all know who the strongest team in the 2009 Epic were. Team Songo.info won 5 of the stages! Most important though has been the position impact Songo.info had on the Kayamandi Community in Stellenbosch. Under privileged kids know have a BMW Track and 25 MTB’s, which pave the way for a cycling club. For more check out www.songo.info.
Rebecca Rusch and her coach, Mathew also had a great Epic in the mixed division finishing fifth. This sets Reba up perfectly for her defense of the 24 hour World Title in July.
Thoughts in General:
I have written a good bit about the MTB side, but how about triathlon. It’s my background and has been my passion for so many years. Working with Macca, The Caveman, Desiree, TJ and Terenzo is something I relish! I am already sinking my teeth into this. To date Macca has been shaking the water and tarmac, with a course record at Laveman and a win this weekend past at 70.3 China, in what he describes as the toughest conditions he has ever experienced.
Monster Energy Specialized’s visit to the office last week was really cool. I known the legend that is Sam Hill, but getting to know him in person and the humble guy that he is impressed.
Life at Specialized is so cool …. Yes it’s hard work, but when you love it, it’s easy. I have been able to use the totally cool gym, bike at lunchtime and in the mornings ….. I will report more over the coming weeks on life with the Red S Express!
April 28, 2010
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