When I finally stepped off the plane in Munich, I had been travelling for over 24hrs. 12hrs to Abu Dhabi, 2-hours in the airport, 10hrs to Europe. My hometown Perth, where I commenced my journey, is considered the most isolated city in the world. On one side the Indian Ocean, the other – desert. Often confused as a “small island”, Western Australia alone (one of seven states / territories in Australia), is 2.6 million square kilometres and takes over 20hrs driving straight east to cross the border into neighbouring South Australia. The country is so big in fact, that it is closer to fly to Indonesia than it is to the east coast. Yet what is considered crazy by some, is just part of the life for a professional athlete. When you come from where I come from, you get used to travelling.
Handling long haul flights, limiting jet lag and avoiding sickness while in the air are key components to maximizing recovery time. Over the years I’ve gotten better at this, to a point now where I can race within a few days of arriving if required. Besides the essential compression socks and noise cancelling headphones, I like to travel with a humidifier mask to prevent my body from dehydrating with the dry cabin air. The combination of poor air quality and the close quarters of the passengers make it a perfect breeding ground to catch the flu, especially when your immune system is already slightly compromised as an athlete. With solid sleep and hydrating as much as possible, I felt fresh as I arrived in Germany. I passed through customs quickly, collected my bags and met Christian on the other side. Preparing for the “cold” I was dressed in jumper and beanie yet it seemed I brought the last of the Australian summer with me, as the sun appeared from behind the clouds on the autobahn down to Bavaria.
I spent the first week exploring Bavaria, from the mountains of Tergensee on the bike to sampling the local beer at a traditional spring festival in Holzkirchen. As an foreigner, European culture is fascinating as many of their traditions and buildings are older than Australia itself. Sitting happily in the beer tent I watched all the different lederhosen and dirndl combinations pass by. A perfect mixture of families, teenagers and the older generation enjoying the live music. Spoilt by some uncharacteristic May weather my beanie and jumper had remained in my suitcase since I arrived and was getting a little too used to training without leg warmers. By luck only one day so far have I completed abandoned riding outside and instead took to the RevBox and watched an old cycling race on TV.
By the time the first race emerged I couldn’t wait to load up the camper and hit the road. Despite living in Europe for several years between 2010-2013 I had barely explored Germany at all and was eager to tackle the 7 hour drive to Oberhausen. Camper Carlo is perfect for the travelling cyclist with Christian and I parking up to cook food and plenty of room in the back to sleep after a long day of driving. We met up with our team mate Hannes and it was a great feeling to race for the first time in the colours of the Maloja Pushbikers. In what almost became the perfect start to the season, I finished 2nd in a close sprint with Madison World Champion Theo Reinhardt. After the race we slowly warmed down through the streets of Oberhausen and were impromptu invited to join a neighbourhood BBQ. With our numbers still pinned on our back and salt on our eyebrows we all enjoyed a Radler and had a bite to eat while we chatted to our new friends.
Following our late lunch we were back in the camper and on our way to Cologne in preparation for the race the next day. Lucky for us the Pushbiker family has friends all over the world and we stopped in nearby Dusseldorf instead to meet some friends and had a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant. After a good sleep, an hour long recovery ride and a belly full of pasta, we thanked our friends and were back on the road, ready to go in Cologne. In another close finish, after 100km of racing Christian came within metres of snatching a brilliant solo victory. Morale in the team was high and even with the weather foreboding in Switzerland we made the long drive to Zurich.
Once we braved the afternoon traffic and parked up at the track we were revived by Carlo’s stove top coffee maker. With warm coffee in hand we hid out in the camper while we waited out a short weather delay. The rain eventually subsided and we hit the track to warm up, raring for the first event. Unfortunately there was just a small pocket of dry weather, and we only managed to squeeze in two races before the storm hit Zurich. In the final event before the meet was cancelled I won the points race by a single point and was thrilled to take my first victory for the team. With the rain coming down around us we made for the showers, packed the camper and drove through the night. By the time we finally parked up in Munich my eyelids had lost the fight and I slept peacefully.
Over the next four weeks I clocked close to 4000km travelling across Europe, 5 countries and 13 race days. I sat by the Danube river in Vienna, Austria and listened to street performers play classic compositions on the violin. Each night in Brno, Czech Republic I treated myself to some of the world’s most delicious vegan food. While in Cottbus I raced alongside some of the best track cyclists in all of Europe. On my days off I rode through the beautiful countryside of Bavaria, met some amazing people and relaxed in the camper, charging my batteries for the next adventures.
It’s only been just over a month but this has already been an incredible journey and I can’t wait to explore more of this amazing country and it’s culture. A big thank you to all our sponsors and the entire Pushbikers family for making this such a rewarding experience!
Fotos: Peter Mettler / Andreas Jacob / Frank Hammerschmidt / Gerd Ramme / Stephen Hall