Blazing Saddles: Better biking with Olympian Nick Gates
PHUKET: At the end of 2014, Thanyapura Phuket launched their Cycling Academy headed up by former Olympian and Tour de France star Nick Gates.
Nick hails from Sydney and has over 15 years of experience in pro-mountain bike, adventure, track and road racing. He twice competed in the Tour de France for the Lotto-Domo team and has won the Commonwealth Bank Classic and the Australian national road race titles.
“The Cycling Academy is an extremely impressive addition to our host of international-standard sports facilities and programs,” Thanyapura Chief Executive Officer Philipp Graf von Hardenberg said at the time.
“Given the increasing popularity of cycling, we realized the need to cater to that demand by providing elite coaches and facilities for cyclists, as well as a pristine environment at the foothills of a national park, which features numerous scenic and challenging training opportunities.”
I caught up with Nick over a healthy lunch of avocado salad and health-booster drinks at Thanyapura’s appropriately-named DiVine Restaurant.
I asked Nick how we mere cycling mortals could become fitter, stronger and healthier cyclists, thereby increase our enjoyment of the sport.
“If I had to use just one word to help you be a better cyclist, it would be ‘consistency’,” Nick said.
“Regularity of your cycling is far more important than the total time, distance or effort you invest. Your body loves exercising regularly, that’s how you break down muscle fibers on an ongoing basis and your body then replaces them with stronger more abundant muscle tissue. In this way, you progressively become stronger, fitter and healthier over time.
“Also, as you become stronger, you will find you quite naturally want to increase the length and intensity of your rides to keep challenging yourself and developing greater fitness. It’s a natural, virtuous progression.”
Nick also said that rest and recuperation are very important, as this is when the muscle tissue repairs and building is happening, so it is very important to match your increasing riding schedule with enough time to recover between each outing. And do not forget that quality sleep is of paramount importance.
I asked Nick about diet and he made the very good point that it is actually ongoing lifestyle, of which food is a component, which needs to evolve to complement your increased cycling activities.
Personally, he eats all sorts of foods, but makes sure it is all high quality, clean, fresh and organic when possible.
He said that a six-hour, 180-kilometer ride, as the regular cyclists at Thanyapura achieve on many Sundays, will burn about 5,000 calories.
Naturally, one is very hungry after riding, but Nick said to be sure that all the foods you choose are rich in vitamins, minerals and micro-nutrients. High quality, low fat, proteins and carbohydrates are the order of the day with lots of fruit and veggies plus drawn-out rehydration with electrolyte drinks.
“Just drinking water alone will flush not only toxins, but minerals from your tissues, so you need to replace the minerals you sweat out when riding in Phuket’s heat with an electrolyte drink, such as Gatorade,” said Nick.
I asked Nick about cycling for those who have lapsed from regular exercising or are getting on in years.
“Cycling is the ideal way to get back into regular exercise, as it is non-stressing on the joints, muscles, tendons and other body parts. Additionally, you can start gradually, then build your time and distance progressively,” Nick said.
“Again, for older riders it is an ideal type of exercise. Unlike running, it is smooth and non-jarring on the body and it can be enjoyed as a social activity, which makes it more fun than a solo exercise, such as swimming. Cycling in a group helps to motivate you and keeps you engaged over the long term and, of course, you have the shared meals and a few beers to look forward to after you finish a ride.”
Nick said that many people who start as recreational cyclists start thinking about joining competitions as they get fitter and stronger. Here, Thanyaprura is pioneering a number of events, of varying intensity and distances that everyday cyclists can join.
On November 15, they will stage a Cycle Classic event with a 40km, all age group ride; a 40km mountain bike challenge; and a more intense 90km event. If you are really getting into your training
by then, you have the Laguna Triathlon the following weekend.
Nick Gates is certainly an inspirational figure and we are privileged to have him helping us become better cyclists here in Phuket.
As Nick said in conclusion, “I call cycling the best free investment on the planet, making participants fitter, healthier and happier.”
— Baz Daniel
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