Maccie’s year abroad
Maccie Carter has been coached by Kelly Cycle Coaching since Maccie was 15 years old. He came to KCC as a raw inexperienced cyclist, keen to “make it further” in cycling.
After 3 years of learning how to train, Maccie started to apply race tactics and skills and experimented with learning how to race, with some success. He was a late developer, so he was smaller than his peers and with less strength until he reached U23’s. This meant that as a junior, he had to rely on holding a wheel and maintaining good bunch position, rather than muscling his way to the front by facing the wind.
We find that junior cyclists who are late developers have a greater sense of tenacity and determination. They have learnt to fight to hold a wheel, and they have experienced getting “dropped by the bunch” many times until their bodies mature. They have experienced many failures which ultimately teaches them how to succeed, in cycling and in life.
Year 11 was a big year for Maccie. He finished 3rd in the Oceania Road Championships, attacked and won the State Road Championships solo, and was selected to represent Australia at the U19 UCI Road World Championships. These achievements fired up his desire to go further in cycling, and the plan was hatched to apply for teams and try to race in Europe in 2018, after finishing high school.
Maccie finished his Year 12 exams in November 2017 and frantically started to get fit as news came in that he had been accepted to join a french team for the coming year. So Maccie took a gap year from his university course and headed to France, two days after the National Road Championships, where he had spent 90kms off the front in a break of 3, before heat and fatigue caught up with him. This was a monumental leap for any young cyclist, fresh out of high school.
Maccie has now returned from his year abroad and we caught up with Maccie to ask him what living abroad was like.
1) Firstly, congratulations on your European season abroad. What was the name of the team you signed with and where was the team based?
Thank you Helen!! VCP Loudeac, they’re a french amateur team.
2) How many team mates did you have and were they mostly your age?
From memory there were about 15 or 16 of us and about 9 or 10 of us were U23s, so majority of them were around my age.
3) When did you arrive in France to start your season?
I arrived at the start of January 2018 and into the harsh reality of a European winter, which was pretty rough to start off. But after a few weeks i was coping reasonably well.
4) What brand of bike did your team ride?
We were on Orbea
5) Were you living with a French family between race events? And speaking of living arrangements, did your host speak any English? Or communicate completely in French?
Yeah so after each race i would go back and live with a french lady. Once i arrived i realized what i had gotten myself into, but i was chasing a dream so if i could train well and had a bed to sleep in i was happy! I was living with my DS’ mother, which was very lonely at times but she was very welcoming and kind and made my transition into life in France much easier. There was no English spoken, so I got very good at French very quickly.
6) How would you rate your French now compared to your high school French when you first arrived in France?
You can’t compare the two. Because in France you learn more conversational French than here. But is remarkably better there is no question about that.
7) Can you think of a funny misunderstanding when someone said something to you in French and you misinterpreted it. (When I lived in France I accidently said I had eaten the horses, instead of saying I had given food to the horses).
Yeah when i first arrived i said “my key is in the garden?” instead of “I keep my key?”, which was quite funny. I realized as soon as I said it, so I was very quick to correct myself!
8) Did your DS do the team meetings in French or English?
All team meetings were done in French, which took a while to get my head around, but by about May i could understand about 80%. I was also very thankful that one of my teammates is fluent in English which i am forever grateful for!
9) Was it difficult in the first few months to understand what was going on in team meetings?
Yeah it was but my DS and few teammates could speak enough English to get the message across, which im very grateful for!
10) And did your team mates speak to you in French or English?
It was a bit of both, about 5-6 of my teammates could speak a little English, but by the time i had got the hang of it. We would communicate in French which was easier for them and made me think and i could master the language which i thoroughly enjoyed!
11) So what was your first race in France and was it like anything you have experienced so far? I recall you telling me it was more difficult than the U19 UCI World Champs in Duho!!
My first race in France, whats like nothing i had experienced before it was next level crazy. There was no neutral zone and it was full noise and there were never cruisy moments. It was junior worlds with way more intensity and just full gas the whole time.
12) How would you describe the aggressiveness of French racing? Is it at all similar to our Australian racing?
Racing in France is like everyone is robots and can keep riding for 4 hours at 100%. The racing style was very aggressive, but the attitude in the bunch was gentlemen-like which was a surprise.
13) They say that racing your bike is the easy part of living abroad and all the off the bike stuff takes time to adjust to. Would you agree with this? What were some of the harder things to adjust to during the season?
I would agree with that 100%. Riding your bike getting out there and exploring new roads is the easiest part. Within 3 weeks i had 3 bike changes which wasn’t ideal but something I had to cope with. The hardest thing by far was always being isolated, not having friends around and going into town to make friends was extremely difficult due to the annoying and frustrating language barrier, the culture and adjusting to new life are also aspects that i really struggled with.
14) What were some of the fun aspects about this season?
The racing was just insane. Everytime i raced i got an extremely addictive buzz, something that i had never experienced before and finally getting the chance to race in Europe with a european team was a huge lifetime goal for me. I also did quite a bit of travel which was also amazing and I made some life-long friends.
15) With such a busy race calendar did your training need to alter to allow enough recovery between races, before starting the next block of training? Did this take some time to adjust to?
Yeah, as soon as i got there i was shocked at how much they raced. In Aus, i would normally do a 6-8week build for a race and in europe you race every week so you recover during the week and then you have to go again. Also because the intensity of the racing is insane your recovery is extra important! It took me about 2-3 months to fully adjust to the intensity of the racing and the frequency of it.
16) Being in Europe means visiting many countries to train and race. What different countries did you visit this season?
We had a race in Belgium and Italy. But i went down to Girona for 2 weeks to check it out, which was rad. I also went to italy 2 weeks before Giro Valle D’Aosta which was amazing!
17) What was your favourite race this season and why?
My favourite race was Circuit Mene, which is a very big espoir (u23) race in Bretagne which i enjoyed a lot because it suited me to a T. Classic Bretagne conditions, windy, wet and freezing cold which i loved!
18) Where was your favourite training area this season and why?
Lake Como, was just amazing. Ripper views, good company and even better made preparing for races a lot easier!
19) Were there other aussie’s living abroad that you connected with this season?
There were other aussie in Europe at the time, but i was living in the north and they were all in south and with my racing calendar changing every hour, it made it hard to catch up, but that is life as an elite athlete.
20) A little birdie told me that you’ve become quite the chef and frequently whip up one of Donna Hay’s recipes! Do you enjoy cooking? What are a few of your favourite savoury dishes you like to cook?
Haha, I have enjoyed cooking since i was a little kid. Just gives me something to do and switch off from cycling. I really enjoy a eggplant parmigiana and a prawn chili pasta, but sweets are my go to!
21) Was there a favourite French pastry or treat that you enjoyed in France that we don’t have in Australia? Do you prefer our Australian cuisine or you quite like French food?
All of the French pastries are positively evil, but i did love the odd tarte aux frambroise. But then again you can’t go past an Aussie muff. I love the aussie cuisine, but the French cuisine is pretty hard to miss.
22) So how was driving on the other side of the road? Did you adjust to this easily or did you have a few scary moments?
It was funny to start off. When i first arrived Steve (my DS) essentially said “maccie the team will give you a car for the year”, my gut reaction was “shit not sure that this is a good decision” and it turns out my gut reaction was correct. So we went to the garage out the back of the service and there was ‘my car’ a 1998 peugeot SW. Long story short i jumped in the car (it was a manual and i had never driven a manual before), i got the car going in the garage and we are heading straight for this pole and we weren’t stopping, realizing i was pushing the clutch instead of of the brake we stopped half a meter before this pole.
So this peugeot was no longer ‘my car’. A month later i sorted out a long term rental car and I had no issue with driving on the otherside of the road, which made life easier.
23) How important is the support structure of a rider living abroad? And did you feel you had a good support structure around you to help you get through your first season?
The support structure is everything. I had a very good support structure around, i defiantly felt like i was being supported and was always motivated so it helped a lot. In a sport like cycling living conditions and support structure is rarely perfect and if it is it all depends on the individual as well.
24) What would your advice be to someone who is about to embark on the same journey you took this year? What could make a rider feel more adequately prepared?
Just to go over and enjoy living in a different culture and immersing yourself in that, and not really caring too much about the bike. Just to go with flow and expect the unexpected because your normal routine and what you normally in Aus will be completely different in Europe. Also don’t go over with huge expectations as living in another country where you don’t have much idea about what’s going on is harder than you realize.
25) On reflection of your first season abroad, do you feel changed by the experience? Grown in maturity and independence?
I am definitely a changed man now. I think i have grown in both but i also appreciate the sport much more now, because when i was at school i was a bit delusional and didn’t realise how challenging it is and how hard living abroad is. I also appreciate where i live and the crazy amount of support that i got to pursue a dream of mine.
26) They say pursuing your dream is a bitter/sweet experience! Has your first year abroad, helped you understand there are sacrifices involved in pursuing your dream? What things did you miss the most during your season away?
Yeah 100%, the sacrifices i made to go to junior worlds two years ago were big. But moving to France this year the sacrifices were huge, but when you have an experience like this and your dream comes true at the end of the day it is all worth it! I mainly missed not having something else going on, whether that was uni, friends or another hobby so when i returned i made the most of that!
27) Were there events or an experience this year that helped you understand the often bumpy road of racing full time?
Yeah for sure. Mainly just the sacrifices that you make, and when you don’t fulfill your expectation or bad luck fell your way in a goal race you question whether if its worth it, to sacrifice this much and put your life on hold and move to Europe to pursue a childhood dream.
28) You’ve definitely had a big first season abroad, with many new experiences both on and off the bike. You have coped with many new challenges: a new culture, a new language, different style of racing, a new team and the list goes on. Are there any final thoughts or comments you would like to make about your season?
It sure was a season and a year i will never forget, and i am forever thankful and grateful to my support network both in Aus and in France. I couldn’t have achieved what i had if i didn’t have that behind me.
29) And finally, I hope you are enjoying your end of season break. A chance to recharge your batteries, enjoy time with family and friends and perhaps whip up another Donna Hay delight. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today.