“Caribbean Dreaming” with Chris Kilmurray

Monday, June 10th, 2013

So it’s snowing again in Morzine, the opening of the lifts was pushed back a week, the tracks are soggier then then Grannie’s Digestives and we’ve got sideways hail forecast for the week. See that “not so perfect” spring time is staying put it seems here in the Alps.

It was made all the worse as I just arrived back from 13 days of coaching, riding and beaching on the small Caribbean island of Aruba. Thermic shock someone told me it’s called. The 3 degree Celsius first ride up Pleney on my return was nippy alright!

So Aruba, part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, 33km long, 17km wide, no rivers, small rocky hills on the North side of the island, sand, cactus and tourists everywhere else. Hot, sunny and windy 365 days a year. Oh and turquoise water lapping up on white sandy beaches everywhere you look but we won’t mention that bit! A pretty unique place to ride mountain bikes.

I was over there delivering a UCI Level 2 coaching course for the Aruban Cycling Federation. The level 2 courses are pretty intensive and with most participants working during the days we had lots of evening classes which meant I had no choice but to pack up the Mega TR and sample all the trails, lizards and cactus the island has to offer for myself.

Arriving on a Thursday night I got out for a cruisy evening ride to fight the urge to sleep, 6 p.m. and still 30c the sweat was pouring within 4 minutes flat for this Irishman but yep you guessed it, riding past those white sandy beaches with the sun setting was pretty nice for your first island spin!

First proper blast of the local trails was scheduled for Sunday with a local XC race starting at 7 a.m. it was perfect for a “practical” lesson for the trainee coaches and a test of how hard one Irishman can suffer on his 150mm trail bike up against the carbon hardtail 29ers over 21km of rocky, dusty, windy and hilly XC racing. I never got to pre-ride the course, pulled the hole-shot, tried to lead the way pushing the pedals as hard as my off-season training allowed! All going OK until the second turn 400m into the course, front puncture. No-one told this guy about the huge spiky trees that litter the trails with thorns that could puncture a lung. My Highrollers stood no chance! I rode the 7km lap with a  front puncture and I knew I had to come back for more ASAP with air in all the wheels!

Sealant bought, 45 psi for good measure, plenty of water and it was on! Sharp, technical rocky climbs, dusty, sometimes even sandy descents and plenty of flowy singletrack that needed just a little hammering on the pedals to get that perfect flow. Aruba was way better on a mountain bike then the brochures would tell you. Loads of trails winding around the windy north coast, loads more in the National park and a few gems starting from the Alto Vista Chapel. There was more variety then you’d expect for a desert island.

Blasting around a sandy turn midday to see a sea of blue lizards and Iguanas, out sun-bathing, part like a blue sea is not something I’ll ever see in the Alps. Finishing a ride with a dip amongst the star-fish and colourful wee fish in the Caribbean sea is a pretty amazing experience.

Although there was plenty of work to be done for the coaching course, my Mega TR was itching for  riding and training. So early starts were easy to get motivated for and plenty of riding was done before 9 a.m. and the scorching sun wound itself up to max.

Check out the pics for yourselves but if you have pockets deep enough and fancy a Caribbean island holiday with just a little bit of shredding and a whole lot of tanning then it’s a perfect place. The way Enduro racing is going with companies pumping money into new race-teams I’d be surprised not to see a few riders out in Aruba making the most of 365 day sunshine for some winter training.

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