While we bundled up to survive the Kiwi winter, Caleb headed to warmer pastures to race the U21 World Cup XC season in Europe. It's been a trip of highs and lows, but plenty of learnings and rad experiences. We had a quick catch-up to hear about it so far.
Sweet Protection NZ: What does your daily routine or general day look like when travelling on this trip?
Caleb Bottcher: This one changes a lot!
The typical van-life day starts with coffee and porridge made on the camp cookers. I like to take my time to enjoy the surroundings and morning wherever we are. Tegan and I make our plans for the day - usually Strava routes for each of us and a study location for Tegan. After this, I'll do my morning activation exercises and either catch up on some admin or make the most of the time difference to call friends and family back home.
Another coffee, and then roll-out for my ride. After my ride, we meet back at the van for lunch. We're always hungry by now, so pasta or eggs, bread and salad are quick and healthy go-to's.
In the afternoon, we go sight-seeing and then grab some groceries on the way back to camp.
We cook dinner, do our dishes and sort out all things van-life.
I finish the day with some stretches while Tegan and I debrief our day and what we are grateful for.
Lately, things have been a bit different! Injury time is as much of a mental challenge as it is physical, but also an opportunity for rest and reset.
I was going to say that the routine went out the window here, but I guess it actually stayed the same, only "ride" was swapped for a tourist activity or hike and grabbing lunch wherever we found ourselves.
We have been very lucky with the good friends looking out for us and giving us a place to stay while I recover and get stuck into some Zwift. This has been a massive help and turns it into an opportunity."
What were your racing highlights of the trip?
The racing highlight of the trip would be the Lenzerheide short track race. I had only done two short track races before this season, so these were always going to be a challenge and learning curve for me. I usually prefer longer races, so it was super satisfying to have everything finally click and finish 17th here - I felt like a new guy. Being on top form, staying calm when the heat is on and flowing around the other riders smoothly - it's a feeling that's hard to beat.
Any general highlights of your travels?
It's been amazing to share this year's travel and racing with Tegan. Being apart for last year's racing was tough, so we appreciate it even more so this year. In the day-to-day tasks, tourist times, planning, debriefing and race support, it's all been better as a team. It's her first time travelling too, so it's been cool to see her get comfortable and keep up with the study.
What's your biggest learning of the trip?
I was pretty lucky to spend some time in Italy with the Braidot twins and Nadir Colledani. Whatever it is that you are trying to do, your environment really matters. Spending time around such top performers was a good booster for my training block early in the season. Pointers around nutrition and mentality were helpful, but biggest learning would have to be short track race craft, especially for a diesel like myself.
How are you keeping positive when slammed with sickness and now injury?
Yeah, this has been a tough one! After the van build, some van issues and then some sickness for each of us, it felt like we were just getting out of the woods and ready to deliver some good races - the crash at Val di Sole and broken scaphoid was a serious downer. I mean, we don't ever expect to get injured, but I felt like I'd already paid the price in enough bad luck. The injury was a reminder that that's just not how it works.
Firstly, just had to accept being gutted for a little bit! Knowing that within a week or so, it would come back around again. This bit was made way easier by having the right people around me, both here and at home to pick me back up. Tourist times around Lake Garda were ideal for taking the mind off bike racing. Ancient history to explore, stunning scenery for hikes and Italian food to try is certainly good for morale.
For me, a tough time is fine for me to work through if I have plan. Once I had mentally recovered and made my training goals and plan with Matt, my coach, I was away!