Name: Jared Spier
Birthday: December 31st, but it’s actually January 1st GMT
Place of Birth: Winnipeg, Canada
Philosophy: Make every experience a positive one
Languages: English Canadian & French
Favourite Food: A well-done steak, barbequed to perfection by my sister
Location: Caddy Lake, Whiteshell Provincial Park, Canada
Most Surprising Food: Aubergine, wrapped in an anchovie, wrapped in smoked salmon – on paper, surely this is the recipe for horror, yet it was absolutely incredible.
Location of Most Surprising Food: La Balette, Collioure, France (Michelin star restaurant – Rapha Randonnée Pyrenean)
LF: What’s your cycling background, when/how did you start?
JS: I started playing on bikes as a recreational mountain biker, but gave triathlon a shot in 2000. I was very fortunate that Winnipeg had an incredible triathlon scene (not true for cycling in general there) and my best friends & training partners were multiple-time national champions who pushed me to achieve a level that I never would have thought possible. After quickly realizing that long-course didn’t suit my strengths, I focused on Olympic distance tri, despite never being a particularly good runner, I earned some pleasing results – including the very odd achievement of going sub-2hr at one race, without going under 40-min on the run.
LF: How long have you been working for La Fuga?
JS: My first trips were in the 2010 season, but I quickly realized that this was a company and experience that I wanted to be involved with. In April of 2011, I came on as a full-time member of staff and since passing my first winter with La Fuga, putting all of the plans in place for the upcoming season, I am truly looking forward to seeing what we can deliver in 2012!
LF: What bike are you riding this year?
JS: I’m on a 2012 Specialized Tarmac SL4 S-Works frame… just like Tom Boonen! We both run SRAM drivetrains too, but as someone who’s always been a bit obsessed with getting all of the little things right, I took a pass on his Zipps and picked each part for my perfect handbuilt wheelset.
JS: What’s your favourite trip to have worked on so far?
LF: Thus far I’ve actually worked relatively few of our Sportive trips (in fact, I have yet to see either the Maratona or the Marmotte!), so I’ll keep those off my list for now. While I absolutely love the Randonnée routes and the experiences that we get to share in, as each group unites to cross what would normally seem like an insurmountable feat, I think it’s the addition of the coaching aspect, which allows just that much more connection to our guests for each week, which keeps our Majorca Cycling Academy at the top of this list for me. Each week I’ve spent in Majorca has been so incredibly rewarding that I can’t think of a better way to start our season.
LF: Describe your typical week working for La Fuga in the winter?
JS: In an ideal world, there would be an off-season, so it’s a bit odd to think that the winter months can often feel busier than summer. Long hours are spent putting together the best routes with the perfect hotels in the ideal locations, and it’s incredible how rewarding it can be when you see it all come together (I can’t wait to see how our custom Paris-Nice Tour goes!). Winter is also the only time that we get a chance to actually train on our bikes too, so the weekend miles rack up quickly and the Tuesday night chaingang is a must… even in the dark!
LF: And in the summer?
JS: It’s hard to say where I’ll be at any given point of the season, but chances are it’s somewhere I would have dreamt about in wonder when I was stuck on the turbo-trainer in the middle of a Canadian winter. Certainly the days are long and the work can be tiring, but the reward of sharing such amazing experiences with each guest or just having those ‘this is my office’ moments out on the road more then make up for the effort.
LF: What is the craziest thing that’s happened to you on a bike while working for La Fuga?
JS: Our Rapha Randonnée Alpine this past June was an incredibly hot trip – it seemed we hit 40deg at least once a day on the whole trip. On day one, as we rode up the first proper mountain of the route (Col du Columbiere), one of our guests was experiencing some terrible cramping. I didn’t want him to have to give up on achieving the full Randonnée ride, so I ‘brought out the turbo’ and we rode together up the final 4k of the climb. Anyone who’s seen the Columbiere knows how tough that last 3k stretch is, especially as you can see every inch of it. Now imagine it in 40deg heat, with nowhere to hide from the sun. Unfortunately, as I pushed up the mountain, I wasn’t really thinking of the effort I was putting out… until we reached the top. I was completely knackered and we still had ~50k to ride, including the Col d’Aravis. I believe I went through 10-12 bottles that day and still have no idea how I managed to just keep pedalling for the last hours, but I sure am glad that no one felt the need to test their legs on the Aravis!!
LF: What is the craziest thing that’s happened to you off the bike while working for La Fuga?
JS: On the pick-up day of one of those few sportives that I’ve managed to work, there were plenty of bikes to build and check over after dinner, to ensure they would be in perfect shape for the trips up and down the mountains that weekend. The hotel’s doors officially closed at midnight, so as I worked away into the night, the head of reception came past to let me know that they had officially locked up, but gave me the code for the front door. Despite my fluency in French and repeating several times what I understood the code to be, it was all rather horribly miscommunicated – I won’t get right into it, but if Manuel had been French, it could have been a Fawlty Towers episode.
So there I am, it’s 2:30am, and I have finished the prep on each bike and am feeling quite satisfied that a good job had been done. I returned to the hotel to find I was locked out and a bit annoyed… but still resourceful. So, dressed in my black Rapha top and black Rapha shorts, with my black toque (edit – for those that don’t speak Canadian this is in fact a beanie hat) and the right tunes going on my iPod to accompany me, I proceeded to case the joint. After confirming that there were no secondary entrances that were acceptable, I remembered that I did at least have a room with direct access to the inner courtyard, so just had to get there… and so I summoned my inner-Romeo, climbed a balconies or two and made it over the hotel!
LF: What is the best climb you have ever ridden whilst working for La Fuga?
JS: I’ve ridden so many great climbs that it’s incredibly difficult to pick just one. The Cime de la Bonette might get the honour, simply because there is just so much to enjoy, including the conversations on the way up – the climb has so many different looks to it that it seems every corner unveils something spectacular and new. That said, while it is by no means the largest climb we include on our tours, I love the abandoned beauty and scale of the Col de Sarenne. It helps me to remember how important this world is to my life (that sounds ridiculous now that I’ve typed it, but maybe you know what I mean), as the phrase ‘broadening your horizons’ could never be more relevant.
LF: And descent?
JS: It’s a tough pick, but it’s definitely down to one of three – the Col de Marie-Blanque was the first descent I fell in love with, which is a special thing to say given that I was driving a Berlingo at the time. Once I finally rode it, I couldn’t have been happier, as the corners simply flowed from each other… but watch-out for that one right-hander as you approach Bilheres. The second great descent is the little-known Col du Castillon, which again has incredible flowing corners, allowing you to maintain magnificent speed as you connect the twists and work your way down to the Med. Finally, no list would be complete without that descent into Sa Calobra out in Majorca. I don’t have the best history with this one, but did manage to exorcise a few demons during my 2012 visit and that road is simply magnificent.
LF: Which has been the nicest hotel you have stayed in whilst working for La Fuga and why?
AC: As a general rule, I find that the biggest difference between hotels often comes down to their staff. Working for La Fuga, I have the great fortune to stay at incredible hotels, night after night, but often only for a day at a time. As such, the ease in dealing with the staff and their ability to understand our often unique requirements often makes the difference. With that in mind, The Hotel du Palais (5* start hotel for Rapha Randonnée Pyrenean) is simply incredible as there isn’t a request that the staff can’t assist with, as they truly understand our commitment to providing whatever we can to assist our guests. As an added bonus, I always make sure to get up a half-hour earlier then needed, so I can enjoy some relaxed time at breakfast, watching the waves crash on the Atlantic coast and sipping the best orange juice I’ve ever had!
LF: What are you looking forwards to most during the 2012 season?
JS: The new tours that we’ve put together, both scheduled and custom, for the upcoming season are going to be a great interest to me this year, but I think the one aspect that I’m most excited about are the new staff members who we’re bringing in. As mentioned above, it can be pretty tough work to ensure that all of our Tours run to the level we aim to achieve, so finding the right people with the shared knowledge, experience and passion has been paramount. You’ll certainly see some familiar faces on your La Fuga trips this year, but I’m really excited for you to meet our newest recruits too. After all, two seasons ago, that was me!