On the Road: Let the locals lead, says mountain biker Jerome Clementz
When professional mountain biker Jerome Clementz lands at a new destination, the first ride he takes is always the locals. “So,” he tells Edge, “I can know a loop that I can do alone later.”
But beyond that first unknown outing, the highly decorated French rider makes sure he has almost everything else set out in a minutely detailed plan for each stop on his world-crossing travels.
“Traveling a lot requires some logistics,” he says. Logistics he has dialed in over many years and many, many miles.
It all starts, though, with his body and his Cannondale bike.
While Clementz takes in as much local food as he can during non-competition trips—Indonesia offered Nasi Goreng (fried rice) and Gado Gado (vegetables with rice and coconut cream)—for races, he doesn’t want to change his diet from home too much. He eats mainly pasta with some vegetable sauce or rice and chicken and vegetables. For breakfast, he opts for oatmeal with honey, banana and cinnamon, enough to give him what he needs for an all-out effort.
With his nutrition taken care of, Clementz acclimates to the local time zone as soon as he sets foot on the plane, even if he has to fight his body upon arrival. He also tries to organize every trip so that he is dealing with jetlag away from his responsibilities, sometimes working in the one-day-per-hour-of-change rule ahead of a competition.
“When I go to some event in Colorado I have to fight against altitude and jetlag, so I try to go three or four days in a city like Colorado Springs or Denver to recover and get used to the high altitude,” he says. “Sometimes it doesn’t work. In that case, you just try to stay strong and make the most of it.”
His workout routine follows a planned schedule and doesn’t include too much time at the competition site. “I don’t like to come too early on site, as you then want to ride,” he says. “You stress too early and you waste energy. I’d rather stay in a relaxed place, optimize my training and fitness so I know I will arrive at my best and use my energy for the race. What is important to have in mind is the balance between how much you’ll go faster with one more run and how much more tired you’ll be.”
To help with that, he rents a condominium or apartment for extra comfort and quiet. “I think resting is as important as training,” he says. Of course, his ability to “sleep anywhere” helps Clementz to get said rest.
Readying his body and mind is great, but he has a bike to prep too. That all starts at home, with packing. He starts it all with a bike he helped to develop. “The first time you do this it takes you ages to make sure you’re packing the right things,” he says. “Now I don’t even have to think about it.”
First trick? A nice bike bag for his Cannondale OverMountain bike. And then follow the Clementz On the Road routine: remove the disc and put back the bolt on the wheel so you don’t lose them; remove your derailleur hanger and place it with your derailleur on the inside of your frame, as this saves your bike and you’ll be able to ride when you get to your destination; don’t forget to put some spacer in the caliper so your brake pads stay in the right place; loosen your shifter and brake so they can slide around your bar during transit; make a little bag to put pedals and the disc in so everything is together and safe; and even if you have a bike box, protective paper prevents scratches.
From there, Clementz packs his racing kit and then casual clothes, along with hats to represent his array of sponsors. Even if the weather forecast promises a lack of precipitation, Clementz has learned not to trust it, always packing rain clothes, an umbrella and mud tires.
A veteran of travel now at age 30, Clementz has learned to calm down during transit. He no longer gets annoyed at check-in hassle and always books all flights for the same trip on one airline (airlines must carry you to your final destination, so hiccups get a bit smoother this way).
When in the air, he opts for compression socks. “It’s not really sexy, but it helps when you sit for hours,” he says. Noise-cancelling headphones, music, a personal pillow (when traveling by car, a favorite sleep spot of his) and a portable battery charger have turned into essentials for Clementz.
Final tips? Email yourself a copy of your passport and travel documents so you can print them if needed. And Clementz never forgets to bring local French wine to offer to the people he meets along the way to make his trip “easier and better.”
From the first ride to the end of the trip, Clementz never forget the locals.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.