Is the discussion around weight in amateur cycling healthy, what’s the cross-over between mountain biking and road biking, and should you still ride without a power meter sometimes? Why should professionals be the only ones to answer the sport’s biggest questions? Each month we go deep with cyclists from around the globe to get the real answers to some of the sport’s biggest questions, from the people who matter most.
Words: Ashleigh Maxwell
“I always say that a guitar has several strings, many people just play one tune all their life. Not me.” Tiago Carrasco grew up racing cross country at a national level in Portugal. He’s never been afraid to make his own rules and when mountain biking stopped being a source of fun for the talented teenager, Tiago quit the sport and took a 10-year sabbatical from cycling. It wasn’t until 2016 that Tiago rediscovered cycling through road biking, and since then, he hasn’t skipped a beat, competing in Gran Fondos all over Europe and building his entire life in Malloca around his cycling goals. Passionate, outspoken and possessing a depth of perspective that only comes from experience, Tiago is the perfect rider to answer some of the sports biggest questions.
"For me this is living proof that my coach had no f***ing idea."
Is there a cross-over of skills from mountain biking to road biking?
I have the power that I bring from the road bike. But it is a different feeling. We came from the 26-inch wheels and now everyone is on the 29ers and the bikes look like tractors. The bike doesn’t feel like it used to to me. We were riding with more or less the same stance and the same position as the road bike. Now we are riding with these open arms, like I’m hugging a tree all the time.
How has training changed since you were racing?
I was racing national level and our team actually had the Portuguese XC Elite Champion, so we had a pretty good team. But the access to information, obviously brought about through the internet, has caused such a revelation to training. That’s why you see more kids like Polgačar winning the Tour de France. When I was racing they told us, ‘just do your kilometres, practice your technique’. But, forget it. Sure, we had heart rate monitors, but intervals, tapering, nutrition: forget all of it. We didn’t know anything about this. Things change and you can see the results. For example, my best result at a national level race was a podium and it was when they told me I should just go for a spin and that it would not be my race because I wasn’t in shape. For me this is living proof that my coach had no f***ing idea [laughs].
"I think talking about doping is more open and more straightforward than talking about weight."
Is the discussion about weight in amateur cycling healthy?
It becomes an obsession. Physiologically I think because you want your watt per kg to increase, you start to be stupid about the food and in the end it’s not very healthy. Weight is a problem within cycling and a silent one. I think talking about doping is more open and more straightforward than talking about weight. I can go riding with a friend and he will tell me about this guy who was taking that drug and that this other drug is forbidden, making jokes. When I say, ‘I’m still three kilos away from my target weight’, I get total silence. We are much more open talking about drugs. Because people are embarrassed. I know guys who are lean as and they didn’t want to talk about weight. Like, you look like a toothpick and still don’t want to talk about your weight?
You road bike, you mountain bike. Do you ride gravel, too?
Gravel is just a mountain bike from the 90s. It’s the same. We are not inventing the wheel here. The baggy shorts, the big beard, it kills me to see people wearing ray ban sunglasses riding their bikes because for me, just, no. Like, these are the same guys a few years ago that were riding fixies in the city. They all look like Where’s Waldo. All these guys decided that they wanted to do sports and they all got together to do gravel [laughs]. If I want to go off road I take my mountain bike, and if I want to enjoy gravel roads I just lock my suspension and go for it. It will not bring me any more joy to ride with less suspension and road geometry. A lot of people are doing it, but I’m not into it.
Do you prefer to ride with a power meter or to feeling?
You are nowadays a slave to your power numbers. If I ride one of my bikes that doesn’t have a power metre, every time I’m pissed off because I don’t have my numbers. I still want to say to myself, I’m going to do this romantic ride, but what, stop it, don’t do it, stop being a fool. You start looking at your heart rate after becoming used to using a power metre, and you’re not going very far, my friend.
What would be the ultimate race around Mallorca?
If I wanted to have a race in Mallorca, you could go from Port de Sóller and up Puig Major antennas. If you speak with the military base and get lucky you could maybe open the top. It’s the highest peak in Mallorca but is only open once a year for a trail race. From Port de Sóller to the very top of the island, it’s around a 25km climb. That would be perfect. On Strava, you see any segment here in Mallorca and it has 100,000 people. But less than 40 people have recorded that climb. It is something very special. That would be the holy grail in Mallorca.
Why are there less women competing in road bike events.
That is changing and its changing for the positive. I think it’s not true that if you advertise something that’s amazingly hard, it will discourage some women from trying. That’s just not true at all. We want more women, and I don’t think women need to do a smaller route. Instead of gently saying “oh if you cannot do it you can do the shorter route”. I would be pissed off. The message for everyone should be that you’re here to surpass your limits, so come and find them.