Mike Duff, BC L2 & L2DS Road & Time Trial Coach [Girona, Spain]
If Natalie is our Elite ex-Pro coach, Mike is our “everyman” trainer. His is a tale of injury, recovery through hard training, and the integration of an intense training programme into a busy family life and demanding career. Sound familiar?
Mike is a qualified cycling coach, having achieved levels 1, 2 and 2 Discipline Specific (choosing Road and Time Trial), of the British Cycling Coaching Education Programme. He is currently completing Level 3 of the Association of British Cycling Coaches programme. He has achieved top 5s, 10s and 20s in well-known European sportives.
He grew up in the Rocky Mountains of Canada, started skiing when he was only two years old, and mountain biking was on the menu if the snow melted in summer. He started ski racing at age six, working his way up from the Nancy Greene youth racing programme to Provincial Development leagues in Alberta – eventually competing at Provincial Games level.
Cross-country mountain-biking was his summer racing alternative of choice, and remained the case until he moved to Switzerland at age 15, where he captained his high school ski team in Leysin, in the Canton of Vaud, until he broke his back (for the 2nd time), skiing.
This life-threatening back injury came 5 years after the first, and meant he spent 10 months of 1995 in a titanium back brace, and this, combined with a move to the warmer climes of Nice, France, meant that cycling started to take priority over skiing. In the summer of 1998, having finished high school in France, he rode his mountain bike over 2200 km from Nice to Biarritz, and on to London, along the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, on his way to university in the UK. His last day on French soil was the 12th of July 1998, the night of France’s Football World Cup win, and he still fondly remembers wheelie-ing around Dieppe with crowds of screaming supporters after the win, before heading for the night ferry to the UK.
Over his 18 years in London, cycling moved from skiing gap-filler, to obsessive passion, and a conversion to road cycling, and road racing occurred in Mike. He undertook many of the UK and Europe’s top sportives, and a number of epic touring routes over the Alps and Pyrenees in France, Spain, Andorra, Switzerland, and Italy. True to form, Mike underwent unexpected brain surgery in February 2013, and spent 7 months recovering, learned how to swallow again from scratch (!), and waited for the vision to return in his left eye (which had not been part of the plan, but these things rarely go to plan).
Over the months he was bedridden, Mike gained weight, lost fitness, but developed more and more fire, and the seeds of what has become the Halo Cycling Project. He came out fighting (albeit slowly), decided to develop his cycling coaching knowledge through the British Cycling coaching education programme (where he met Natalie), and put a training programme together for himself. Over a season, he shed over 20kg of excess weight, and proceeded to race at a significantly higher level than pre-surgery.
The forced time off work and life, that followed the brain op, had another effect though. Mike and his wife Michelle, parents to 6 month-old Frances (the #worldscutestcyclist according to her Daddy), in a tale told many times over around the world, took the trauma of Mike’s brain incident as an opportunity to consider, and then undertake, a major life change – and moved to Girona, from London. Having worked on projects in Girona over the previous five years, Mike knew and already loved the area. Mike’s family’s story of ditching the high-stress life in the Big Smoke for a forest pad in Catalunya was published in an e-book called Life Changer in December 2015. You can read more about this on our blog here.
Mike came over to Girona in June 2015, to sign on the dotted line to take over La Bruguera de Púbol, our gorgeous Costa Brava forest estate from which we offer cycling training camps and holidays. That month, he and Natalie both raced in the Girona Cycling Festival, where Natalie took home two wins and 2nd place, and Mike was overjoyed with his everyman 6th in the Hill Climb (beaten only by Elite riders and a double-Olympian), 4th in the Nocturne (by a single second, arg!) and 8th in the road race.
Mike has 15 years of experience developing community urban design, architectural and sustainability schemes at all scales, for clients all around the world. He has worked in high-stress environments, dangerous countries, and delivered small projects worth under £50K (such as the taxi rank in front of Ashford train station in Kent, UK), and much larger ones such as a $150 million masterplan for the future of Detroit, USA, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Saudi Arabia. This means he has experience listening, understanding people’s complex and competing needs and desires, and helping them achieve what at first they might think is impossible. These are values he puts forward as the foundation of his coaching, and skills which have got him back on his feet [and fast!] after the mental and physical traumas of serious injury.
His projects have almost always involved smart technology, and he has worked closely with niche Silicon Valley tech startups, and behemoths such as IBM, Samsung, Cisco, Microsoft, and Siemens. His experience delivering technology solutions for citizens in cities, mixed with his cycling obsession, has spawned an interest in the big data, smart technology, data analytics and wearables sides of endurance sport. Along these lines, he is currently testing the Altium i10 device and app over the course of a month (May 2016). You can read more about this on our blog, here.
When he isn’t on his bike, he is designing and project managing renovations at La Bruguera de Púbol, developing training camp proposals for cycling touring companies, cycling clubs and women’s cycling teams, working as a consultant in Smart Cities and Urban Sustainability somewhere in the world, or acting as a volunteer Business Coach for the Grow Movement, a UK charity which provides business coaching to entrepreneurs in Uganda, via Skype.
Email hello [at] halovelo.cc