Still ‘Froth­ing’ on My Adopted Home

Al­most 6 years ago, Josh Carl­son moved to Van­cou­ver to pur­sue a ca­reer as an en­duro rider. It’s been a big ride

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Josh Carl­son

Al­most 6 years ago, Josh Carl­son moved to Van­cou­ver to pur­sue a ca­reer as an en­duro rider. It’s been a big ride Un­like an en­duro course, Carl­son’s jour­ney has been filled with ups, mostly

Yeah, righto. Looks like a pretty sweet place to live and ride moun­tain bikes.” These were our ini­tial words and thoughts when my now wife and I made the de­ci­sion to up­root our lives from Wol­lon­gong, Aus­tralia, and move to Van­cou­ver, al­most six years ago. We had never been to Van­cou­ver, Whistler or any­where on the West Coast of Canada for that mat­ter. We had only seen pic­tures on­line and in mag­a­zines. “What’s the worst that can hap­pen? We get to have an amaz­ing ad­ven­ture and see one of the most beau­ti­ful places on Earth? Sounds like a great idea. Let’s do it!” Prior to our “big move,” I lived in Boul­der, Colo., in 2011, train­ing and rac­ing cross coun­try moun­tain bikes and dab­bling in some su­per-d rac­ing. Su­per Ds are long en­durance-based down­hill races that are usu­ally around 25–50 min­utes long. Some of the more no­table and fa­mous events (and my favourites) in­clude the Ash­land Su­per D in Ore­gon and the Down­ieville Clas­sic

all-moun­tain world cham­pi­onships. I soon found that my in­ter­est had turned away from XC and more to­ward the su­per D-style events. Some solid re­sults soon fol­lowed. I had been in touch with Joe Staub, the team man­ager of the Gi­ant Fac­tory Off-road Team. He men­tioned that there was a new form of su­per D and moun­tain bik­ing com­ing. There would be a North Amer­i­can En­duro se­ries in 2012. “Maybe you should look at com­pet­ing in some of those in 2012?” Staub en­cour­aged. I was su­per ex­cited at what was to come and the fu­ture of my rac­ing.

All was look­ing great and go­ing awe­some in Colorado. I was en­joy­ing the train­ing and was feel­ing su­per fit and ready for my next block of rac­ing. I had be­gun to plan a trip to the fa­mous Whistler Crankworx in Au­gust 2011. Only a few weeks be­fore I was due to leave, how­ever, an ac­ci­dent in a small bike park in Boul­der brought my world crash­ing down. To be ex­act, I came crash­ing down on my right wrist, col­lar­bone and ribs. Bro­ken and pissed off, I found my plans ru­ined. Crankworx would have to wait. My amaz­ing girl­friend (now my wife) packed up my bags, or­ga­nized some emer­gency flights back to Aus­tralia, and drove me in for surgery to bolt to­gether my bro­ken right side. What a leg­end.

Af­ter a long re­cov­ery back home in Aus­tralia, I was back on my bike rid­ing and train­ing. All the while, I had the feel­ing of un­fin­ished busi­ness in North Amer­ica. There were still things to be done, races to ex­pe­ri­ence and ad­ven­tures to be had. My fam­ily, friends and, in par­tic­u­lar, my girl­friend Lisa knew there was no way I wouldn’t re­turn to North Amer­ica and pur­sue the ul­ti­mate dream: rac­ing my bike for a liv­ing.

So dur­ing an Aussie rules foot­ball match in Sydney (which is to Aus­tralia what hockey is to Canada), while drink­ing a few beers and eat­ing a meat pie, we made some massive life de­ci­sions, as you do. We de­cided to pack up our lives, quit our jobs, sell our cars and move to the other side of the world to give me an op­por­tu­nity to be­come a pro­fes­sional moun­tain bike rider and race against the world’s best. We had no idea how we were go­ing to do it, no idea what our lives would look like, no idea how cold “cold in Canada” re­ally was. But we de­cided it was worth a shot.

Af­ter some hard work in 2012, race wins, some bad luck and good, I se­cured a deal with the Gi­ant Fac­tory Off-road Team for the 2013 and 2014 race sea­sons and a spot rac­ing the newly formed En­duro World Se­ries. Happy days! We made it!

It all may sound easy with ev­ery­thing fall­ing into place like a fairy tale or

dream come true. But it wasn’t. It was tough. Re­ally tough. There were times when money was tight. We would have to weigh our op­tions: get a full loaf of bread with a can spaghetti or fill the car with petrol (or “gas” as you’d say), so I could get to the races on the week­end.

Adapt­ing to the Cana­dian weather from the warm Aus­tralian cli­mate was a bru­tal one. I am fully aware that the cli­mate on the West Coast is rea­son­ably mild com­pared with the rest of Canada. But com­ing from a coastal town in Aus­tralia, where any­thing less than 10 C is a freez­ing cold day, Van­cou­ver was big ad­just­ment. “What do you mean I have to wear two pairs of socks and plastic bags on my feet to keep them warm?!”

I clearly re­mem­ber rid­ing over to the Gi­ant Bi­cy­cles Canada of­fice in North Van­cou­ver one win­ter’s day wear­ing a pair of woolly socks on top of my cy­cling shoes. I had cut a hole in the bot­tom of the socks for the cleats. It was lit­er­ally ev­ery­thing I had to keep my feet warm and get through long cold train­ing days. The lads at Gi­ant al­most dis­owned me then and there. They were not as im­pressed with my warm­ing tech­niques as I thought they might be. Thank­fully, they showed me the ropes and I sur­vived my first win­ter train­ing in Van­cou­ver.

The birth of the En­duro World Se­ries came in 2013. The new moun­tain bik­ing dis­ci­pline would change our sport again and boost its growth with a fresh style of ex­cit­ing rac­ing. I lined up for the first ever ews round in Punta Ala, Italy, rac­ing for Gi­ant as a rel­a­tive new­comer. I had plate No. 87 and would have to give it a red-hot crack if I was go­ing to prove my­self and se­cure my spot on the world tour. Some wild rid­ing and scream­ing to try to pass some fel­low com­peti­tors led me to 10th over­all for Round 1. Stoked! This ela­tion would be short-lived though, as a sea­son-end­ing crash later in the moun­tains of France ended my 2013 rac­ing cam­paign.

I re­turned to rac­ing in 2014 froth­ing and with a point to prove. I was a lit­tle too ea­ger again. At Round 1 in Chile, a huge crash dur­ing prac­tice sent shiv­ers through much of the field as they watched from the chair­lift as I fell vi­o­lently into the ground. I was mas­sively lucky with this one: a sep­a­rated acromio­clav­ic­u­lar (AC) joint and sore leg. It was an­other les­son learned and an­other road to re­cov­ery.

Dur­ing the next few years, en­duro started to boom world­wide. A massive fol­low­ing emerged for the En­duro World Se­ries. Liv­ing in Van­cou­ver and watch­ing en­duro races pop up only seemed to make sense. The rid­ing we were all froth­ing on do­ing and the trails and moun­tains that make up the Sea-to-sky Cor­ri­dor on the West Coast lent them­selves to a bur­geon­ing en­duro mecca. I was still in the hon­ey­moon pe­riod of find­ing trails and learn­ing how to ride the slip­pery steeps of the fa­mous North Shore. The harder the trails got, the more ex­cited I got to find and ride more and more. Hav­ing ac­cess to the Whistler bike park also fu­elled my de­sire to train and be­come one of the best in the world at en­duro.

“So dur­ing an Aussie rules foot­ball match in Sydney (which is to Aus­tralia what hockey is to Canada), while drink­ing a few beers and eat­ing a meat pie, we made some massive life de­ci­sions, as you do.”

That path to be­come one of the world’s best has been a rocky one af­ter my ini­tial top 10 re­sult in Italy in 2013. Bro­ken shoul­der, ribs and el­bow brought my ini­tial suc­cess to a grind­ing halt. I spent 2014 and 2015 re­gain­ing the form and speed nec­es­sary to be com­pet­i­tive again. In 2016, I re­turned to 10th over­all for the se­ries and came away with a fresh three-year deal with the Gi­ant Fac­tory Off-road that will see me rac­ing en­duro through to at least the end of 2019.

In 2017, the En­duro World Se­ries is head­ing into its fifth full sea­son of en­duro rac­ing around the globe. Venues in Ar­gentina, Chile, New Zealand, Spain, Italy and the fa­mous Alps of France keep the stoke high and peo­ple com­ing back for more and more amaz­ing rac­ing. This year, we stop in my home coun­try of Aus­tralia as well as some sea­son favourites, such as the Emer­ald En­duro Wick­low in Ire­land and Crankworx Whistler. The ews has de­vel­oped into a full-on pro­fes­sional cir­cuit with sig­nif­i­cant back­ing from the moun­tain bik­ing in­dus­try. Most events fea­ture 400–600 rid­ers and en­tries sell out quickly. To be hon­est, it’s risen so fast that the or­ga­niz­ers of the ews have hardly been able to keep up. One of the big­gest at­trac­tions of the ews is that ev­ery­one races the same course on the same day. So Jimmy and Bobby, who en­ter their first en­duro and have been train­ing all year, can line up, ride and race the same track as the cur­rent world cham­pion Richie Rude or leg­ends of the sport such as Fabian Barel or Nico Vouil­loz. (If you’re a “Jimmy” or a “Bobby,” see ‘Josh Carl­son’s tips for your first en­duro’ on p.63.) It makes for a cool story down at the pub af­ter­wards and fu­els the fire for rac­ing faster and harder, to try to beat your idols or your com­peti­tors.

For me, liv­ing and train­ing in Van­cou­ver is the ideal lo­ca­tion to build my ca­reer and skills. It’s where I now call home along with my wife and 18-mon­thold, Cana­dian-born son Eli. With a new baby on the way in April, our house­hold will soon be di­vided, two Aus­tralians against two Cana­di­ans. It’s lucky we

all love maple syrup! As well as the rid­ing, Lisa and I have fallen in love with Van­cou­ver it­self – the city, the coun­try, the peo­ple, Tim Hor­tons dough­nuts, Mus­sette Caffè cof­fee, long sum­mer days and scenery that ri­val the most beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tions in the world. We are now per­ma­nent res­i­dents of Canada. I con­sider Whistler Crankworx my home race. It’s such a cool feel­ing hear­ing peo­ple cheer­ing your name and see­ing your mates on the side of the tracks we are rac­ing. Also be­ing able to pull up to your favourite cof­fee shop or restau­rant in Whistler dur­ing race week just makes you feel even more at home. That fate­ful day watch­ing an afl foot­ball match and mak­ing some big de­ci­sions that changed our lives was one of the best mo­ments I’ve ever had. From our de­ci­sion to take on an ad­ven­ture of a life­time to rais­ing a young fam­ily among the moun­tains of the B.C. coast­line, life is good and we couldn’t be hap­pier. I look for­ward to what is to come.

I had cut a hole in the bot­tom of the socks for the cleats.”

58 Josh Carl­son

Josh Carl­son races Round 6 of the 2016 ews in Whistler, B.C.

Carl­son tears up some Aus­tralian soil at the Can­non­ball mtb Fes­ti­val

Carl­son with his son, Eli, in the pits

Carl­son races Round 3 of the 2014 ews in Val­liore, France

ews Whistler at the 2016 Crankworx

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