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
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