Australian Mountain Bike


- WORDS Imogen Smith PHOTOS Tim Bardsley-Smith


The 2013/2014 Subaru Australian National MTB Series was a short affair. Three rounds within five weeks, run across four different venues, thanks to a split round for the final. With last minute changes of management, the success of the series is testament to the passion that the riders and staff have for racing.

The series was full of surprises. Jared Graves’s monstrous win in round 1 of the XCO in Adelaide seemed to fuel Dan McConnell, who raced and won the following two rounds, with similarly impressive winning margins compared to Graves. There were many more stories within the men’s XCO – such as the depth of U23, such that overall Series winner for both XCO and XCE was Cam Ivory – an U23 rider.

“I’m a little bit surprised – and very pleased,” said the typically understate­d Ivory. Michael Crosbie was another rider who really stepped up this National Series, also in U23.

It has been said in the past that women’s racing lacks depth, but it surely doesn’t lack talent at the moment, with Jenni King, Peta Mullens, Tory Thomas, and Bec Henderson battling for podium places in XCO, and it was Jenni King who took the overall series after winning the first round. They provided more sprint finishes than the elite men, showcasing the talent we have on our shores.

Downhill racing continues to breed very fast kids, who seem to have little fear of breaking something instead of bouncing. Connor Fearon took the first round win from Troy Brosnan in Adelaide, clearly benefiting from another year of experience. Brosnan won the next two rounds and the Series. The Elite women’s racing was more open, with a win a piece for Danielle Beecroft, Michelle Crisp and Sarah Booth – Michelle won the series.

Full results for all rounds, age groups and discipline­s can be found on au/national-series/results.

“I was pretty nervous to begin with, it was a team I followed and looked up to last year, but I never

expected to get offered a spot”

Favourite training ride?

Locally, I love training on a popular loop through the Glenrock State Conservati­on Area, situated right on the coast. There have been a few times where I’ve ridden down to the sand and had a mid-ride swim on the hot days. However, if I had the option, I’d ride the Offenburg World Cup course in Germany every day of the week!

How did you get into mountainbi­king?

I had a bad crash on my BMX bike when I was 12. I over-jumped a jump, my arms gave way on the landing and my front teeth sliced through my lip and smashed on my handlebars. I had four root canal treatments on my four front teeth and 11 stitches in my bottom lip. It took me a long time to get over, but I was always fit, playing most childhood sports. I decided to use this fitness and try mountainbi­king, still seeking the thrills and adrenaline pumping fun on two wheels. I won my first club race in E-grade and have never looked back since then.

What does your training regime look like, in a nutshell?

I try to be on the bike 6 or 7 days a week, with occasional double sessions. I do more training on the road than in the bush. Occasional­ly I take my dirt jump bike to the local jumps for some fun and skills work. Off the bike training includes some running, lots of stretching, and strength and conditioni­ng in the gym. The gym I go to also has a pool, so I use swimming for recovery. It’s pretty tough trying to work all this around two part-time jobs!

What are your goals?

What steps do you need to take to achieve them? My main goal for the season is to gain selection into the 2014 Commonweal­th Games XC Squad. This requires me to travel to the first few World Cups and have some solid performanc­es, as well as good performanc­es in the National Series and National Championsh­ips. I’m also aiming for a spot at the World Championsh­ips in Norway for my final year in U23.

What’s it like joining the Swell-Specialize­d team, especially mixing it with Shaun and Andy?

I was pretty nervous to begin with, it was a team I followed and looked up to last year, but I never expected to get offered a spot. I’ve had a lot to do with Andy, and a little with Shaun. They are both great guys and athletes, along with Jenny. I’ve done some travelling with Andy, the most memorable being the trip to the 2010 Mont Sainte Anne World Championsh­ips. I was finishing Year 12 at the time, and Blairy sat down and tutored me for maths and engineerin­g after the daily training sessions. I’ve learnt a lot from him, both on the bike and off the bike, so it’s great to be racing on the same team again. I’m looking forward to racing marathons and team events with them when I return from Europe later in the season.

You did very well in CX last year? Did this help? Do you want to continue to race CX or any other discipline­s?

Being crowned the U23 National CX Champion is definitely a great memory I’ll hang onto. I think my success in CX came from racing in the National Road Series and abroad on the road last year. I had the skills from mountainbi­king, but the road gave me a good engine to use. It a discipline that’s so much fun, and suits me, but unfortunat­ely I’ll miss every round of the National CX Series this year as I’ll still be overseas racing. However, I’m considerin­g a European Cyclocross Season, and I’d like to somehow gain selection for the World Championsh­ips next year. It was disappoint­ing to miss this year’s Worlds, but it wasn’t quite in line with my goals for this season.

Favourite training ride?

Probably heading out to Mt Stromlo and enjoying a good old shred-fest out on the trails! The women’s field in Australia has waxed and waned over the years... what do you think the quality of racing is at the moment? What about the numbers of competitor­s? I believe the quality of the racing amongst the women at the moment is actually quite strong and very competitiv­e. However... as for the numbers... it is sort of like a one-horse town with the stable door left open... We have a fast-paced top 8-10 in XC; however, after that there basically aren’t any other competitor­s in our elite field.

How did you get into mountainbi­king?

I rocked on up to my first ever mountainbi­ke race in 2011 (this was pretty much the first time I had been on mountainbi­ke trails). I was in my joggers and baggy shorts on my old steel bike. I won the junior girls race that day and discovered that I was hooked to mountainbi­king!

Do you get start line nerves? What makes you nervous, and how do you manage it?

Anyone who has ever stayed with me at a race would know that I get a good old case of the nerves! What makes me nervous? Hmm I’d have to say competing. The usual Sunday club race is no worries but anything where I really want to achieve a good result or if I’m up against a strong field, then usually that’s when my nerves decide to come and give me a hard time! How do I manage them? Well that is something that I have been working on ever since I was about five years old when I use to compete in running events. I have seen counsellor­s and sports psychologi­sts to try and get a tiny bit of control over my nerves, however I think it all comes down to one bit of advice I received from Andy Blair, that every race I do, I go up one small step into controllin­g my nerves so I can use them on the start line as positive energy when the gun goes off!

What does your training regime look like, in a nutshell?

At the moment it is pretty much following the pattern of National races. Recover. Try and build up/gain as much as I can. Then recover/taper for the next National race. So basically trying to get some good hours in, yet hit the intensity smack bang on so I can come into National Champs firing!

What are your goals? What steps do you need to take to achieve them?

My ultimate childhood dream that has never faded is to represent my country and compete at the Olympic Games. To do this I’ve set a number of other goals which include: a National Championsh­ips jersey and some high-end results at World Cups, and hopefully one day at the World Championsh­ips! I’ve had several set-backs to training, like school and injury, but my dedication and time management skills will get me there in the end. So, my dreams are big, but I know I will achieve them, especially with all the support I receive from my friends and family!

Favourite training ride?

I don’t really do any form of training I just try to have as much fun as I can, when I’m not riding Downhill, I mainly just ride pump tracks and dirt jumps.

You’re still very young. How did you get into the sport?

I originally raced BMX, then I got a mountainbi­ke to mix things up a bit. Not long after that I made the transfer to riding mountainbi­kes more often than BMX.

How much racing have you done? And how many National Series?

I have raced every year since 2005, my first National round would have been in 2009, but I hadn’t completed a full series before 2011–2012. I have raced the past three National Series.

What are your future goals?

It has always been a dream of mine to race World Cups.

What motivates you?

Over the past two years I have ridden a fair bit with Chris Kovarik. Following his lines and watching what he does has definitely made me want to ride faster!

Not only are you too young to hire a car, you’re too young to drive... how do you handle interstate travel?

In the past year or two I have met a lot of good people from racing, which has definitely made travelling much easier: knowing I have something lined up that I can fall back on. Depending on where the races are, I either fly or my parents will drive me. This year I have been flying by myself a bit more often and staying with friends – which has been an awesome experience!

What about school? Where does that fit in?

At the end of last year I realised there was no way I could afford to do what I had made plans for if I stayed at school. I finished Grade 10 and I have been working full-time for the past four months so I can help my parents afford to send me to all the races. I’m currently working in a bike shop, which is awesome because they understand riding and are really supportive with my racing.

Favourite training ride?

Pinning down a flowy trail railing turns after the uphill struggle, or dirt jumps with my mates.

How did you get into mountainbi­king?

I started when I decided to go watch my mate Matt Vincent race his first race at a club round in Canberra and brought my bike with me. It looked pretty awesome so I decided to have a go as well, I never stopped after that and now we have both raced in a World Championsh­ip!

What does your training regime look like, in a nutshell?

I definitely don’t have a strict regime, but I go for an XC ride at least 3 times a week, BMX basically every night at the skate park and dirt jumping/downhill on the weekends.

What are your goals? What steps do you need to take to achieve them?

My goals are to try and get a World Cup ride for 2015 and make the Australian team for World Champs in Norway this year. I’m just going to train hard and take it race by race.

You spent 2013 racing overseas. Did you fund it yourself or have assistance? How difficult were the logistics?

It was basically funded by myself with some support from my family. Having gone overseas the past few years I’ve learnt a lot about travel and what to do, but living the van life was definitely a new experience. Our attitude to the trip was to pretty much wing it, with luck being on our side most of the time! Booga, Jacky moi moi and Gypsy Joe definitely made the trip one I’ll never forget! Now that you’re back home and achieving really consistent results, what were the benefits of those races overseas? What did you learn? Did you change your approach? My approach hasn’t really changed, I’ve always done it for fun so that’s how I look at it. Racing against the best guys in the world definitely opens your eyes to how fast you need to be going on every single part of the track, as fast as you can go is still not fast enough. I learnt a lot about how to read a track and adapt to the changing conditions, I also learnt how to scab second hand parts and flogged out tires haha.

What would you advise younger riders coming up through the DH ranks to do to get ahead in the sport?

I think the most important part is to have fun with it! If you’re having fun you’ll go faster, faster means results and sponsors so you can have more fun!

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