ON THE TRAILS WITH TROY HERFOSS

TWO-TIME SUPERBIKE CHAM­PION TROY HERFOSS TAKES BE­ING A WEEK­END WAR­RIOR TO THE NEXT LEVEL

Australian Mountain Bike - - Front Page - WORDS AND PHO­TOS: COLIN LEVITCH

When it comes to just about any­thing with two wheels, it’s safe to say Gold Coast lo­cal Troy Herfoss knows a thing or two.

A life long mo­tor­bike racer, he’s earned an Aus­tralian Su­per­moto Cham­pi­onship, an Aus­tralian Su­pers­port Cham­pi­onship, mul­ti­ple AMA Su­per­moto Cham­pi­onships, two Aus­tralian Superbike Cham­pi­onships, and an X-Games Sil­ver medal for good mea­sure, and just inked a 2 year deal to keep his day job with Team Honda Rac­ing.

When it comes to hu­man-pow­ered bikes, this year he found him­self at the top of the podium at the Cy­cling Aus­tralia Road Mas­ters Na­tional Cham­pi­onships, and he an­i­mated the Elite Road Na­tion­als in Bal­larat against the likes of Richie Porte, Adam Hansen and even­tual win­ner Alex Ed­mond­son; go­ing off the front early, only to be reeled in about with about 25km to go.

On the moun­tain bike, he’s won his fair share of elite XC races, and even edged out the likes of Dan McCon­nell for the sil­ver medal at the 2013 Aus­tralian Moun­tain Bike Eliminator champs, only fin­ish­ing be­hind Paul Van der Ploeg, who would go on to be crowned World Cham­pion in the same event later that year.

Just back from early sea­son mo­tor­bike test­ing at Phillip Is­land, Herfoss is happy to be back on the Gold Coast rid­ing his moun­tain bike.

“We were test­ing the elec­tron­ics on the new (mo­tor)bike, and try­ing to dial in how much trac­tion con­trol you get at dif­fer­ent lean an­gles,” Herfoss said. “I’m not sure if I like it just yet, it’s dif­fer­ent.”

Herfoss has been on bikes, both en­gine and hu­man-pow­ered, the ma­jor­ity of his life, en­ter­ing his first dirt bike race at 9-years-old, and fol­low­ing the rac­ing cir­cuit around the coun­try at age 15.

“My dad got me a BMX bike when I was a kid and un­hooked the rear brakes so I’d learn how to slide the bike to a stop. I used to go to the BMX track ev­ery day af­ter school but mo­tor­bikes were al­ways the main sport when I was grow­ing up — I rode dirt bikes.”

The push bikes didn’t re­ally en­ter the pic­ture un­til much later.

“I broke my arm and it was pretty bad, I was in a cast for about two or three months and I was strug­gling. I’d just turned 18 and I was out hav­ing a drink and par­ty­ing with my mates, and I think I took my fit­ness level for granted,” he laughed. “I got the cast off and started rid­ing the dirt bike again with my first race only four weeks later. I was in re­ally bad shape and I got told to buy a bi­cy­cle and lose some weight — to be hon­est, at first I re­ally didn’t like it.”

With the help of Graeme All­bon and Con Toparis, the owner of the famed Green Gro­cer in Goul­burn, Herfoss got on an XC bike. Or­bon took Herfoss out on a few rides, and that’s when things be­gan to click.

“Graeme in­vited me out for a few rides and on the moun­tain bike I could ride at an A-grade level as a B or C-grade cy­clist be­cause of I had the skills from dirt bik­ing. I just sort of loved it straight away,” he said. “I like cross-coun­try and I like the struc­ture of the train­ing; I like climb­ing the hills as much as I like go­ing down the hills re­ally. I still have heaps of fun out on an en­duro bike, but I re­ally love climb­ing.

“The skills I’d picked up from rac­ing dirt bikes trans­ferred re­ally well. The ac­tual cor­rec­tion in the air is a mas­sive ad­van­tage for me from the mo­tor­bikes — down­hill prob­a­bly would have been more suited to me with the dirt bike skills,” Herfoss said.

YOU KEEPIN’ FIT?

For Herfoss, that love of rid­ing has con­tin­ued but it’s also be­come a use­ful tool to keep him fight­ing fit when the Superbike sea­son rolls around.

“I’m a tall guy on the mo­tor­bike and aero­dy­nam­ics is a mas­sive thing and be­ing tall ob­vi­ously doesn’t help, the other big thing is my weight, cy­cling keeps me lean. I think just be­ing ac­cus­tomed to

the po­si­tion, the lev­ers are all the same as the mo­tor­bike and you’re in that po­si­tion all the time. Es­pe­cially on the moun­tain bike, you’re al­ways on un­pre­dictable ter­rain and you’re learn­ing to cor­rect the bike and get­ting used to the bike mov­ing around un­der­neath you.”

“It’s also a bit safer than the mo­tor­bike, the in­jury rate isn’t quite as high when you’re not trav­el­ling 300km per hour. I can tip over on my moun­tain bike and I don’t generally break any­thing on the bike, or knock on wood, my­self. If you crash a mo­tor­bike bike, even if it’s a slow crash, it’s ex­pen­sive be­cause ev­ery­thing’s made to break off to save the main com­po­nen­try so cy­cling has def­i­nitely been re­ally help­ful.

“I think that’s why you see a lot of mo­tor­bike guys get­ting into cy­cling and moun­tain bik­ing for

train­ing, ‘cause it’s cost ef­fec­tive and it gives you the same sen­sa­tions.”

While bike rac­ing whether it be on the road or trail is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent an­i­mal, Herfoss can draw sim­i­lar­i­ties, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the same but­ter­flies lined up at an XC race as he does sit­ting in the grid at Phillip Is­land.

“The prepa­ra­tion is dif­fer­ent but I think the mind­set is sim­i­lar, you go through the same nerves. XC rac­ing and Superbike are sim­i­lar be­cause you’ve re­ally gotta go when the gun goes off — the race is on and you’ve got no choice but to go as fast as you can,” he said. “Both races are short and in­tense, it’s about man­ag­ing

your heart rate and sav­ing as much en­ergy as you can for the last part of the race.”

“With the Superbike al­though your heart rate isn’t bounc­ing through the roof, but even sit­ting at the start line on the mo­tor­bike I’m at about 145bpm. I max out at around 189-191bpm so al­ready just with nerves you’re in the en­durance zone, and by end of the race I’m al­ways touch­ing high 180s.”

While rac­ing the Superbike may not re­quire quite the same aer­o­bic out­put, guid­ing a 180kg ma­chine around a bend at break­neck speed, it does re­quire laser guided con­cen­tra­tion and fi­nesse.

“It’s a big men­tal chal­lenge on the mo­tor­bike, I’ll go around Phillip Is­land in about a minute-anda-half, within 2-or-3-tenths of a sec­ond each lap. When you’re ap­proach­ing turn one at 300km an hour and you’re hit­ting the same foot of road ev­ery lap it takes quite a lot of fit­ness so you’ve got be able to man­age your heart rate and fa­tigue, and main­tain your fo­cus in the medium-high range.”

The ex­pe­ri­ence he’s ac­cu­mu­lated rac­ing on the Superbike cir­cuit gets drawn on to keep his com­po­sure sit­ting on the start line at bike races, es­pe­cially lined up against World Cham­pi­ons and Olympians.

“I THINK THAT’S WHY YOU SEE A LOT OF MO­TOR­BIKE GUYS GET­TING INTO CY­CLING AND MOUN­TAIN BIK­ING FOR TRAIN­ING, ‘CAUSE IT’S COST EF­FEC­TIVE AND IT GIVES YOU THE SAME SEN­SA­TIONS.”

“I think over the years you re­alise that they are just do­ing the same thing you are. When you’re young it’s easy if you’re fight­ing with some­one like Daniel McCon­nell for a wheel go­ing into the first turn to just give it to him be­cause he’s Daniel McCon­nell, but I’m not in­tim­i­dated by those guys any­more.

“I def­i­nitely un­der­stand their level of rid­ing abil­ity and have tonnes of re­spect for them, but, when I do line up for some­thing like the Eliminator, I was sit­ting there with these three guys that were Olympians and there was a lot of nerves. I think if I didn’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence from Superbike rac­ing there is no way I would have been able to keep my­self to­gether.”

HIND­SIGHT IS AL­WAYS 20/ 20

Herfoss is based on the Gold Coast and de­spite his prow­ess for road and moun­tain bike rac­ing, his main fo­cus is the Aus­tralian Superbike cir­cuit.

This suc­cess on road and moun­tain bikes is not new for Herfoss, and he can’t help but look back and won­der if things would be dif­fer­ent if he’d cho­sen car­bon shoes in­stead of 1000cc mo­tors.

“My dad al­ways told me al­ways said to me ‘be great and one thing not good at many,’ but he was bad for it, al­ways rac­ing dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines of mo­tor­bikes and he was al­ways quite good at all of them but maybe didn›t quite crack it. I just love be­ing able to be com­pet­i­tive at a lot of dif­fer­ent sports.”

“At this point, I’m 30 years old and I’m set up re­ally well in the Superbike, and I’m lucky enough to make a liv­ing out of it. At my age now it’s hard to quit my job and take a big gam­ble to try and make a liv­ing out of another sport. If I had got a bike when I was 10 or 12-years old I’m pretty sure I would have gone down that path, I se­ri­ously love it that much. At the mo­ment I put a lot of ef­fort into cer­tain races on the bi­cy­cle

be­cause it’s a huge pas­sion for me and then I just sort of take it for what it is around that.”

“It’s frus­trat­ing some­times when I think ‘ah I could be com­pet­i­tive at cer­tain races,’ like even when the Na­tional Round (XCO) was here (at Nerang) I could have lit­er­ally rid­den my bike from home and done it, but you just can’t take un­der­es­ti­mate these cour­ses and the rid­ers you’re against. I think I’m a bit too com­pet­i­tive some­times, I can’t just come in and en­joy it for what it is I‘d want to com­pete at the high­est level I can.”

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