Australian Mountain Bike
How can something be so close and yet so far out of reach? This sentiment shared by so many riders makes it near impossible to move through the race paddock without discussing it in one form or another. Most discuss it without speaking, sharing for a moment the camaraderie of other riders in the same circumstance. Each one understands the frustration of the other, isolated in their feelings, while surrounded by the most passionate cycling fans in the world. A nation already in love with cycling is again both captivated and astonished, revelling in the feats of its compatriots that seem almost alien like.
I would nearly have to agree that these feats seem almost alien, accomplished by beings that work to a different set of physics than what we are held accountable too, that is if it wasn’t for a French Flag pinned to each one of these “aliens” jerseys. If you’re not sure what I’m rambling on about, please stop reading this and go watch the replay from the latest round of the DH World Cup in Les Gets, France.
Surrounded by thousands of half tipsy baguette munchers, Loic and Amaury rode down that hill like they were working to a different set of physics than everyone else. I, along with everyone else was struck by the skill that was on display that day. To only look at the result sheets doesn’t do these rides justice, the pace was truly visible to the naked eye, there was no stopwatch needed. The reaction to this seemed wholly appropriate, huge respect and love to the people who put on such a show, and as it’s a race against the clock, the reaction from other riders is different to if it was bar to bar racing.
What I’m beginning to wonder is when that unspoken sentiment, so close yet so far, will manifest itself into action. I love France and its people, but one thing is for sure, I don’t like seeing them win so much, and the gap between their riders is large enough that anyone else winning seems unlikely which really is disheartening. It’s a known unknown, it will happen at some point, but predicting who? Exactly. (I really hope I am proved wrong by the time this goes to print!)
Elite riders don’t like losing, and each one, no matter their nationality, will be doing their utmost to change this pattern that seems to be getting more established by the hour. But really, what about the love shared by non-Frenchies post-race for France? I get it, it was a great track, the people supporting, the atmosphere, the location, the race against the clock not the competitor, it was hard to not get a little punch-drunk from all the hits France was delivering. Even now I am feeling a little envious, in fact a bit more than envious, I’m outright jealous. How have the French got it so good?
Australia is a sport loving nation, it has produced some of the World’s best mountain bikers, its supporter base is as passionate as any other, bike sales are equal too, or better than most other nations per capita so why aren’t we seeing events in Australia full of supporters, full of competitors and mainstream media coverage?
The French success In Les Gets should offer a mirror to which we can gauge our own success in supporting future world-conquering talent, their governing body has created an environment through competition and training to nurture and produce future champions, in-turn inspiring the next generation. What has our governing body done for us? It’s time to start legitimately having this conversation, MTBA has dissolved our national racing scene, effectively removing any form of experience vital for developing junior and elite riders, in-turn removing any form of nation wide media coverage, with zero chance of any media coverage. Industry support can’t justify a marketing spend on riders, in turn making it even harder for riders to get recognition outside social media, and no-one puts a stop watch on social media. People are products of their environments, what environment is MTBA creating for our next generation of competitive mountain bikers?