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Team TORQ diary

The TORQ team
Photo ©: Evan Jeffery
(Click for larger image)

The UCI-registered Australian TORQ/VIS mountain bike team team, features some of Australia's top racers and future stars, including VIS scholarship recipients like Tory Thomas, Robbie Hucker, and Cal Britton.

For 2008-2009, TORQ racers are targeting the Australian MTB National Series, National Championships and Oceania Continental Championships. The team's top priority is racing Olympic distance cross country events, but it is also mixing things up with some short track, marathon and endurance events - and maybe even some road races. Some members will head abroad for the World Cups – an important part of Australian national team selection process for the 2009 World Championships to be held in Canberra, Australia.

Dan McConnell, who represented Australia at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, is perhaps the team's most well-known member. James Maebus, Katherine O'Shea, Joanna Wall, Luke Fetch, Steele von Hoff, Paul Weymouth are also on the roster. Members will take turns writing diary entries.

December 4, 2008

Launched into action

By Tory Thomas

The team poses at a photo shoot
Photo ©: Adam MacLeod / Freewheel
(Click for larger image)

It's hard to believe it's already December. It's well and truly race season in Australia, with weekdays and weekends crammed full of riding, travel and racing. Life in the Torq team is very full - in the month since our last diary entry, we've had our team launch, competed in a few road and local mountain bike events, and last weekend we participated in the second round of the National Cross Country mountain bike series in Illinbah, Queensland.

Being part of the team is proving to be an enriching experience. I'm not sure yet of my "role" in the team - sometimes I feel like a mother hen (nagging the boys about wearing sunscreen and staying hydrated...!), and other times I feel a sense of sheer relief that I have my team to help me - I can ask teammate Robbie Hucker to help take my pedals off my bike and cry on Assistant Team Manager's Dean's shoulder at the end of a disappointing day. Also, it's difficult to take yourself too seriously when there are so many personalities crammed in to the one team - one minute I'm crying, and the next minute I'm laughing.

We've fallen a bit behind in our diary-writing, mainly because I've been unwell and haven't had the opportunity to coordinate our diary. My fault! There's so much to write about, especially with so many events and so many energetic team members - it's a daunting task to try and recapture the last month. We've included a photo gallery to try and grab some of the experiences and bring them to life, a snippet from our Team launch which was held a few weeks' ago, and Jo Wall has written a segment of our diary below from the National Round last weekend. From here, our plan is to share the diary-writing amongst team members, and to write a bit more regularly because we're really keen to write about our adventures around Australia!

Katherine O'Shea makes winning look easy
Photo ©: Jo Wall
(Click for larger image)

Our official Torq team launch took place in Melbourne a few weeks ago, and was held at Belucci's, a delicious Italian restaurant located opposite the beach in St.Kilda. Team manager Gen Clark did a fantastic job organizing the event, including making a formal little speech about the team before a formal "presentation" of the team riders just before dinner, where we were introduced individually to the guests. Dinner was scrumptious (and the pre-dinner snacks were delicious as well!), and the company was brilliant, with the team, sponsors, media and family all grandly seated at the one long table.

I asked Gen to recap what she said on Friday night, and it was something like this:

"[The Launch] was our way of saying thanks for the support of both the team members and also our sponsors. Dean and I have really put everything into this team to make it a success and we have had fantastic support to get us to where we are today. Since we started TORQ in Australia we have always had a small team of riders so the team we have today is a natural extension of that. Our focus is on offering our riders unprecedented support for racing both in Australia and overseas. We have a great partner in the [Victorian Institute of Sport] VIS and feel we have created a great avenue for development of cyclists in the mountain biking and road disciplines."

Since the launch, the team has been really busy competing in races around Australia. Last weekend the team met at Melbourne airport and flew up to the Gold Coast, Queensland, to compete in the second round of the Australian Cross Country Mountain bike series.

Going to round two of the National Series

By Jo Wall

The rain storm during the men's cross country race
Photo ©: Tory Thomas
(Click for larger image)

Here I am sitting on the plane on the way home from Queensland, scratching my ant bites, picking sand out of my togs (bathers) and letting that warm fuzzy feeling of a big weekend of racing wash over me.

As a primary school teacher, fourth term is chaotic. My time is spent juggling report writing, staff meetings, school camps, tired grumpy children, and at the end of the day I need to make it a priority to squeeze in some quality training. It's tiring. So for me, as much as I know racing, National Rounds are hard work and serious business. This weekend more than anything I was looking forward to coming away for a "holiday" for some much-needed R and R – it was just so good to have some time away from the juggling act that is my life at the moment!

After a three hour flight, we had arrived in Queensland late Thursday night, and in true Gold Coast style, we settled into our pristine five star "Ultra" apartment set amongst the many other impressive beachside high-rises. We had two apartments, with the "grown-ups" upstairs and the boys downstairs. I turned 30 on Saturday, so I opted for the upstairs accommodation.

The rain storm during the men's cross country race
Photo ©: Tory Thomas
(Click for larger image)

I spent most of the time worrying and hoping they were behaving and coping on their own, showing my age and my inability to take off my teacher-hat for the weekend! My room, which I shared with double-bed mate Tory, was fancy and had a faux fur throw rug and views of the ocean.

Race day presented itself with overcast conditions and an oppressive 90% humidity. All of us in the TORQ team are from Victoria in South-Eastern Australia, where we enjoy a much drier climate, so the conditions were really difficult for all of us. For me, the race was one of the hardest races I have done due to the taxing effect of humidity which seemed to bring the onset of fatigue far too early.

The results of the team were varied, and it was a mixed bag of emotions at the finish line! I was happy with my own performance. It was my first podium finish. I was proud and happy for team-mate Katherine [O'Shea]- she smashed it. I was honoured to stand on the podium with her, she dominated both the cross country and short-track.

Jo and her father (a Queensland loca) keep hold of the PA tent
Photo ©: Tory Thomas
(Click for larger image)

The best things about the weekend were the podium finish, spending time with the team, and swimming down at the beach in the sunshine.

Racing as a team is another "best bit". It's very different than racing as an individual. Emotions are raw and out in the open, and you share the stresses, successes and disappointments as a team. The team is a real cooking pot of emotion, there's a lot of laughter and a few tears. You see the race through other people's eyes, and I was given insight in to my teammate's elation and suffering.

On Saturday night we had a BBQ and a bit of a celebration (it was my 30th birthday after all!), and after such a tough day, it was great to sit around the table and be able to laugh at yourself (and each other!) and reflect on what was a remarkable day, it puts everything back in perspective.

This coming weekend most of the Torq Team will be in Mount Beauty and Bright to compete in the "Tour of Bright" open road stage race; then next weekend we are heading to the You Yangs (about 40 minutes from Melbourne) for National MTB Round #3.

Fun times ahead!

Thanks for reading.

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Adam MacLeod / Freewheel

Images by Jo Wall

Images by Tory Thomas