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Photo ©: Schaaf

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.

January 14, 2009

Breaking the curse

Katherine O'Shea rode well from the start.
Photo ©: Tony Fetch
(Click for larger image)

For most of the Torq team, the start of the 2008-2009 Australian mountain bike season has been really hectic. It's been an awesome experience flying and driving around Australia attending races as a team; however as is the experience of most athletes, I think most of the team has found it really tricky to cram so much racing and travel (and all the other bits of life) in to such a small time frame!

We recently had a team training camp in Mount Beauty, Victoria, after Christmas, and after such a hectic start to the Australian race season, it was sheer bliss to spend a week in my hometown with friends just riding, swimming in the river, hanging out at BBQs, and more riding!

During this time of year, Mount Beauty (and nearby Bright) is the ideal training area for mountain bikers - there are beautiful alpine climbs for long road rides, endless fireroad trails for off-road adventures, awesome flowing and technical singletrack, and lots of rivers and swimming holes to cool off burning leg muscles! So long as you're armed with some good sunscreen, fly repellent, and a good eye for dodging snoozing snakes on the roads and trails, Mount Beauty is training Nirvana.

Racing News

By Tory Thomas

Luke Fetch rode strongly, picking some great lines
Photo ©: Tony Fetch
(Click for larger image)

The Torq team loves getting one of "our own" on the podium at the races, and in terms of getting our distinctive orange and black skinsuits on to the podium, we've had a really successful start to our season. Katherine O'Shea is currently in shining form, and wrote a race report fresh from her most recent win at the last National Series race held in December at the You Yangs (Victoria). Her diary entry is posted below.

Like just a few others in the Torq team, my form hasn't been so shiny, which is partly why I've been so tardy in posting this entry - my apologies to the cycling community! I've been struggling with ongoing illness, so for the last few months my life has been spent commuting between home and medical appointments. I suppose for me that's the one major trade-off of living in "training Nirvana" - Mount Beauty is a LONG way from the city!

There are now only a few weeks until the National Championships, which is the first major race for 2009. The National Champs are being held at the same venue that will be used for the 2009 cross country UCI World Championships, so this will be a brilliant opportunity for the team to ride the course and also for athletes who will be heading overseas to race World Cups to try and grab some of the UCI points up on offer.

The Torq team will then head to Mount Buller in the Victorian Alps the following weekend for round four of the Australian cross country series, which will again have UCI points up for grabs. With the only other UCI race in Australia being the Oceania Championships in March, the next few months are an exciting time for elite mountain biking in Australia.

I'll hand you over to Katherine, and we'll check in next from the National Championships at Mount Stromlo in Canberra in a few weeks.

Breaking the Hoodoo at the You Yangs

By Katherine O'Shea

Katherine O'Shea impressed us all by snatching herself first place
Photo ©: Tory Thomas
(Click for larger image)

In my relatively brief racing career, cross country racing at the You Yangs has nearly always ended quite dramatically in a crash and plenty of tears.

Apparently, the name "You Yang" comes from Aboriginal words meaning "big mountain in the middle of a plain", and this is exactly what the You Yangs look like - it is a spectacular race venue, approximately 50km from Melbourne, Victoria.

Unfortunately, my view of the spectacular scenery and the 50km of purpose-built mountain bike trails at the You Yangs has been severely tainted by too many crashes and too many tears. In my first encounter riding at the You Yangs – as I was just making the cautious transition from softballing to mountain biking as part of the Dirt Road to London Program – I clipped a handlebar on a tree and was catapulted from my bike, and spent the rest of the race lying in the first aid tent.

About six months later, I had my second encounter with with the You Yangs, this time falling on a technical rocky descent and cutting open my leg and cracking my new carbon frame. After many tears, stitches, and some major repairs to my poor bike, I returned to the You Yangs a few months later to compete in a State Round cross country race. Once again, the hoodoo continued, with a crash on a corner sending me over the handlebars and back through the field from first to last place as I tried to straighten my bars and body.

Canine Rescue mission: TORQ team mechanic DC carrying his dog Murphy,
Photo ©: Tim Retchford
(Click for larger image)

Despite my physical and mental scarring from my painful encounters with the spectacular You Yangs terrain, for round three of the Australian cross country series, I was determined to break that You Yangs "hoodoo".

I had decided the motto for the You Yang would be fearless, maybe because of the course and how it had bitten me (and gouged me and cut me) in the past, but also for the way I was planning to attack the race. I had gained confidence from my first national win two weeks earlier and was hoping to have another solid race.

In the weeks leading up to the race, I forced myself to reassess my "relationship" with the You Yangs, so I spent many hours training on the race course with two of my TORQ teammates Luke Fetch and Paul Weymouth. In addition to me trying to build a special bond with the You Yangs, as a team we were able to break the course down and learn some great lines, of which we were hoping some would give us technical advantages.

Beijing Olympian Dan McConnell gives the camera-man a dirty look
Photo ©: Tony Fetch
(Click for larger image)

It's difficult to describe the weather before and during the You Yangs race - it was simply spectacular! The You Yangs is normally one of the driest places on earth, but during the days and hours leading up to the start of the cross country race, it hailed and rained and stormed like something out of a movie. Standing on the start line on race morning, I was super motivated, even with the horrendous weather. I knew that it was a great advantage to lead up the first technical climb as people would be getting held up on the slippery rocks.

Although the start went as I had hoped, I wasn't expecting the kangaroos mooching about the track on the first descent! The race was really demanding and tough physically; however, my body was working well enough to keep me in the lead. Mentally I was having a great time, and I couldn't wipe the smile from my face as I slipped down the rocky descents. Despite the dumping rain and freezing conditions, I spent the majority of the race laughing to myself mainly because I felt like a little kid again playing in the mud (all I needed was a set of colourful gumboots so I could jump straight into the biggest puddle).

It was a great feeling crossing the finish line in first place, unscarred and smiling, completely elated in my knowledge that I had finally broken the hoodoo at the You Yangs! It was also fantastic to share the experience with my teammates, with Jo and Tory, both having solid races to finish third and fourth respectively.

In the men's race, the boys performed solidly in same trying conditions. I was especially proud of Luke for his first national U23 podium and the way he approached the race.

Happy New Year.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Tony Fetch

Images by Tory Thomas

Images by Tim Retchford

Images by DC