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An interview with Ryan Bayley, December 17, 2004
Off the Hip
Ryan Bayley's performances at the Olympics captivated Australia as did his shoot-off-the-hip style when interviewed post race and in the ensuing crazy months after the games. As a fan of all things frank in life, Les Clarke spoke to the 22 year-old West Australian at the recent Clarence St Cyclery Cup Wheel Race about BMX, world domination, supporting the sport and girls.
Cyclingnews: Last night at the awards night (Australian Cyclist of the Year Awards) you mentioned the 80 km BMX rides you used to go on - can you tell us what motivated you to ride this distance on a BMX? Was it to visit girlfriends or just get out of the house?
Ryan Bayley: We used to go on a weekend - it'd be Saturday morning and we'd get up at six o'clock, and there was a race on Sundays in Rockingham, which is about 80 kays (kilometres) from where I live, so, between my house and Rockingham there were about three BMX tracks. It was like, get on, ride for probably three hours, get on a BMX track, go thrash ourselves for a couple of hours - get back on the road, ride again to the next BMX track, jump around there for another few hours - it'd be an all day trip, but, we'd be riding the whole time, doing jumps and stuff. It'd be 80 k on the road, but then it'd be whatever we were doing out jumping; so, it'd be just for fun. We didn't actually realise how far it was until we looked at it a little later on.
CN: So, after doing that sort of riding, I guess riding on a track would be a pretty easy? What's more fun - getting on BMX tracks and flogging yourself or riding around one of these things (an indoor track)?
RB: Well, I just love riding my BMX - going out doing jumps, you know; you can find jumps anywhere - a curb can be a jump, and it's amazing what you can do on a BMX - but just the racing - it's just so much fun; I just love the speed, moves, different tactics, you know, all sorts of awesome speeds. So, it's just that I really do love racing fast and racing hard.
CN: Speaking of racing, tonight we've got the Big Man (Sean Eadie) here doing some stretches and stuff, getting in the zone or something like that - how do reckon tonight's racing is going to go?
RB: It looks pretty good - we got back from the Olympics and we've only sort of been training for three or four weeks, so it's brought us down to the level a bit more -it'll be pretty good coming up with all different tactics - see who can beat who, you know, and as Sean's one of the smartest guys on two wheels in the world, it's gonna be hard to beat him anyway. Shane Kelly's probably one of the smoothest and craftiest riders in the Keirin, so he's pretty switched on with that - there are plenty of decent riders with form, so it'll be interesting to see how it pans out.
CN: Next event on the calendar for you is...?
RB: Ummm...(the pause of a man with a lot on his plate) World Cup in LA.
CN: How do you think things will be there, with the early season fitness or lack thereof?
RB: In a lot of trouble! I've only had a few weeks on the bike - it was supposed to be a month off the bike, but it's stretched out to God knows what; so I'm slowly getting back into it. You know, just go and have a bit of fun and go from there - World Championships are in March, and my next goal is Commonwealth Games. In between I'll get back into it, have a bit of fun and we'll go from there.
CN: Sweet. Last night everyone was speaking about what a great year it's been for Australian cycling, and it has been, so for you - absolute number one moment and why?
RB: For me, definitely winning the sprint at the Olympics. You know I kind of set myself up - a lot of people didn't believe I could do much in the sprints - I just wanted to do the good old one on one sprint. Annihilate other riders one by one - that was definitely a big thing for me - I put everything into that and to come off with a win - it was unbelievable. The keirin was definitely a big achievement for me, but that was more like go and have a bit of fun - there are five other riders out there trying to kill you, so you just gotta go out there and try and smash ‘em and see what happens, but, the one on one sprint - it was definitely more appealing to me.
CN: I know it's a scary thought, but do you see yourself as the ‘Grand Master' of track racing in Australia in a few years time - when some of the other guys get a bit long in the tooth, do you see yourself as being up there, guiding the young fellas through?
RB: Yeah, it's hard to say really - you look at guys like Shane Kelly - they're just the kings of the sport. They've gone out there, done a lot and they're over thirty, still dominating, you know? I'm still 22, so I've got a hell of a lot more years ahead of me, so, it's kind of hard to look at it that way - you're not quite sure what's going to happen in the next few years; it's something really unpredictable.
CN: You might have had the chance to watch some of the younger guys here tonight, or maybe just in the race you were in earlier (the Keirin heat) - how do you think some of them are shaping up. The young guys like Michael Ford or Matt Goss, both of whom featured in the awards last night...?
RB: This is probably a good time for some of the juniors to step up into the seniors - we've finished the Olympics, and the next few years are going to have plenty to offer but not in the same way as the last couple of years. So now is a good chance for them to break into the gig - I guess if they try coming into it before the next Olympics, it'll be hard; we'll be back to dominating the world, making it a bit harder for them to break into the upper ranks. We've got some promising juniors coming up - male and female, right across the board in sprint and endurance, so we've got a hell of a lot of good numbers coming up, and it seems there are a lot more juniors coming to cycling and staying in it. It's good to see; hopefully they stick with it and once they get to where we're heading - they can take over the reins to back it up.
CN: There's been a lot said about the performance of the track team in Athens - but we know it's a more complete picture - the worth of the team isn't just the sum of their Olympic performances. I mean, would you like to see more coverage of track racing, like that of road racing, which has benefited from guys like O'Grady winning stages of the Tour de France and races such as the one-day classics?
RB: For the last three years we've been sort of dominating the world - like, the Australian team has gone out there and we've done more than the road guys - the Australian track cycling team is the greatest in the world, whereas back on the road they tend to receive a lot more coverage but just don't get the same level of results we get, so, hopefully the Olympics have opened people's eyes and shown them we're here and we're not leaving. We know what we're doing, and track cycling is damn exciting to watch - you just have to get the right people to promote it.
CN: Away from the game for a minute - you said you've had an extended time off the bike - what have you been up to?
RB: Since I've been home, I've been basically just going to functions - talking to people - dinners, lunches, everything. Media things - I've been pretty busy with a lot of other things. It's been hard even just catching up with family and friends - also, being from WA it's been really hard because I'm flying from east to west all the time. Losing a lot of sleep, but I'm enjoying it, making the most of it; because it doesn't always happen like this. It's been good though.
CN: Sounds good. Have you had much of a chance to ‘booze it up' with your mates from back home?
RB: I haven't had much of a chance - I've only been out two or three times since the Olympics, so, I've only had one time out on the town, and a couple of times just at mates places. Other than that I've been really busy. I can't even remember exactly who my friends are anymore, ‘cause I'm not around. It's sad, but that's just the way it is. That's the thing with my sport - I do remember the people who were there for me before the games - so, it's interesting, because with track cycling, before the Olympics we didn't have that many people supporting us - so after the games people have said 'Give back to the sport...' I've given back to the sport a hundred times over and I've always given back to the people that have looked after me. Anyone who's ever looked after me I've then looked after. I don't really owe anyone anything - I love riding my bike and that's why I do it, and people that support me doing it I always give back to - that's the way it should be.
CN: We could definitely use more of that kind of attitude everywhere! Big question - how has your meteoric rise in profile contributed to your love life - many girls coming up to you with proposals of love and happiness?
RB: I've had a few offers and that since I've been home - it's just funny - I walk into a shopping centre and it's like 'Oh my God, you're Ryan Bayley!' and it's really weird because beforehand I could just rock up to a race meeting and no one would know who I am - now I can go anywhere in Australia in normal clothes - not AIS clothes, just like, hat and sunglasses - and people come up to me and go 'Congratulations Ryan, that ride was awesome...' and I'm like 'OK...' It's taken a little bit to get used to, but it's good.
CN: But any good offers...?
RB: With what...?
RB: Oh yeah, I've had a few good offers, but I haven't had a chance to take them up. I've been too busy with the other side of things...
CN: Seriously though, the type of celebrity status that you've experienced after the games raises an important factor - the step up for young guys who have achieved a lot in the public eye very quickly may prove too big for some. You've been able to cope with it really well, so how do you think young guys can cope with the big step up?
RB: Going from the junior to senior ranks is a really hard step - I'm always trying to support all the juniors. They see us, and what we do, but they don't think that we were the same at their age, you know what I mean? When I was their age I was doing the same things. I'm just trying to get the young kids inspired. Just go out, show them what to do, watch their race and look after them. Just doing the right thing, because we've got some really good talent, but when you go from under-19's to seniors it's one hell of a step - it's not like ‘going from the spaceship onto the moon', but it's one hell of a step. So, hopefully everyone gives us the support to get them up there and the transition from juniors to seniors happens smoothly.