Recently announced as Cycling Australia’s 2012 Australian Mountain Bike Rider of the Year, Jason English has his sights set on even bigger achievements – competing at the 24 hour World Championships in Canberra next year …
It’s been a little while since you last spoke to FOCUS, but what’s been keeping you occupied for the past 12 months?
In the past 12 months I have been trying to get used to racing and training while being a dad. It has been a balancing act, and Jen has been very supportive of my continued involvement in racing. My parents have kindly stepped in several times recently to support me at some of the not so baby friendly races! The logistics for getting to Italy with a 10 month old to compete in the 24 hour World Championships was perhaps one of the toughest aspects of racing all year.
What events have you competed in recently, and what were your results?
I’ve had a few good results this year. My highlights have been winning:
The Mountains to Beach Stage Race, NSW
24hr Solo National Champs, Canberra, ACT
24hr Solo World Champs − Finalie Ligure, Italy
Tathra Marathon, NSW
Paluma Push Marathon, Townsville, QLD
JetBlack 12hr, Sydney
12hrs in the Piney, Armidale
Flight Centre Epic, QLD
Scott 24hr, Canberra, QLD
Back Yamma Bigfoot Marathon, Parkes, NSW.
You were recently announced as Cycling Australia’s 2012 Australian Mountain Bike Rider of the Year. How do you feel about this achievement?
I was really quite honoured to achieve this award. The selectors were quick to point out that it wasn’t purely about results in a range of different events, but sportsmanship and being a good ambassador for the sport were also important. I was surprised to win, considering I was up against our Olympic representative and downhill riders, who are some of the best in the world.
Where and when were you presented with the award, and what was the vibe like at the event?
The Cycling Australia Awards were held at the Sofitel Hotel in Sydney. It was the most formal event I have ever been to. After seeing how seriously some of the other cyclists commit their lives to the sport, Jen now feels that perhaps I do have a balanced approach to life after all!
Who would you like to thank for helping with your cycling achievements?
I guess my parents first, for dragging me around to races when I was in late high school, but also for them coming back and supporting me when Jen has had to look after Archie. Jen has made some serious sacrifices to support me over the past few years, and I know I couldn’t have done it without her organised approach to racing and experience as a sports dietitian.
Locally, Gordon Street Cycles have supported me for a long time and ensure I always have bikes in excellent condition, which takes a lot of stress out of pre-event organisation. Darcy has worked on my bikes for years, and I am always impressed with how careful he is in ensuring everything is running perfectly.
I have been quite fortunate to now have sponsors that are helping me get to races, which is great. I’m hoping next year I can keep with my current sponsors and represent them well at the 24 hour World Championships in Canberra.
For those readers unaware of your sporting history, how and when did you actually first get your start in mountain bike riding?
I got my first mountain bike when I was in Year 7. After my dad got the bug for mountain biking, he quickly decked out the whole family with bikes; however, I didn’t start racing until Year 11. It wasn’t until 5 years ago that I got a bike sponsorship deal, which meant I felt I should start racing in the Elite class. In an attempt to justify sponsorship support, I became competitive at this level. The next year (2008) I won my first National 24 hour Championship, and this started my love of the longer events and I have been able to defend this title for the past 5 years.
As you’re also a teacher at the Heritage Christian School, how do you find the time to practice and compete in the sporting arena?
The Principal is very supportive of my racing. He can see value in a teacher who not only teaches about training, nutrition and performance, but can speak with experience through real life examples. I have had the opportunity to take students away racing with me, which reinforces the importance of the theory we cover in class. The Principal has also adjusted my timetable to ensure I can still get a significant amount of training completed before work, which means after school is dedicated to family and lesson preparation.
For any youngsters considering taking up mountain bike riding competitively, what advice would you give them?
Firstly, I would suggest spending time riding your mountain bike to pick up skills and learn how to ride efficiently. While fitness is important, it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. You can always pick up fitness later on in life when you want to be competitive at higher levels. Lloyd (from Gordon Street Cycles) has been running an amazing program for kids under 14 years old at Wayne Richards Park on a Wednesday afternoon.
It has been attracting up to 70 kids, and I’m just hanging to send Archie there when he can use a balance bike. It’s also worth checking out the local mountain bike club both on their website and by joining their Facebook page.
What’s next on the agenda for you – any big events looming on the horizon?
I’ve missed a few events recently due to a fractured collarbone after a head on collision with a car in far north Queensland, but after some good kilometres in the holidays I’ll be focusing mostly on the 24 hour races next year. The 24 Hour World Championships are back in Canberra this year, and I really want to wear the green and gold Australian Championship Jersey in this event. In order to do that, I need to win my 6th 24 Hour National Championship event in a row …
Thanks Jason. Congrats on your recent award – and best of luck with both the National and World Championships!
Interview by Jo Atkins.
This interview can be found on issue 84 of Greater Port Macquarie Focus