Downhill Biking Faces an Olympic Uphill Battle

Cross Country Mountain Bike racers and Downhill Mountain Bike racers have two things in common, they love riding bikes. They race with the opportunity of representing their sport at the highest level on offer for elite cyclists.

The difference? Cross Country Riders start racing with the opportunity to represent their Country at the Olympic games, Downhill racers do not.

Cross Country Mountain Biking debuted as an Olympic sport the 1996 Atlanta, USA Summer Games. In the years that have followed, thousands of eager sportspeople have represented their country in hope for an Olympic result.

Downhill racing, however, is currently not included in the Olympics. The debate on whether it should or shouldn’t be has surfaced following the news that surfing, sports climbing, skateboarding, karate and baseball/softball have been approved for the Tokyo 2020 Games.

The two disciplines are similar, as they both involve riding off road mountain bikes. They are unique however, and differ greatly in terms of the equipment and format of racing.

At the World Championships, the two events are run together, raising the question of why one should only be included at the Olympics.

Rebecca McConnell (Henderson) is a two-time Cross-Country Olympian and Commonwealth Games Bronze Medallist, who believes that that there is definitely room for both disciplines.

“The direction of the Olympic games is including more modern sports where I see downhill racing fitting much better than some of the other sports which are recent or new inclusions for 2020,” Rebecca says.

Downhill racers are required to wear more protective equipment in comparison to Cross Country riders, due to the more extreme trail conditions. To paint a picture, Downhill courses consist of large gap jumps, technical rock gardens, and high speeds.

“Downhill racers are serious, they train hard and take huge risks!” Rebecca explains.

The need for steep, technical and long terrain may be the biggest inhibition when it comes to the sport being included.

“The most difficult part is the Olympic Games is always in a major city around the World where such a mountain may not always be accessible.” Rebecca says.

Rebecca believes that there is a way for the Olympic Committee to accommodate for this.

“The Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast had some sports playing preliminary games in Townsville, Cairns and Brisbane – so I certainly think it should be possible.”

Cross County Mountain Bike racing is also very technical, but differs because the racers must also ride up hill as well as down.

The inclusion of the Cross-Country course that Rebecca raced during the 2012 and 2016 Games was courtesy of South African course designer and ex-mountain biking pro Nick Floros.

There is an extensive list of trail design companies and experts who would have the abilities to introduce a Downhill specific trail in the towns hosting the Olympics.

Cross Country and Downhill Mountain Biking have become more popular, and have a much larger spectator crowd. The event even appeals to those who may not know much about the sport. Rebecca explains how well received the mountain biking is.

“It was such an amazing feeling to show your sport off to the World outside of the MTB circuit!” She said.

“Of-course the racing was still absolutely brutal and painful but when you have 30,000 spectators cheering you on, it doesn’t hurt quite so much.”

The 2017 Fort William UCI World Cup round attracted a record 20,000 spectators.

There is also definite promise surrounding the possible attendance numbers at a Downhill Olympic event if it were to be included.

The amount of people entering Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) events is growing at a rate of 10% per year.

The participation numbers at the Australian national Championships are gradually increasing, significantly in the discipline of Downhill.

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To further increase participation rates, Rebecca believes that development pathways and funding is essential.

“It was only at the end of 2011 when I really started to think about the Olympic Games,” she said

“There was a huge support program called the Dirt Roads to London – the idea was to create a big pool of talented mountain bike Women in Australia.”

Although Rebecca was too young for this at the time, it highlighted the fact that reaching the Olympic Games could be a reality.

Increased Government Funding is required before Downhill is included into the Olympic Games.

“There is no high performance or talent development program for mountain bikers in Australia for any discipline.” Rebecca explains.

A Presence at the Olympics would increase rider participation, raise the standard of World-Wide cycling, and broadcast an exciting discipline of riding to a wider audience.

Rebecca McConnell (Henderson) is one of the lucky few to be able to represent her country as an elite sportsperson, and her final conclusion is that, despite some possible stoppages, downhill should be an Olympic sport.

“YES – I would love to see downhill MTB in the Olympic Games!!!”

“Once you get a taste of the ‘Olympic Dream’ you want another taste and another.”

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La Trobe University Begins Sports park Development with New Football Club Facilities

La Trobe University Football Club has come a long way since its establishment in 1967, but plans are in place to upgrade the football club facilities even further.

In a bid to give their players the best chance of winning games, La Trobe will redevelop the footy field and club rooms by 2019.

 

La Trobe University Discovers New Stroke Treatment

Research conducted by La Trobe University has discovered a new treatment for stroke patients.

The treatment injects discarded cells present during pregnancy into stroke patients.

It significantly reduces brain injury and aids recovery, as Ellie Wale reports.

Professor Chris Sobey From La Trobe University has worked with Monash University and Monash health during the seven year research project.

“To be perhaps within reach of a real feasible treatment that can be given to so many stroke patients is really very exciting.”

Scientists will begin to do human trials in acute stroke patients to assess whether it’s practical and safe.

Ellie Wale, Upstart news.

 

You Kick Like a Girl

You throw like a girl, you run like a girl and now you kick like a girl. The introduction of a Women’s league to the AFL is exciting, fresh and should make Australia proud that we finally get a chance to showcase our female AFL talents at the top level. But with so many positives to the addition, there are far too many people being negative about girls playing footy. There are currently eight teams in the AFLW, which has just completed it’s very first season.

Women’s AFL is blurring the line between what is traditionally considered a male dominated or female dominated sport. living in a world of stereotypes, women’s AFL was at a disadvantage before the first bounce of the first game. AFL is known to be rough, and society seems to have this view that women are fragile and need to be protected. The AFL campaigning to end violence against women is a constructive message to society, but even this positive campaign has an underlying message. It suggests that men need to control whether or not other men control women. AFLW is shaping the next generation of athletes, who need to know that they are able to play any sport, regardless of their gender.

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Although these lines are being blurred, women in a ‘male dominated sport’ such as football are more likely to be judged sexually and fall victim to sexism. Well known football influencer Sam Newman was condemned via twitter by fans after he said to Bulldogs Captain Steph Chiocci “Don’t worry Steph, i’ll come around and give you a private talking to,” after she asked him to deliver an address at her local club.

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Some people are arguing that the quality of the football is not up to a high enough standard for the amount of media coverage that the sport is receiving. “AFLW will continue to be popular, but still has a few hurdles to jump before it can be considered a truly elite league of its own” Natalie von Bertouch said in her article for The Advertiser.

Sportspeople are also great influencers within society. They are positive role models for younger generations of girls, an they are also very influential in the wider community. Their large social media followings on various platforms and national audience base allows them to discuss nation wide issues and encourage change. Particularly, AFLW stars have the power to encourage gender equality, and be a voice to women using a national sporting organisation as their platform. Adelaide Crows and AFLW player Erin Phillips has used her football following to encourage legalisation of same-sex marriage.

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The AFLW Adelaide Crows have made history winning the first ever AFLW Grand Final against the Brisbane Lions, showcasing the possibilities of women in AFL at the highest level. Not every club has a team in the AFLW, leaving room for the sport to develop, and opening new possibilities for young women in sport.

Things I Wish I knew before I became a Bike Rider

10 year old me set off on a bike for the first time without a regime, a goal, a worry, an understanding of bike riding or a destination. As these two wheeled machines took me from bike paths to rooty, rocky, steep, foreign soil, I learnt so much about the world I was entering (is that a little dramatic?). Fast forward almost 10 years later and I have compiled a list of ‘things I wish I knew before I became a bike rider.’ Although ‘things’ is a very ambiguous word, I am using it without any negative or positive connotation, they are simply just things. (i’d never want to shy anyone away from getting on a bike!)

 

 

Bike riding will become such a big part of your life and you will feel odd if you go a while without doing it. 

I used the word odd here because I cant exactly pinpoint the exact feeling. When I trained for World Champs I would feel somewhat guilty, or as if something was missing, as training had become such a big focus in my life. My dad is a classic example of this (sorry dad), as he gets VERY grumpy if he doesn’t go for a ride. Maybe we should all invest in a Yeti because it seriously works some magic with my dad (mum can vouch for this). I am currently no longer in training for a World Championship, and so my ‘odd feeling’ has shifted to missing my bike riding friends, missing the feeling of being super fit (being able to walk up a flight of stairs without being puffed (sad times)) and  travelling all over Aus and the World. I have come to realise that its okay if you go a while without bike riding, but I think it will take a while to breed the ‘odd’ feeling completely out of me.

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Dad about to ride down a mountain in Adnorra! He is only smiling here because he’s on a bike (kidding, love you dad).

You will get lots of grazes, bruises and scars. And if you keep up the sport for years and years, I mean LOTS.

Now I’m definitely not saying there is anything wrong with this. In fact, many of my scars tell a different story and I’m often proud to showcase them to the world. But the grazes and bruises can hurt (I think every bike rider can relate to the pain of having to scrub a fresh graze in the shower!). I am often walking around with skin off my elbow or a major bruise on my leg. I would turn up to school after a weekend away racing and my friends would be eager to see my newest addition. I guess you could say the pain and injuries are all part of being a mountain biker, and although I wish former Ellie had have known exactly what that entailed exactly, I would never let it be the reason to stop me.

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how happy I am when I don’t crash! (very).

You will have to take up 3 jobs, take out a loan and sell one kidney to keep up this sport.

By no means does this mean that you have to spend all of your pennies to be a ‘bike rider’ or to be good at it. In fact, my coaching has taught me that buying a bigger, better, and more expensive bike will not automatically make you Cedric Gracia (darn!). There are costs, and they tend to keep on coming (especially if you go through tubes and tyres like my little brother), but I promise you that the fun of riding your bike and travelling to beautiful destinations will make it all worth it. Just make sure that you save those pennies.

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Cedric Cracia, Jackson Frew and I after Jackson came down in 3rd position at the Andorra World Champs 2015, oh the places you’ll go!

Do you agree with this list? Is there anything else that you would add? please feel free to share this to fabebook or leave a comment! Alternatively, you can get in touch with me personally  by emailing elliewale@hotmail.com.

-Ellie

Hello again!

Hello again!

This is my first blog post in such a long time I’ve almost forgotten how to use this darn site. (I apologise in advance for my English skills (being on Uni holidays has made me forget how to do that too)).

2016 was a year of big changes for me, with doors opening and closing here and here. High school finished, Uni started. I moved out of home and into the big bad world of paying bills and doing my own washing (yuck). I moved from being in the junior  category into the elite, and with that I welcomed a bigger field, faster riders and a more competitive racing experience.

For the past two years I have dedicated so much of my life to getting up early, training hard, eating right and missing social events to chase my dream of racing the World Champs. I wouldn’t take any of it back, but for the time being my focus has shifted a little. I’m not “on a break” per say, but I’m definitely having a break from training so intensely. I’ve learnt to ride purely for fun.

As for 2017, I definely hope to get to races. Who knows what this year will bring. I’m definitely going to train hard again, and I 99% hope to race a World Champs again. That dream hasn’t burnt out, it’s just on the back burner for now.

I am loving having a business, where I get to coach people of all ages and abilities. I remember my coaches saying that they get as much joy out of seeing their athletes do well as they get from winning themselves. I love coaching as it has allowed me to see that.  I love being there when people reach their goals, knowing you have contributed to that is so special. I think I get more nervous than Jess (a nine year old superstar who I have been working with for a while) right before she attempts (and nails) a new feature.

Im still on a bike, I’m still learning new things everyday and chasing my goals. I won’t be racing as competitively this year because I’m definitely not ready. As for now, I want to blog more, continue to develop Red Hill MTB Shuttles so that I can keep coaching, and keep on going for fun rides with my friends and family.

Excitng times ahead!

-Ellie

please feel free to leave absolutely any comments or questions! Alternatively, you can email me at elliewale@hotmail.com

  The places bike riding will take you! My brother and I riding Red Hill

  Doing a coaching lesson with some little shredders!

 

My Favourite… with Em and Tegan

Em Parkes and Tegan Molloy certainly need no introduction within the mountain biking world. These two inspiring riders (let alone individuals) are definitely no strangers to the top step. Ever since I started riding I have had the benefit of learning from, and watching the success of Em and Tegan.

Em races cross country and eliminator (with a little slice of enduro on the side), and has represented Australia at the highest level (every cyclist’s dream). I was fortunate enough to be on the Torq team with Em, and I’m definitely lucky to have her as a friend and mentor (I’d have enough funny stories to fill another blog post). If you had a peek inside Em’s home (I’m not her stalker I swear) I’m sure you’d catch a glimpse of the green and gold stripes exclusively belonging to the national championship jersey.

Tegan, on the other hand, races downhill. It was such a special moment to watch Tegan win the 2014 Junior World Champion title. We were in the beautiful country; Norway, and the whole Aussie team went crazy as she crossed the line, securing her the fastest time and a World Champion’s jersey. She is such a humble person, and I always know I’m going to have a good race when I track walk with Tegan (and ‘borrow’ all of her sneaky lines). Tegan is currently overseas, probably riding a sweet downhill run as I’m sitting in rainy Melbourne writing this.

To celebrate how great these two are as riders and as role models for womens’ cycling, I wanted to do a “my favourite” just to let you guys get to know them a little better. So enough of my rambling and without further ado…

Whats your favourite…

Favourite bike?

Em: My Merida Big 9 Team edition, equipped with Rock shox RS1 fork and Sram Rise 60 wheels.

Tegan: That’s a close call between my Supreme Operator and Process 153. I’d have to say my DH bike.

Favourite place to ride?

Em: There are way too many awesome places to ride in this world! I have had the opportunity to ride at many amazing places in this world that there are too many to decide from.

Tegan: I’ve been fortunate enough to travel and ride some amazing places all over the world. Throughout the World Cup season I spend a fair bit of time in Bromont in between races. There’s loads of tracks and a good bunch of people to ride with. You can ride downhill all day and then hit the water park in the afternoon. That’s pretty cool. It’s pretty hard to beat Whistler. Dad and I travelled there in 2012 for Crankworx, which was my first ‘taste’ of riding and racing overseas and I loved every minute of it. It’s definitely home to some of the best trails to ride.

Favourite post ride meal?

Em: Strangely I don’t have a favourite post ride meal. I really struggle to eat after some rides so I usually have a recovery shake or a good old nesquik with some added Ribose and Glutamine.

Tegan: Lately I’ve been a massive fan of omelettes and chocolate milk as recovery and post ride snack.

Favourite song to listen to before a race?

Em: I’m probably not the best person to ask about favourite things.. I like too many things. Before racing I like to crank rap/hiphop music with a really good bass.

Tegan: I tend to only listen to music before a race if I’m really nervous or there’s lots going on around me, but my go to song at the moment would be Panda by Designer.

Favourite race you’ve ever raced?

Em: My favourite race would have to be XCO, National Champs in 2015. The race itself wasn’t extremely fun however winning the National Championship jersey was by far a highlight.

Tegan: My favourite and most memorable race would be World Champs, Hafjell, Norway 2014. Just hanging out with the Australian team and riding was awesome. I had so much fun riding that track, there was a great mix of features too, with loads of jumps, rocks, roots and some flat out fast sections.

Favourite bike related joke?

Em: Putting bearings covered in grease in your mates handle bars.

Tegan: Why couldn’t Cinderella win the bicycle race?

She has a pumpkin for a coach!

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Tegan and I after a VDHS race. Champagne in the eyes does not tickle!
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Photo: Duncan Philpott
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Em and the best race face I have seen in a long time.

 

Guys Dig Scars (I hope)

As a young kid in the school yard I was always proud to boast “well I have broken 3 of my arms!” (disclaimer: my primary school self meant I have broken my arm 3 times, I do not have a hidden third arm). Since then I have rounded my count up to 6 breaks.

My mum always questioned whether or not to take me to see a bone specialist, but quite frankly I do not have a skeleton made of butter. Instead, it seems that I have always had quite an adventures side (or poor judgement).

Throughout my 9 (give or take) years of riding bikes I have had enough x-rays to finance the system, and I’ve laid in my fair share of hospital and physio beds. Therefore, I thought it’d be fun (I really have to get out more) to illustrate some of my most memorable injuries I have attained over the years.

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1. I separated the ligaments in my cervical spine after crashing at Barjarg in late 2015, which left me in hospital for a night and a neck brace for six weeks.

2. In 2015 I broke my clavicle after a silly crash on a jump ((which I have since revisited and showed who’s boss!)(kinda))

3. A few weeks out from World Champs in 2014 (I was racing cross country), a stick made my front wheel come to a complete stop, catapulting me over the front wheel and bursting my bursa sac (in my shoulder joint).

4. I have a scar right across the middle of my shin from when I slid down the Andorra World Champs track in 2015. Luckily, Anne-Marie was there to steri-strip me up so I could keep riding/sliding!

5. During a game of chookball (silly name, basically netball), I tore pretty much all of my ankle ligaments (more painful than a broken bone I believe) which meant I was on crutches instead of on a bike for the first round of the 2015 National Series!

6, 7, 8 and 9. Not so bike related, but over the years I have broken my left arm twice and my right arm twice (you know, just to share the load). I have fallen victim to a slide, swing (I was a very adventurous 6 year old), harder than usual low ropes course and a snowboarding crash.

I have also broken my nose when I was little, which I believe deserves an honourable mention as it was broken after I was bear hugged from behind, my arms were therefore trapped, and I fell straight onto my face.

So there you have it, I definitely hope I don’t have to do an updated version any time soon.

As always, feel free to leave any comments of contact me at elliewale@hotmail.com

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About to go in for surgery (not sure which one)

 

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Anne-Marie giving my shin some much needed care, I don’t know what I would do without her at races!

-Ellie

 

 

Why I Ride

I have lost count of the amount of times I have been asked “Why do you ride bikes?” So why do I ride?

This question has come from so many different sources.

My experiences on the bike are mostly positive, but in this crazy and imperfect world there is always going to be some negativity. I have asked myself this question many times. It has crossed my mind as I am struggling to get out of bed for a 6am training session. My mum has asked me this question as she’s sitting by my hospital bed, following a scary crash and a day full of spinal x-rays. I don’t want to sound too dreary, but I would not be honest with you if I said I hadn’t questioned my choice to commit myself to bikes. The thing is though, I always have an answer, and so I keep on riding my bike.

Riding delivers such a unique thrill. I’m smiling as I’m writing this just thinking about the smile that is plastered on my face after a sweet downhill. I love being able to feel my heart, beating so fast inside my chest as I’m about to ride a scary, technical feature for the first time. I even (sometimes) like climbing, and that warm feeling you get at the top of a hill.

Throughout high school we would spend hours discussing and writing about “gaining a sense of belonging” and the satisfaction it delivers. Honestly, being a bike rider helped me to ‘belong’ to something special. The mountain biking community is so friendly, so open and so, so much fun.

Now I don’t want this blog post to be too soppy. I am, however, forever grateful that bike riding has allowed me to travel the world, achieve my goals, meet life long friends and be a part of a large group of such great people.

And that is why I ride.

If you want more information about coaching clinics, racing or how to get into the sport, please feel free to email me at elliewale@hotmail.com

-Ellie

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My coach and now life long friend JZ
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Track walking the very beautiful Cairns World Cup track
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Going off a drop in 2014 with some ‘hecklers’ track side making lots of noise!

Mountain Biking ‘Firsts’ with Sian and Jess

Do you remember your first race? For some of us it was a very long time ago, but for nine year old Jess, her first ever race was May 22nd. Jess raced the ‘mini muddies’ event at the first round of Victoria’s King Of Ballarat downhill series.

Were you one of the lucky ones to race on international soil for the very first time? Sian Ahern did just that over in Scotland for the third round of the UCI Downhill Mountain Biking World Cup on June 5th.

I caught up with both girls after their events to gather their reactions following their own, personal mountain biking ‘firsts.’

How long have you been riding for?

Sian: I have been riding for just about 2 years now. Which isn’t a very long time but I have been putting in a lot of effort to get to where I wanted to be, and all the hard work definitely pays off in some way!

Jess: I have been riding for 6 years, I started at 3.

What event did you last compete in?

Sian: I last competed at Fort William, Scotland for round 3 of the UCI mountain bike World Cup, and at Fort William I qualified 19th in elite, and 1st in juniors. On race day my run didn’t all go to plan but still managed to come 21st in elite, and take out the win in juniors!

Jess: King Of Ballarat, the mini Muddies race.

What was your race weapon of choice?

Sian: My race weapon of choice for this event was of course my Norco Aurum C7.1!! The bike was set up absolutely perfect, and felt amazing throughout the whole weekend. Shimano did some awesome work in making everything run smoothly, and making sure my bike was in perfect condition the whole weekend.

Jess: Giant Liv

What was going through your mind as you were at the start gate?

Sian: At the start gate I try not to think about anything but my race, I look at the awesome crowds and I look at the track and say to myself “I can do this.” I take a few deep breaths, spin my legs, focus on what I’m about to and and I’m off.

Jess: I was nervous and I didn’t want to fall off during the race.

If you could do the race again, would you change anything? if so what?

Sian: at this particular race, if I could change anything I probably wouldn’t change much at all. Possibly hit a few more jumps as I know I could have done them. But overall the weekend went pretty smoothly. My race run I was trying too hard that I kept stuffing up my lines and not riding as smooth as I know I can, which is something I learnt about this race, sometimes you have to relax and not try TOO hard!

Jess: I should have slept more the night before. I thought the track was pretty good so I wouldn’t change anything.

Overall, if you could describe this event in one word what would it be?

Sian: FUN!!! This race was so awesome, the track was so rough but so much fun, the crowds were absolutely amazing and there were so many people! Having so many people was so motivating and made me have so much fun. It was so awesome to be in different country so far away from home and ride my bike. I never would have thought this opportunity would happen!

Jess: Amazing!

Do you have any advice to anyone who wishes to race this event in the future?  

Sian: Yeah I do, have as much fun as you can and enjoy everything about the race. Its an awesome experience. one more thing also the track is so long train hard, and bring your strong hands!

Jess: Don’t be nervous to go down the track it was an awesome track and I really loved the rock section and the corners.

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Sian pedalling out of the start gate at Fort William.
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Sian and I waiting to head up for our race run at this year’s National Championships. 

 

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Jess racing to the finish line at the King of Ballarat mini muddies event.
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Jess and I after her race. 

Good luck to both girls and their mountain biking adventures. Be sure to follow Sian’s journey as the rest of the World Cup season unfolds!

-Ellie