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Tory Thomas

Okay so I had fun racing World Cups!

Down time…

Cycling News
November 08, 2007, 0:00 GMT,
April 22, 2009, 20:24 BST

It's been a tough few months and a long time since I posted a diary entry. I have struggled to...

November 8, 2007

It's been a tough few months and a long time since I posted a diary entry. I have struggled to articulate how I've been feeling and it seemed better to write nothing rather than to shroud my diary in gloom and grey clouds!

The last few months have been a bit of a roller coaster ride. My cycling career is probably typical of most athletes - every high seems to be followed by low. I know my training is about investment and commitment to my goals and aspirations, however sometimes it's impossible to see through the disappointment in the moment and maintain focus on that elusive bigger picture.

I'm happy and relieved to report that the gloom and grey clouds have now gone, replaced instead by sunshine and fire in the belly to be a better and faster cross country racer. I'm looking forward to the opportunities and challenges posed by the year ahead - it's going to be fun!

An update on the lows: World Championships disappointment

Somewhere in 2007 I hit an unspectacular slump in mood and form. I was tired after Nationals in February, yet despite ongoing illness and declining motivation I continued training and racing. I went overseas feeling exhausted and in need of a break,and not surprisingly I returned home from racing World Cups feeling completely cooked. I was frustrated with my form overseas - I was tired, my legs weren't strong enough, my starts weren't fast enough and I felt as though I wasn't good enough to be racing World Cups. By the time I returned home I was desperate to improve as a cyclist, but was mentally and physically exhausted.

I was relieved more than elated to achieve my goal of being selected to represent Australia at the World Championships in Fort William. I had worked so hard to satisfy the Aussie selection policy and had invested so much time, money and energy towards achieving the goal. I had been so disappointed to miss out on selection in 2006 that I had my heart set on competing at Fort William in 2007.

My decision to miss out on representing Australia at Fort William was therefore a difficult one - my indecision is probably well reflected by the fact that I didn't actually decide to stay home until a day and a half before my plane departed! I desperately wanted to go back overseas and despite trying to force the training, my body was run down and I knew I needed a break. My bank account was also telling me I should stay home!

Also, I needed a break now so that I could prepare myself for next year's World Cup season and Olympic selection process. The task of peaking for Worlds in August, and then Nationals in January, and then Oceanias and World Cups and next year's World Champs seemed impossible. So I opted to sacrifice the short term and stay home, earn some money and have time away from training and racing. I am still extremely disappointed about missing out on Worlds, however I feel that it was the right decision to stay home, rest, and work hard towards being stronger (and hopefully faster) for 2008.

A bizarre last few months

My decision to miss out on World Championships was rational and objective, yet although I knew I had to stay focused on the bigger picture, I did feel like I had failed. I am admittedly a little emotional, so pretty soon objectivity was lost and my little cycling world came tumbling down. I wanted nothing to do with cycling and managed to ignore and avoid everything to do with mountain biking. I went skiing and walking instead of riding, and announced to Tim and Ruby that I was done with cycling and would never ride again. It really was quite bizarre.

Luckily Tim knows me well and suggested that I do a little bit of cycling 'just in case' I decide that I might want to return to mountain biking. So I did do some cycling, in amongst the working and skiing and complaining. Admittedly most of my sessions involved me heading out in my gloom and returning home a few hours later grumbling about being tired and cold and telling anyone who would listen how glad I was that I had quit cycling.

However I did have some great rides; my favourite session of winter became riding (well, dawdling) up Falls Creek on my mountain bike in the snow, and finishing at the top with a ski. My favourite ride was a long bush ride with Tim, because he asked me to marry him at the summit of Mount Emu! (of course I said yes).

Out of the rut: The bigger picture

My retirement didn't last too long. My coach Garron returned from Worlds and pretty soon I was back on a training program. I feel as though I have had a good rest away from structure training and racing, I'm excited about heading back overseas to try and be a better mountain biker.

Right now it's all about the bigger picture. Garron keeps mentioning how I need to break eggs to make an omelet. If that's the case, then there are broken eggs everywhere at the moment and the omelet better be good! I would love to be selected to represent Australia at the World Championships in Italy and the Olympic Games, and to perform to the best of my ability at these races.

My weaknesses as a cyclist were made glaringly obvious during races overseas, in particular my lack of leg strength. I think this lack of strength is mainly because of my accident and the fact that I have avoided any activities that load up the lower back of left leg. I still have very compromised muscle function, my left hip flexor is useless and I feel like I pedal in a style similar to Nemo, the crooked little cartoon fish in Finding Nemo. Tim is a brilliant physio and works hard to help me to be the best I can be with what I've got, which sometimes doesn't seem like a lot! So I'm trying to be disciplined and avoid my strengths so I can work hard at improving the weaknesses - always tough on the ego!

I've started a new training program that's all about strength and recovery (and physio, of course). I am hoping to find some form in time for the Australian National Championships at the end of January, with the focus being Oceania Championships in March, several of the World Cups, and the World Championships in August. A fun year ahead!

Now that the gloom is gone, I'll try write a little more regularly. The task ahead is enormous, but it's going to be an exciting ride.

Thanks for reading,

getting tangled up at the start.

June 30, 2007

Cycling News
June 30, 2007, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:24 BST

Squirrels, Bagels and Maple Syrup… Yep I'm in Canada , Mont-Sainte-Anne , Quebec to be exact. The...

Squirrels, Bagels and Maple Syrup…

Yep I'm in Canada , Mont-Sainte-Anne , Quebec to be exact. The food here is awesome. Bagels, maple syrup, fresh fruit and fruit in pastes and fancy jars… life is pretty good in Canada ! And almost as exciting - there are so many squirrels here. (I saw my first squirrel in Germany during my warm up at the Offenburg World Cup and I nearly fell off my bike with excitement). I'm being spoilt by squirrels here in Mont-Sainte-Anne, there are little brown ones with big fluffy tails, little stripy ones and there are lots of little furry things scampering in the forest that I'm starting to think aren't even squirrels. Its all very exciting.

Amidst the squirrel-sightings and bagel-eating, I've also been riding my bike a fair bit! Yesterday was the XC World Cup, and despite being a bit disappointed by my performance I had a brilliant day.

The World Cup…

Once again my race didn't quite go to plan, it seems adversity is following me around the World Cup circuit (or visa versa?!). I was caught up in the pile-up on the start loop and my poor bike suffered a mashed drive train. During the first lap I was becoming increasingly frustrated by my gears slipping and crunching, however after a while I started seeing riders whose bikes were as bad as mine and they seemed to be persevering… so rather than throw a tantrum, I decided to relax and try to do as much as I could with the one or two gears that were almost working. I soon worked out that the trick was jumping off and running rather than pushing on the pedals or changing gears – perhaps not a very efficient strategy, but at least I could keep moving forward towards the finish line.

I found the racing more aggressive than the two other World Cups, maybe it's because I started faster than the other races and the girls are a bit more aggressive further up in the field. Who knows! After the start loop crash, and in the context of my short and stunning history of crashing and burning on both World Cup courses, I played it conservative and backed off rather than fight to hold my position. Lame I know, but I am literally covered in cuts and bruises and am still nursing (well, enduring) an injured lower back and an irritating little puncture wound to the forearm.

The course was brilliant, and despite my crunching drive train I could still appreciate the fun and flowing course. The support from the cheering crowd up the zigzag climb was something special, I've never heard anything like it in a XC race. Somehow once again I finished in the 40s, this time 42 nd place, 15mins18seconds behind the winner. Each race I feel like I'm coming last so it's always a surprise when I wander to the results list and see I'm in the 40s. It's also strange that I've been relatively consistent (48 th , 48 th and 42 nd ) despite the massive contrasts in courses, conditions and “hiccups” during the races. I'm certainly consistent; I just wish I could race faster!

Only one week left

There's only one week and one World Cup left until I make the trip home to Australia . Although the novelty of World Cup racing has well and truly worn off, I wish I could stay longer and keep racing –it's awesome! It's been such a steep sharp learning curve, and despite all the mistakes I've made, I'm enjoying racing and training for racing so much more now than when I was home. I didn't really think the World Cup scene would appeal, but it does and I'm utterly hooked. (I just wish Australia was closer to all the action so racing XC was a little more practical!)

I am loving Mont-Sainte-Anne, it's a perfect place for training; So many fun trails that seem to go on forever, warm summer weather, relatively quite roads with so many bike lanes and great signage, and the delicious food… it's going to be difficult to go home to icy Mount Beauty! It's also really social here at the moment because most of the World Cup riders seem to have opted (like us) to stay here until Thursday, and constantly bumping in to the World Cup athletes kind of makes the World Cup series a lot more friendlier and somehow more grassroots.

A little slide show… The lack of computer access has been frustrating, and the weeks have whizzed by without record. Therefore in an attempt to illustrate how I have been filling the weeks, I have attached a few photos.

Thank you for reading and happy riding,


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Tory Thomas

Dellys, Jo and I heading out for a ride

Overseas at last!

Cycling News
May 30, 2007, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:24 BST

I finally made it overseas! I'm sitting in the lounge room of cute little apartment in Varese,...

May 30, 2007

I finally made it overseas! I'm sitting in the lounge room of cute little apartment in Varese, Italy. The other guys have gone to bed, but I'm forcing myself to stay up and write a diary entry because it's way overdue. I've struggled to find a computer since arriving in Italy, and one of the South boys, Lachie, has leant me his computer for the night, so here goes…

The last seven or so weeks have been really challenging, I think I didn't post any entries because I was a little down in the dumps and struggling to muster enthusiasm and I didn't really want to whinge to the international cycling community! Since February or March, my immune system took a dive and I seemed to be constantly sick, battling a variety of colds and viruses. I made a few stupid mistakes when I raced with a virus, so predictably I ended up quite sick and unable to train!

So my preparation for this trip was the opposite of perfect, and during the very long plane flight from Melbourne to Milan I wondered what on earth I was doing dragging my mountain bike across the world to race World Cups when I was under-trained with absolutely no top end.

I arrived in Varese a week ago, but it feels like an eternity since I left Australia. I travelled from Melbourne alone, and my first few days were really tough. I think partly I struggled because I felt so unprepared, it's a horrible feeling taking the massive step up to international racing when you feel slow and unfit with no race legs. But I think mainly I struggled because I had arrived a few days before my travelling companions, and I felt lonely and homesick, tired and overwhelmed - everything was just so hard on my own.

By day three of my trip I was wondering whether I had made the right decision making the journey to Europe. I should mention, however, that from the time I arrived, the boys from the South team and their coach, Neil Ross, did their best to make me feel welcome (thanks guys!). Also I need to mention Franca Brunello who, upon seeing me burst in to tears because I was too lonely to stay in the apartment on my own, offered that I could stay with her until my travelling companions arrived. Yep, she took me under her wing!

My travelling companions arrived on Thursday and since then life has been pretty sweet. So far, riding and racing in Europe is way better than I was expecting. It's been 30 degrees and sunny, I've had some great rides, and the coffee is amazing.

I raced in my first European race last Saturday, in the Lugagnano Val d'Arda XC race. I was really unsure of what to expect, and despite my disappointing performance my first Euro race was really fun. For whatever reason, I cramped really badly in my legs for most of the race, so I suppose I've kind of grovelled and limped my way on to the international racing scene! I ended up coming sixth, not too shabby for a grovel fest, and was stoked when Neil handed me my first ever prize money from the Euro race scene. I can't believe they give prize money for sixth place - that's awesome and very different to MTB racing at home.

Tomorrow we are driving to Offenburg, Germany to compete in this weekend's XC World Cup #2. My apprehension and fear of getting lapped seems to have been replaced by intrigue and excitement of competing in my first World Cup: I can't wait! I'm also looking forward to finally meeting the guys at Orbea and seeing how the Orbea team works. I've never seen a professional mountain bike team so I'm sure I'll be impressed!

Better go get some sleep, I'll post an entry after my first world cup!

Happy riding,

Practising repairing a flat tyre in the tech zone.

My first World Cup

Cycling News
May 30, 2007, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:24 BST

Well I've done it. I've started and completed my first ever World Cup mountain bike race. The race...

May 31, 2007

Well I've done it. I've started and completed my first ever World Cup mountain bike race. The race was the cross country World Cup #2 in Offenburg, Germany, and WOW it was awesome!

Pre-race relax…

The week leading up to the race was surprisingly relaxing. We stayed at a lovely farm in Durbach, a cute town with buildings that look like gingerbread houses, surrounded by rolling green hills crammed full of grape vines, apple trees and berries. Our hosts, the Laible family, were really generous with their time not to mention their freshly bakes bread, jam and strawberries. They were very chatty and hardly seemed to notice that we couldn't understand German - charades can get you a long way in a foreign country!

Scoping the Course…

We had a sneak preview of the course on Wednesday evening when we stumbled across some bunting on our jetlag recovery spin. Being World Cup first-timers, travelling buddy Jo Wall and I were mighty impressed by the fancy double-bunting on both sides of the track (seasoned competitor Dellys Starr was a little less impressed, although suitably entertained by our awe and wonder!). We slipped our way down a tiny section of flowing singletrack, which was made surprisingly technical by the afternoon's rain. I was more than a little concerned by the way my front tyre was pinging off slippery tree roots, however reassured myself that of course it won't rain again before race day.

The following day we headed our for our first ride of the course. My first impression of the course was WOW. It was seemingly a heap of singletrack weaving through the sort of forest you see in the movies (think Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), spiced up with a few descents, made interesting by the steep gradient and/or tree roots. As we rode around we laughed about how epic the course would be if it rained. I also saw my first ever squirrel which was a very big deal for me!

On Friday I finally met the ORBEA team and was really surprised that Joseba and the crew treated me as one of the team. Coming from Australia, where athletes generally prepare things for themselves for races, I just couldn't quite believe that Orbea were happy to do everything, other than pedal my bike, to help me prepare for the race. The mechanics meticulously prepared my bikes for training and for the race, and eventually I stopped trying to chase everything myself (out of habit) and sat back in awe and just watched them prepare everything (spares, nutrition, etc) for my race.

I need to also mention Emily Absalon, wife of Orbea team rider Julian, who was especially friendly and generously took a long time trying to translating to my keen ears a world of knowledge about race preparation from French to English. I know I'm raving, but the Orbea team just seemed to ooze a happy and positive energy that made it a very ideal base from which to start my first World Cup. The generous support of the Orbea crew, and also the help and friendliness of the team at the SRAM tent, made the looming race (and the whole World Cup scene) seem so much more attractive and fun. By Saturday night my bike was sparkling and ready to race, I had developed a race plan in my head and I was more than a little excited about my first World Cup.

Race day…

As for the race, well, it was brilliant. I felt unusually calm and relaxed on race morning, and enjoyed heading out on to the course to warm up the body and mind. I did a few efforts on the road before the start, and I was really surprised that for the first time in months my legs felt fine and ready to race. Amazing what a relaxing week in lovely Durbach can do for you!

The start line was awesome, a big crowd and nervous athletes and coaches buzzing energy and nerves. Unlike most races, I felt little pressure for the start because my race plan involved starting conservatively and to avoid hitting the red. Basically, my goal for my first World Cup was to ride consistently and hopefully pass a few riders in the later laps and finish strongly.

I started really conservatively and was a little concerned by how fast everyone seemed to be riding - I felt like I was slipping further and further behind and started to think that pretty soon I'd be off the back. However the pace soon slowed, and by the time I started the second lap I was in a comfy rhythm, feeling focused and in control.

The course was flowing nicely, I felt full of beans and my gorgeous Sleeky (Orbea Alma) felt like magic on the course. It started to rain some time in my third lap, and although I usually hate riding on wet tree roots, for some reason the more it rained the more I enjoyed the race. It just seemed so funny to be riding near my limit down knarly descents in slippery mud. I was more than a little relieved (and admittedly a bit surprised) that my trusty Hutchinson Python tyres were weaving grippy magic in the mud. The cheering crowds at the technical drops were awesome, there were even little grandstands set up at the more spooky bits of the course!

The sheets of horizontal rain turned the start/finish area into a marshy swamp, and as I cross the line for the final lap I was feeling really amped about stepping up a gear and pushing hard in my last lap. I was feeling great and I think the adrenalin was pumping because I started getting quite confident in the increasingly muddy conditions. I think I was starting to feel invincible.

Anyway, my invincible phase ended quite dramatically on the Dual Speed descent, half way through the last lap. I came in to the drop with way too much speed. I was separated from my bike in spectacular fashion, and for a brief moment I thought that I might have died. But that morbid thought passed as was quickly replaced by the 'oh crap I'm losing time' thought.

Unfortunately my beautiful bike was a little battered, so we ended up riding and limping the rest of the lap. Although I was frustrated with my crash, I took solace in the fact that at least it was a spectacular crash, performed at high speed in front of a large cheering crowd and involved lots of blood but no serious injury…for some reason that's better than a broken chain or a stationary uphill crash.

So my last lap didn't quite go to plan, and I ended up in 48th position, not lapped, 18.25 minutes behind the winner. I'm not sure how I feel about the result, ideally I would have liked to hold position but I think more than anything I am happy to have completed my first World Cup relatively unscathed.

On the one hand I am happy I was disciplined and rode to my conservative race plan, on the other hand I'm a little disappointed because I feel that perhaps I didn't push hard enough (although, I did hit the highest heart rate I've ever seen in a race - 191 BPM). I just felt like I was spinning the climbs, not really puffing and felt like I finished with heaps left in the tank. Maybe I would have felt differently if I didn't crash and could sprint rather than limp to the line!

Race analysis aside, in summary the World Cup was a heap more fun than I expected, and now I can't wait for my next World Cup, World Cup #3 in Champery, Switzerland.

Back in Varese…

We drove back to our base in Varese, Italy today for a week of training. My battered knees have been patched up and hopefully the bruising all over my body will fade before the shorts and singlet weather returns!

Time now for sleep, thanks for reading.

Happy riding,


ANZAC rivalry: New Zealand's Rosara Joseph and Australia's Tory Thomas

Oceania madness

Cycling News
March 28, 2007, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:24 BST

My performance at yesterday’s Oceania Championships was a rather spectacular display of how NOT to...

March 29, 2007

My performance at yesterday’s Oceania Championships was a rather spectacular display of how NOT to ride a bike in slippery conditions. If you close your eyes and picture Bambi on ice, and then picture Bambi on ice with two sprained ankles and blurred vision, then that’d come close to replicating how ungainly and uncoordinated I was on the muddy and rocky descents.

Despite my sloppy descending, I was able to climb and slip and slide my way to second place, a massive 12 or 13 minutes behind Rosara Joseph (NZ). I have mixed feelings about my race. On the one hand, I am frustrated by how slow I was in the wet conditions and disappointed to waste so much time in singletrack. On the other hand however, it was satisfying to achieve my goal of placing on the Oceania podium, and I am happy with how much my climbing has improved in the last three months. I was also happy that I rode to my race plan, which involved pacing myself and pushing smaller gears on the climbs.

Racing aside, the weekend was a lot of fun, with a lot of contrasting personalities crammed in to our apartment accommodation at Thredbo Alpine Village! The torrential rain was a welcome novelty after such a dry hot summer, and it was novel to ride in the mud - I think I’ve only ridden in the mud once or twice in the last few years!

Oceania Champs marked the end of my domestic 2006/07 mtb season, and I am now enjoying a week off the bike. It has been a really long season, I was ready for a break a few weeks ago, so I am relishing this time away from training - particularly as I know how much hard work lies ahead.

Next week we will begin to try and prepare me for the first of my World Cup racing in May and June. Although focus was going to be building my base and strength, after yesterday’s performance I think my training may also include a fair bit of trail riding in the mud! (This could be a particularly difficult task if the drought continues!). I am REALLY looking forward to racing overseas - fun times ahead!

Happy biking


Cresting the top

One seriously crazy mountain bike race!

Cycling News
March 14, 2007, 0:00 GMT,
April 22, 2009, 20:24 BST

I'm not sure what I was expecting of the inaugural Otway Odyssey Mountain Bike Marathon . To be...

March 9, 2007

I'm not sure what I was expecting of the inaugural Otway Odyssey Mountain Bike Marathon. To be honest I hadn't really thought about it much at all. I suppose this was partly because of my focus leading up to the National XC Champs, and partly because I have been struggling to juggle work and training and travel - throwing a marathon race in there all seemed a bit overwhelming!

As I had expected, the days following Nationals weekend were crammed full of work and sleep deprivation, and suddenly it was time to pack for the Odyssey. As tired as I was, I was still pretty excited to be making the 540km journey down to seaside Apollo Bay, a town surrounded by rolling hills, spectacular old growth rainforest, and rugged coastline.

We arrived on Friday in time for a swim before race briefing. Tim and I haven't been to the beach for nearly two years so that was a total treat! During race briefing I listened to the description of the course and the rules etc, and it was only then that I started to think a little more about the race. It was a 100km race along 4WD tracks and singletrack, 3,468m of vertical gain, and race director John Jacoby was repeatedly urging competitors to exercise caution on descents... I started to feel a little nervous!

Standing on the start line on Saturday morning, I felt excited and thoroughly unprepared. Tim and I hadn't ridden more than three hours in a training ride for more than a month, so I was hoping my legs would remember how to keep going for 6-8 hours! After a 5km 'roll out' along the Great Ocean Road, the gradient got nasty and the race headed up the first of the many climbs. From here we rode through wild and varied terrain; open ridgelines, steep gullies, lush rainforest, knarly singletrack... it was an awesome adventure. I struggled in the middle stage, I was finding it hard to eat and drink because it was almost totally singletrack, and I started to cramp. I was going backwards fast, so I opted to slow down and eat and drink in the hope that somehow I'd ride through the cramps.

After a period of spinning and eating, miraculously the pain lessened. Crisis over! (In the 2006 Australian Marathon MTB Championships I endured leg cramps for the last four hours... I didn't want to repeat that pain!). I actually enjoyed the last two hours, although I never thought I'd be asking a race director for less singletrack in a mountain bike race. It was astounding how much singletrack was crammed in the forests around Apollo Bay. Berms, logs, creek crossings, ruts, gullies, snakes (!)... this course had everything. By the time I rode across the finish line, my forearms were begging for the singletrack torture to end!

Somehow I raced for 6 hours and didn't blow up, I was totally stoked. I was happy, relieved and embarrassed to cross the finish line in 1st place, five minutes 50 seconds ahead of Emma Colson. I was happy to win because I had ridden hard towards the end to stay away from Emma Colson, who had chased hard during the middle section and rumour had it that she had the margin down to a slim 80 seconds. I was relieved because the $3000 prizemoney means that I can now afford my aeroplane ticket to race overseas in April! And I was embarrassed by my appearance at the finish line - not only was I covered in mud and gels, but also a Vegemite sandwich that had somehow jumped out of my mouth during the last stage of the race and attach bits of itself to my face, arms, hand and bike. Still, a win’s a win, even if you are covered in Vegemite at the finish line.

My bike ('Bear') worked a treat from beginning to end, despite the onslaught of mud, rocks, logs and drops. A massive thank you to ORBEA for my fast race machine and to SRAM for preparing my bike on Friday morning.

I'm happy we made the journey to Apollo Bay (even if it means that now I'm even more sleep deprived and tired than before the Odyssey!). The weather was blue sky and sunshine, the scenery was spectacular, and the race was awesome - full credit to the race organisers.

Until next time,


Tory Thomas