An interview with Geoff Kabush - October 30, 2004
Geoff Kabush is no newcomer to the mountain bike racing scene but his patient and steady approach to getting to the top has made this past season his best yet. Winning the NORBA final and overall series was the pinnacle of the year for the much-loved Canadian rider whose passion for the sport will see him racing his bike for many more years to come. Cyclingnews' Kristy Scrymgeour caught up with Kabush in between his autograph sessions at sponsors booths at Interbike.
Walking around the booths of Interbike this year was like going to a celebration of Canadian mountain biker Geoff Kabush. The orange and black images of the Maxxis rider were everywhere and at many a booth you could catch him for an interview, a chat and perhaps even a beer. Although Kabush modestly laughed saying it was "pretty crazy and a bit over the top," he also admitted that it was "pretty exciting," - and rightly so. After making his big break back in 2000 by making the Canadian Olympic team for Sydney, Kabush has been gradually going from strength to strength and comes away from 2004 after his best season yet.
"Every race this year except for a few I felt awesome, so I really had a great year," he said. The difference between this year and other years? "I've always been going to school and this was the first winter that I was able to totally focus on training. It really made a difference," explained Kabush. "I'm also older and smarter and endurance sports take a long time to build up to a good level. All the work over the years is finally paying off," he added.
Kabush raced his first year as a senior pro in 1996, each year building up the racing program and doing a little bit more. The year 2000 he calls his breakout with making the Olympic team being a motivator for years to come. But this year on the new Maxxis team Kabush says has been another inspiring year. "Joining a new team has been really motivational," he says. "The whole team and the sponsors have been really excited about it and we've had a lot of fun. Usually being on the road for so many months of the year burns me out but this year we had a great time on the road and I didn't really mind the traveling. At one stage I was away from home for 2 1/2 months at one time, but I just stayed relaxed. The team had a lot of fun this year and that has helped."
Kabush has many victories this year including five wins in NORBA events, a World Championship in the team relay in France and his win in the NORBA final in Durango, which confirmed his overall lead of the series among other. Out of all his successful days the boy from BC in Canada said that Durango was the most exciting. "I knew that it was possible to win the series but I also knew that one mistake and it was all over," he explained. "It was a big relief to win and it was nice to win the race and the overall series because it's nice to show that the top rider won the series overall."
Since he started in the sport, Kabush has been training with a coach from Vancouver Island where he lives and trains. He also credits the island as the place that got him hooked on mountain biking. "Growing up in BC was what really got me into riding. I lived on Vancouver Island, which has great trails and a lot of people really get into it," he said. "I started out in a local club and got pretty hooked. I played a lot of sport at school but the mountain biking lifestyle was what I really got into. It's so much more fun to ride trails than run around a track."
Kabush's coach is Juerg Feldman. "He's originally from Switzerland where he was really involved in speed skating and biathlons," explained Kabush. "It was only when he moved to Canada that he got involved in mountain biking. He has a good background in physiology and we do a lot of scientific training and lactate testing etc and working with a PowerTap. Since the end of '95 has been a slow building process. I'm always learning new things and adding those into the program. He's a great coach. He sets our program and he really teaches us how to implement it well. I've worked with him for so long now that I really understand why we are doing things in a particular way."
Another motivator in Geoff's success this year has been Maxxis team manager Eric Wallace. "He knows that I need to do and he organizes everything. It's exciting. He's always got something going on," said Kabush.
Kabush is staying with Maxxis and is currently talking with the team about what his goals will be next year. "The NORBA will be a big focus," he said. "We'll have a lot more people back racing in the US next year not being an Olympic year. I still believe, especially after this year that I have the chance to do well at the World Cup level as well. I know on the right day I can be up there with the top guys."
An exciting development is that next year the Maxxis team is growing and according to manager Eric Wallace, a couple of very talented up-and-coming riders will be joining the team. For Kabush this is great. "It will be fun to have another guy up there for some team tactics," he said.
When asked whether he has plans of eventually switching over to the road as so many mountain bikers have done, Kabush is not sure. "I enjoy mountain biking and I think it will always be my first priority," he said. "I do like racing the road and I was bummed this year that I didn't fit in a road race but I'm sure I'll do a few more next year."
Career wise Kabush says things are looking up for mountain biking. "I certainly wish I was racing back in the glory days, but I love riding and racing," he explained. "Certainly the sponsorship isn't what it used to be, but changes are happening and people are still excited about racing and that's what matters."
On the topic of things looking up, Kabush also talked about the new hope that drugs in sport are being cleaned up. "I'd rather have a clean sport than one with more money in it," he exclaimed. "I used to think they were a long way behind in the battle to clean things up but actually they're doing a good job now at making it a lot harder for people to cheat."
Kabush mounted his own campaign in the war against drugs in sport this year. "All of us started wearing 'Dopers suck' shirts when we were in Aspen," he explained. "We want to let all the young kids coming up know that I'm winning races and I'm not taking drugs. It doesn't help when guys who aren't winning speak up because people just think it's sour grapes, but when guys who are winning speak out against drugs I think it can make a difference. There really is hope for the sport."
In Sea Otter this year, Kabush placed second overall in the hotly contested race that was won by Filip Meirhaeghe who later tested positive for EPO at a World Cup in Canada. "I know at Sea Otter I felt like I could have beaten Filip, so that gives me hope."
For now Kabush is not having an off-season at all. Instead he had a short break and started directly with the cyclocross season. "I had a little break after worlds but I'm still pretty motivated and really into the cross season. I'll take some time off after it's over."