An interview with Trent Lowe, September 1, 2005
After a season of highs and lows, young Australian mountain biker Trent Lowe will be riding the road in the colours of Discovery Channel for 2006. It's a huge opportunity for Lowe, who has been riding the NORBA series for Subaru-Gary Fisher in 2005, and he knows it. Cyclingnews' Les Clarke checked in with Lowe as he prepared for the MTB World Championships in Livigno, Italy to discuss this big development.
After a strong showing at the Tour de Georgia and Redlands Bicycle Classic, Lowe was signed to the Discovery Channel team just last week, adding to the growing list of Australian riders plying their trade with Pro Tour teams. A two-year deal to ride on the team of now-retired Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, rising stars Yaroslav Popovych and Tom Danielson and two-time Giro d'Italia winner Paolo Savoldelli was an opportunity the 21-year-old Victorian "just couldn't resist."
Riding for the Jittery Joe's squad at Georgia and Redlands, Lowe took the best young rider jersey in the Georgia race, and shortly after this the good folk at Discovery Channel came a knockin'. "They started talking to me after Georgia, and then a bit more after the Tour de France. It all happened pretty quickly. I mean, a year ago, I had no idea this could've happened - it's such a great opportunity," said Lowe.
And like another ex-mountain biker Ryder Hesjedal before him, Lowe is already in the 'family' so to speak, riding for the Subaru-Gary Fisher MTB squad - Discovery Channel and the Subaru team are partners, sharing commercial links through the Trek corporation. Lowe believes this has, and will, make the transition easier, saying, "I'm not holding back with this, and neither are they. The team I ride for [Subaru-Gray Fisher] is linked to Discovery Channel; what has happened with me is similar to what happened with Ryder last year. It's pretty exciting."
It seems, therefore, that the road is now where it's at for Lowe, and he confirmed this. "I'm now one hundred per cent focused on the road. I mean, I'll still get off road for some training and a few races here and there, but for me it's the road now." And he follows good company, with dual MTB World Champion Cadel Evans riding for Mapei and T-Mobile after his switch from off road racing. He's now settled well and winning on the road with Davitamon-Lotto. When asked about comparisons between himself and Evans, Lowe is enthusiastic, saying, "I'd definitely like to aim for it. Road racing is so big, you've got to aim high. It's like the Formula 1 of cycling. I'm really happy I'm able to make the move early in my career, because you never know when you're going to get the chance. I'm definitely excited to be handed such a big opportunity so early."
When Cyclingnews spoke to Lowe earlier this season, he mentioned the possibility of racing on the road 'at some stage' but seemed committed to racing MTB in the NORBA series. After some tough results and a period where "the legs just weren't quite working", however, it appeared to some observers that maybe North America wasn't quite where Lowe was most comfortable. This was in fact the opposite; the young Australian was maybe a little too comfortable in the States and a move to Europe was what he needed. "It [the move to Europe] will be a challenge. I love living at my 'base' in Colorado, it's awesome; but I was getting comfortable in the States - I need the challenge at this early part of my career to get it happening. I'll probably live in Italy; Sid [Taberlay] and I lived there while racing for Mapei, so I know a bit of the language and my way around the place - I'd like to base myself there."
And speaking of Italy, Lowe is currently in Livigno for the MTB World Championships, contesting the espoirs race on Friday. "It's a tough course - super steep - and you're pretty much straight into this bugger of a hill from the go. In practice I was doing it in my granny gear, but of course I won't be doing that for the race!" Lowe goes into the race as one of the definite favourites, and for good reason - he became World Champion in the junior XC class in 2002 before heading to North America to race. As he's said before, worlds is a case of having it on the day, and anything can happen.
It was the on-road performances of Lowe that caught the eye of Discovery Channel, and they came at the Tour de Georgia, a short stage race; would Lowe then aim to ride these types of events in the future?
"I'm not sure at the moment, it just depends on what the team has in store for my programme; I'd love to do the shorter stage races, events such as the Tour of Austria and Tour of Germany - the sort of races that are a rung down from Grand Tour level but still have a strong field contesting them." And although he hasn't met any of the team's riders yet, he's well aware of what may be in store, saying "This year Ryder [Hesjedal] was pretty active in the spring classics and then the Giro; after that he was pretty fried as it's pretty full on - there's definitely plenty of racing."
But for now it's time for worlds and then home to Australia for relaxation time, including some fishing and a bit of mountain biking, plus an operation. "I have to get a plate removed from my shoulder, and I won't be able to do much for about ten days after, which means I can get some time to go fishing and just relax. I'll probably do a couple of off road races when I'm there, but I don't want to get injured - I don't think Discovery Channel would be too happy about that!"
One thing's for certain, however - there's no lack of enthusiasm from Australia's newest Pro Tour rider, and for good reason. When you're signed to ride in such prestigious company surely the only way is up. Watch this space for news of another Australian riding the Tour de France in years to come.