Cyrus Monk: Musician, university student and Australian national champion

21-year-old confounding expectations

On Saturday in Buninyong, Cyrus Monk made a name for himself winning the U23 national Australian road title. The 21-year-old only started racing in his final year of school. Prior to cycling, Monk immersed himself in a variety of activities, school and sports. While cricket and football have fallen by the wayside for Monk, music continues to be a key component of his life into his 20s.

A third-year student at the University of Melbourne, majoring in physiology, Monk's pathway into the sport might be unusual, but on the bike, his tenacity and strength hold him in good stead.

A ride as a trainee with Cannondale-Drapac last year exposed Monk to high-level European racing and left him knowing the dream of a professional contract is within his reach. He continued with the Drapac EF p/b Cannondale Holistic Development Team this season but knows that wins are required to step up to the WorldTour level. On the first opportunity, he duly delivered.

"You try and picture that every training ride for the past four months so it is pretty hard to believe it has actually happened," Monk said of his biggest win to date.

On Saturday morning, Monk was "furious" with the decision by Cycling Australia to cut the length of the U23 men's road race due to extreme weather conditions - high temperatures and blustery winds that threatened to turn into raging bushfires through the dry Ballarat scrubland.

Like his namesake Thelonious and possibly drawing on his own jazz background, Monk improvised, making a long-range, solo, successful bid for the win.

"Basically, I was just focused on putting in the best nationals I could and then Sun Tour after that. I am really hoping for a UniSA start at Tour Down Under. That ride is usually enough to get a spot in that so I would feel pretty stiff if I missed out. I'll wait and see with that one," Monk said, hoping not to join Ben Dyball, the last U23 winner to miss selection in 2011.

Monk is also hoping to earn a WorldTour contract with the EF-Drapac WorldTour team, too. "They were pretty happy with how I rode for them last year but they wanted to see a few more results. I have started the year pretty well in terms of that."

In addition to targeting selection for Tour Down Under with UniSA-Australia, Monk hopes to be selected for the other WorldTour event, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, which, on paper, is well suited to his characteristics. In the 2015 edition of the 228-kilometre ride from Grafton to Inverell, Monk's second place confirmed his capabilities in one-day races, and he is keen to explore the genre.

"I definitely like one-day racing. Because it is always hard and selective. I like a controlled race in theory because you don't have to concentrate the whole day but I always end up doing better in the chaotic races like this race always is," he said. "I found myself doing better in Belgian one-day races. That is one thing I would like to target but obviously, you just have to have a huge engine to be doing that kind of stuff once you get to Europe. I have a lot of work to do before I can take it to the WorldTour."

Monk's team includes the phrase 'Holistic Development', one that may sound odd in the cycling world, but the Victorian is a believer in the concept, which simply means that the team supports and encourages its riders to be well rounded and plan for post-cycling careers.

"Our team is obviously all about holistic development and a lot of people just think that is bullshit - but if you look at all the riders, they are all developing and switched on," Monk said. "If they are throwing away the bike, it is because they have a job set up to walk into straight after. There is no one who is fully committed who realises they are not going to make it and have nothing to do after. It is so much less pressure. Coming into this I know if it doesn't work out and I've got it wrong on the bike, then I have the uni degree to fall back on and it makes it so much more enjoyable riding my bike."

There is no insincerity in Monk's application of his varied of interests, hobbies and profession, and although a jazz career like that of Thelonious Monk may be out of the question, music could still be a future pathway for Cyrus. For now, a green and gold jersey and the opportunity to travel the world though has sealed the deal for cycling.

"I have heard of Thelonious Monk and played quite a few of his songs back in the day so that was a good namesake to have. Mum used to take me to a few jazz and folk festivals as a kid so it is not the most common hobby outside of cycling but it is still good to have something different on everyone else," he said.

"Saxophone was my main instrument. I haven't played that so much recently," he said. "I usually use the guitar to switch off and do something else. My sister is still pursuing a musical theatre career path. I tried to accompany her along the way but she is definitely out my league when it comes to music at the moment. It is quite funny that we both used to be sporty and into music but she has gone down the music path and is now getting some big gigs. I have gone the cycling path and getting some free trips around the world so it is working out pretty well."

With a national title and a name to watch as one of the most promising in the Australian U23 ranks.

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