Story by Mitch Less & Photography by Stephen Tuff and others at ADB
With the Australian Off-Road Championship season starting, it felt like it was going to be the same old story: Toby Price. With Daniel Milner in the USA, Chris Hollis suffering a shoulder injury in the Enduro-X Nationals and Glenn Kearney coming back from a bad foot injury, the only obvious threats to Pricey are the likes of Josh Green and a bunch of young-guns like Tom McCormack, Daniel Sanders, Tye Simmonds, Beau Ralston and Lachlan Stanford.
The latter group have talent that most of us can only dream about, but they don’t have the AORC track time that Price does. I’m not saying it’s a done deal, but the odds against a new champ are fairly long.
So, rather than worry about what the factory riders are doing, I’ve pleaded and begged my way onto the Factory Sherco Off-Road team to give you the ultimate punter’s version of what it’s like to be a Factory rider in the off-road racing scene. And we’re also going to follow three young punks who'll be travelling all over the country without factory support chasing the Junior silverware.
MITCH LEES, E2
Occupation: ADB Editor
Years Riding: 15
Years racing: 5
AORC bike: Sherco SEF-R
It has always been a dream of mine to race a full season of the AORC. Unfortunately, when you’re not getting paid to do it, or the cost to race all the rounds exceeds your income, then it just can’t happen. My long-term ADB test bike at the moment is a Sherco 300 SEF-R and, after a quick chat with the Sherco mob, I got the green light to race it in this year’s E2 class.
Sherco even fulfilled another dream of mine by ‘including’ me in the factory team! When I say that, I mean they will let me pit under the team tent and have access to all the necessary bits and pieces (mainly food and a place to cry in private). But when it comes to factory goodies, the trick stuff is reserved for Broc Grabham, Mitch Harper and Jess Gardiner.
So, pretty much, I’m looking after my own bike, gear and travel, but Sherco will let me experience a wafer of factory life, under the factory tent. After the commitment from Sherco, preparation became the key.
In February I kick-started my training with an excruciating boot camp with Harper. We started out with a beep test. I’d been swinging off our long-term KTM mountain bike and road bike to build my fitness, so I felt confident going in. I managed to post a 10.2 on the beep. By the end of the season I should be at level 12.
I also did a burpee challenge. A burpee is pretty much a push-up and star-jump rolled into one. The challenge starts with the person doing one burpee a minute, then two in the second minute and so on. I think I got up to 56 burpees at around the nine-minute mark.
To finish things off, Harper and I went for a long mountain bike ride and then spent a few hours on the Shercos to hone my skills. This is a regular day for a factory rider. I'm no longer jealous. As is the case with all clubmen or, as I like to call us, regular humans, life gets in the way.
Unfortunately, as I’m nearly 30, it’s wedding season, which means I’m missing six of the 12 rounds.
Sherco will transport my bike to those six rounds, so all I’ve got to do is turn up. I’m even throwing my gearbag in the Sherco truck!
So far, the pros and cons of being on a race team are evident. Having someone take care of your bike and transport to and from the races, supply fuel, parts, food, race entry and all the other bits and pieces associated with racing the Off-Roads is awesome. However, it also puts extra pressure on you to do well. And, despite not promising much, I’m feeling the pressure. I initially told Sherco it would be an accomplishment for me just to finish each race, but for some reason I’m still feeling nervous! Like I might let them down. I guess this is how it would feel for any factory or supported racer.
As the season progresses I’ll keep you updated.
Click here for the full article