Cyclocross season has been underway since April. In Australia. Imagine you’re an Australian-based professional racer looking at a ‘cross season that starts five months before everyone else’s and runs through the World Championships. It’s like having two seasons back-to-back. And imagine you have a full-time job as a Financial Advisor. Professional racer Garry Millburn faces this situation each year. We spoke with him recently and talked about the long road he rides and being a ‘cross ambassador in a place not known for the sport.
Cyclocross Magazine: How is your season going thus far?
Garry Millburn: I didn’t get much of a break after World Championships in February, with the Australian season kicking off in April. Its been going really well so far with some good results. The first and second national rounds were held on the weekend, two solid days of racing and I placed third on both days. I am currently leading the state series and both local series as well.
CXM: When did your 2016/17 season officially start? Have you been racing since the opening race?
GM: The season opener was CX Newcastle on 23rd April, and it’s sort of on my door-step so I couldn’t miss it. Plus it’s a good course and always loads of fun.
CXM: How do you manage racing so early in the year compared to other professionals focused on cyclocross who are based in Europe or North America? Is your season ultimately longer, or are you taking a break at some point to gear up for the World Cup calendar?
GM: It does mean I have a pretty long season. I don’t really get the opportunity to have time off the bike to recharge as our National Championships are the end of August. Then only a few weeks later, it’s September/October and it all starts ramping up on the other side of the world. Last year I was lucky enough to take some time off work to train and race in North America and Europe. I ended up with 60 race days under my belt, so it was a pretty full on season April through to February.
CXM: For readers that may be unfamiliar with your story, how did you come to cyclocross?
GM: I started my cycling career at around 13 years of age. I was mainly a mountain biker and followed that through to the junior World Championships in 2005, where I place 31st.
After that I fell out of love with pedal power and took up racing off-road motorbikes. The high speed nature, while still being out in the bush was calling my name and I followed the racing circuit for four years. In 2010, something clicked and I decided it was time to ride mountain bikes again. I once again chased our national series and local races for challenge and enjoyment.
In August 2011 while on a cycling holiday in France I was cleaned up by a car and that halted my cycling once again. Things were very bad for a while but I pulled through. After many operations and complications I was back riding about nine months later. This was also about the time cyclocross was really starting to kick off in Australia.
Cyclocross was something I had always wanted to try and was a good fit for my skills. I got involved and fell in love from the first race!
CXM: Last year you made it to the Derby City race here in the US. Do you have plans to come back for that race or perhaps another in the US? What of the two World Cup races here, Las Vegas and Iowa City? Will you be back for Cross Vegas?
GM: I did quite a bit of racing in North America last year, Vegas, Holy week, Boulder, Cincy, Derby City and some local Colorado racing. It was great racing and I am planning on coming back to North America, but probably not this year as I do hold down a full time job as a Financial Advisor. I hear so much about Jingle Cross in Iowa and would be keen to come and race that in the future.
CXM: Between Worlds and the start of this season, what were you up to? Did you take a break or were you racing mountain bikes? Any road racing or other sports?
GM: On the way home from Worlds, I stopped off in Japan for Tokyo Cross, which was so much fun. Good race, good vibe. I then took a couple of weeks off the bike, hit the gym, caught up with all my family and friends that I hadn’t seen for eight months. Then spent another few weeks just enjoying riding in the remnants of the Aussie summer with no training program. They are the best days, endless sunshine, good company and epic rides.
CXM: We understand you have a new team program for this year. Tell us a little bit about that.
GM: The formation of Speedvagen x MAAP CX team was sparked by a little chat over coffee with Jeff Curtes. Being the networking man that Jeff is and his long list of associates compiled through his photography, SpeedvagenxMAAP was born.
A partnership with Portland, Oregon, based bike manufacturer The Vanilla Workshop and MAAP, the coolest cycling clothing brand hailing from Melbourne, Australia. The team will race domestically for the Australian season, and then turn its attention to selected international events.
CXM: Aside from Speedvagen and MAAP what other gear will you be running this year?
GM: The Speedvagen X MAAP team have some great support lined up with the likes of SRAM, ENVE, Kogel Bearings and Giro. I am really stoked to have some of the brands I’ve been working with for a few years on board the program and I feel like we have a really good collaboration happening.
CXM: Is there any piece of equipment or thing that you absolutely have to have done to your bike, be it for performance or just plain superstition?
GM: I like my bikes to be identical in every way. I don’t believe in having an A bike and a B bike, because then you tend to favour one bike over the other. When you are racing in Belgium and swapping every lap that is not a good thing. And I nearly always have a drink bottle cage on my bike, unusual for ‘cross but it gets hot in Australia!
CXM: Australia, perhaps like the US, isn’t the first place that comes to mind when one says cyclocross. Do you see yourself as the sport’s ambassador in your home country?
GM: Ive been referred to being that quite a bit and I am humbled to know people think that of me. It’s quite a niche sport in Australia and I do my best to promote the sport, support up and coming riders and welcome beginners.
CXM: Do you have a funny story or something interesting that maybe not too many folks know that you’d be willing to share?
GM: I had just arrived in Belgium the day before Namur World Cup, my first World Cup. I really didn’t know what to expect. The course was insane, totally different to anything we raced in Australia and it was icy cold. The pros were rocking up with their mechanics, four bikes and 20 sets of wheels.
I sent my wife and spare bike to the pit and figured she would just work it out from there. I got lapped out pretty early on, so I headed to the pit to wash my bike–while the race was still going on. Needless to say some burly Belgian mechanic told me to “GET OUT!” and it was photographed which went a little viral in the Australian Cycling community. “Can anyone help out Garry Millburn, looks like he needs someone in the pits for him.” Rookie Error.
CXM: You’re going to be 30 in February. For those getting into the sport, younger riders in particular, what advice would you give them?
GM: Wow, don’t say that out loud! If you are totally new to cross, come out and watch some racing, get a bike…there are open categories here is Australia so a MTB will do, just start racing and getting a feel for it.
If you are in the sport and wondering how to get better, ride and then ride some more and then practice dismounting, remounting, running with your bike, hopping little logs and progressing up to bigger ones. I see it a lot, people get hung up on having the best bikes but that isn’t what makes you fast. Lots of practice, lots of racing and enjoy the competition because that’s what makes you fast.