Bicycling Australia has been chatting with National Road Series athletes to get some tips on how we can all ride better and smarter. This edition we get the lowdown from masters-aged club team rider Mark Jewell, who has Oceania and World Masters titles under his belt.
BICYCLING AUSTRALIA: What has your NRS experience been to date, Mark?
MJ: It has been limited to two races. Northwest (Narrabri) and National (Canberra) Tour. Our club, Illawarra, decided to test the waters and enter a team, but we had to enter as wildcards as we are not registered as an NRS team.
BA: How did your team go? Do you think there is a place for club teams in the mix?
MJ: The team went surprisingly well at our first attempt. We had Josh Berry in the top 15 at North West, which we were stoked about; it was a super effort by Josh. Our results in Canberra weren’t as good as we would have liked but our team is still on a steep learning curve and all our riders took away more valuable experience.
Club teams riding in the NRS is great for the sport and a really good way to give their riders top quality racing right on their door step.
BA: Where are you now?
MJ: I’m currently based at home in Wollongong preparing for the Masters National crit and road race. I live in Wollongong.
BA: What stage of life are you at?
MJ: I am 39 and married with three girls.
BA: How did you get into cycling?
MJ: I first got into cycling back in high school through a friend Simon Kersten. The whole Kersten family were a large part of my cycling in the early days.
BA: What do you do for a living?
MJ: I work at BlueScope Steel, Port Kembla in shipping. I also have a small business being an indoor putt putt and play centre for children.
BA: If you live in Wollongong, your home club would be?
MJ: I have been a member of the Illawarra Cycling Club on and off since 1987.
BA: You are masters aged, but do you race only at masters level?
MJ: I currently hold an elite license and race at both elite and masters levels.
BA: Sprinter or stayer?
MJ: I’ve never been a pure sprinter or stayer. I was a track endurance rider for many years before retiring, then have been trying to become an all-round rider since coming back.
BA: Do you belong to a team?
MJ: I was a member of the State and national teams in the mid-’90s but have only really raced in the club (fledgling NRS) team more recently, which has been good fun. The team is not yet registered as an NRS team, but has been fortunate to receive wildcard entries to the North West and tours.
I was a member of the team’s pursuit team at both state and national level.
BA: Do you have a sponsor?
MJ: I don’t have a sponsor as such. I have always believed sponsorship money should be put towards up-and-coming riders who require assistance to reach their peak. Many people have been very helpful and generous over the years. Too many to mention.
BA: Do you have a coach? Do you think having a coach is important, even for masters aged athletes?
MJ: I don’t currently have a coach. But I did for many years. Coaches at any level of cycling are a huge advantage. You see way too many people wasting a lot of time with wrong training techniques and a good coach is a necessity.
BA: You also ride the track. Do you have a preference?
MJ: My favourite is still track, in particular the Madison and teams pursuit. I love these two races and the success I have had over the years brings back some of my greatest memories in my career.
BA: Wollongong is known for having a lot of riding choices. Do you have a favourite ride?
MJ: My favourite rides are usually long days with good mates around the roads of Wollongong and the national parks.
BA: You are obviously still doing a lot of kilometres, despite the family and the job. How do you find the balance?
MJ: Cycling and family balance can be tough at times. Being a shift worker on 12-hour shifts allows me to train a lot during the day. My wife is very understanding as has only ever known me as a cyclist, so I have been into it for a long time. We still manage to squeeze in a great family life, usually going places or traveling with all five of us and the bikes. We also have an onsite van down the coast, which we love to spend time at. With bikes of course.
BA: What bike do you ride?
MJ: I ride a giant Propel with electronic on the road and a Look carbon on the track. The Look, with a pair of Mavic discs, is probably my dream bike. I have never felt a bike as quick, stiff or as enjoyable to ride as this one.
BA: Have you ever raced overseas?
MJ: I have raced overseas at the Oceania Games back in 1993 winning the elimination and teams pursuit. More recently at Manchester last year at the masters world championships, winning teams pursuit, getting second in the time trial and third in the scratch race. All track racing.
BA: So what kind of training is possible around family, job and other commitments?
MJ: My training program has to fit in around a busy lifestyle. I train a lot with Aaron Donnelly and have a similar program to him just with more rest days. SE efforts and TT efforts and good quality stuff along with long steady miles when I can.
BA: What’s more important? The best gear or the hard work?
MJ: The training and preparation are the most important parts of going well. The equipment helps put all the hard work into successful practice.
BA: How do you stay motivated?
MJ: I stay motivated by enjoying my racing and also racing as much as I can. I love to race and getting results keeps you coming back.
BA: From your perspective, how healthy do you think the sport is in Australia?
MJ: Cycling in Australia is in a real good place. The NRS is a great idea and a perfect way for the rising talent of this country to have a stepping stone to bigger teams and better racing. Teams like Huon continue to produce riders of the highest quality who have proven themselves worthy enough to have a place on the Pro Tour.
BA: And what place do cycling clubs have in the puzzle?
MJ: The club idea is a great one for the NRS. I do feel it is racing of the highest standard in this country. I feel it is only really for cyclists who are almost full time and some masters who are silly enough to take part. Masters riders need to be able to pass on some experience to younger riders involved to be able to really take part on a positive note.
BA: How do you go when you have to take time out?
MJ: I don’t cope well at all while not riding. It has become a big part of my life and I can see me riding for many years to come. I also eat a lot and would be in big trouble without all the exercise.
BA: Do blokes like you have heroes?
MJ: When I think about heroes in cycling I more admire some athletes rather than treat them as a hero. One rider who I grew up with and saw him rise to the top was Brad McGee. He had an amazing career, a lot of which was robbed from him because of others’ high drug use during his era. He went from sitting around Parramatta Park to the heights of Le Tour. A true gent and a great bloke.