Back in 2000, an up-and-coming country cyclist by the name of Gareth Fuller made the Nationals as an Under 15. His parents celebrated by buying him a replica Tour de France-winning Trek 5200. More than two decades later he still owns it—and rode it to finish sixth overall in the inaugural 170km Mudgee Classic back in May.
Strolling around the Glen Willow Regional Sporting Complex at the end of the 2021 Mudgee Classic, carbon bikes are a dime a dozen. There are literally hundreds of them everywhere you look, mostly of similar vintage and styling.
But on closer inspection, one stands out. Resplendent in a decidedly retro livery of blue and white with red ‘Trek’ decals, it belongs to local Mudgee rider Gareth Fuller who has just piloted it to finish sixth place in the inaugural 170km Maxi Classic, with an average speed of over 40kph.
Hand-built in the USA, and no doubt considered an absolute rocket ship in its day, Gareth Fuller’s replica 1999 US Postal Service Trek 5200 instantly conjures images—historic and contentious—of Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie and Co smashing the peloton across the countryside and mountains of France.
Gareth explains his parents bought him the bike new from Sydney’s iconic Clarence Street Cyclery back in 2000, just after he’d made the U15 Nationals.
Considering he still rides it some 21 years later, it’s no surprise to learn the frame and handle bars are the only original parts left, with several modifications initially required to keep pace with his growing body, as well as numerous other component upgrades along the way.
“As I got the bike so young, I pretty quickly outgrew the seatpost and the head stem,” he says explaining the Trek 5200 isn’t an actual team issue, rather a team replica.
“It’s a full carbon (OCLV) fibre frame with alloy drop-outs. It was originally running an Ultegra 6500 groupset with Rolf Vector wheels, but these days it has Dura Ace 7800 with Dura Ace WH-7800 wheels. The current headset was actually changed the day before the Mudgee Classic as the bearings were buggered!”
Casting an eye over Gareth’s pride and joy from close quarters, it’s clearly been very well used and certainly carries a few battle scars. But, as he points out, it’s also spent its fair share of time off the road over the past two decades.
“I’ve ridden it, on and off, ever since I got it,” Gareth says. “Unfortunately, not long after we first bought it, I had glandular fever—for about five years I barely rode it at all. Then I had a short stint of racing in my early 20s, before I decided to go travelling. I actually took the bike with me to Italy with the idea of doing some riding and racing over in Europe. But it didn’t make it out of my mate’s shed!
“…I just love riding it in big bunches and testing myself against all the new carbon bikes…”
“It literally sat in his shed for a couple of years, before I finally brought it back home to Australia,” he continues.
“In my late 20s, I took it out for a few celebrity appearances here and there. But it was when I hit my 30s and started doing triathlons that I really began to ride it again. Would you believe it’s actually been my only road bike? I’ve become very attached to it.”
Gareth reveals he even has nickname for his beloved Trek. “I call it ‘Lance’ and always joke that I’m channelling his climbing ability when I ride it!” he laughs. “After all, thinking your bike climbs well is 90% of the struggle, right?”
Clearly, cycling technology has come an enormous way during the past 20 years. Does Gareth ever envisage a time when they’ll have to part ways?
“No, I don’t think so. I just love riding it in big bunches and testing myself against all the new carbon bikes. That said, I will probably be getting a new bike soon as I begin to race again. But I will definitely keep this one as a special occasion and classics bike.”
Glad to hear it, Gareth. We’ll look out for you and ‘Lance’ at the 2022 Mudgee Classic.
Type: Trek 5200 (nicknamed ‘Lance’)
Frame: 1999 Trek 5200 OCLV Carbon (US Postal Service Team Replica)
Groupset: Shimano Dura Ace 7800
Rims: Shimano Dura Ace WH-7800