Monday, January 20, 2014

Dylan Cooper - Interview with a Canberra Gun

Dylan Cooper has won just about every National level XCM and XCO standalone race as well as the respective accompanying series, yet still finds time to keep it real on a local level. Confident, yet humble, he is the consummate professional and is one of the sport’s most amazing racers to watch. He sets the bar for all racers in the Canberra region.
I first interviewed Dylan Cooper back in July of 2010. We did a quick question and answer session which was a pretty basic affair. At the time, he was racing for Trek full time in Japan. Ironically, he is now back with Trek and is ramping up for a killer 2014. Check out what Coops has to say...

For the record, please state your…
Name: Dylan Cooper
Age (if any): 34
Race category: Elite Men (although I guess I could race Vets now!)
Current sponsors: Target Trek MTB Racing
Do you have a day-job at all? Web designer for (owned by yours truly)

Let’s settle this one right now, as it is a burning question in the Canberra cycling scene. What is the circumference of your calf muscle? Are they bigger than Michael Cupitt’s?
Ha! I'll have to stand against Cupitt. And I've never measured my calves, but I know both a normal man's hands can't fit around one calf.

OK, I can just imagine that everyone has read this and is now putting their hands around their calf muscles to validate. Stop it you muppets! Read on...... 2014 has brought change in the form of a new deal with Trek. What else has changed in your life recently?
A new baby girl, which is amazing. I'll also be married in November this year. So a bit of change I guess.

That's awesome. Congratulations. So, how long have you been racing \ riding bikes for?
A total of 14 years now, with a 6 year break in the middle. Man, time flies!! I still love riding more than ever.

How did you get into bike racing?
I used to play a few different sports and loved them all. But then a guy in my rugby union team rocked up on a new mountain bike, while I had a crappy 10-speed Spokesman racer. That thing with fat tyres was coolest thing I'd ever seen! I went to a bike shop and asked about bikes and riding. They sent me to CORC, who were really helpful. Then I saved up for a fully rigid, heavy steel MTB with cantilever brakes and 18 gears and the rest is history. I've tried even more sports since then, but still haven't found one as challenging or completely fulfilling as mountain biking.

If you are racing against Cooper, this is probably all you will be seeing...

How many bikes do you currently own?
I don't really like owning more than two, but with an overlap in season rigs, plus the fact that I'll be racing a variety of disciplines this year, I've currently got 9 bikes.

Racing has taken you all over the world. Which countries have gotten a stamp in the passport? Ah, more memories... Just for racing - Canada, USA, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, most countries in Western Europe, and Queanbeyan.
Ahhh the 2620..... they don't race much there any more. How many races in total would you do in a 12 month period?
I've tried to minimise it over the past few years. But this year I'll train up more and be able to handle a full season. Including clubbies, major XC and Marathon races, and Enduros I'll be looking at about 35 races. Then there's schmoadie racing to add, if I have time.

What is the toughest race, mentally or physically, that you have ever done?
Without a doubt XC World Champs. Any of the six I've done. Apart from being the fastest mountain bike races on the planet, with everyone being super fast and in peak form, you're dealing with additional elements like a new environment, new terrain and rider traffic. It's mayhem and it kills!
You made the bold move from 2602 to 2611 last year. Tactically, your brother set the bar with a 2902 tattoo on his stomach. Are you going to step up and get a 2611 stamp to match?
Apart from tatts being filthy (no offense intended) I prefer not to promote division in any form. Nationality, team, discipline, suburb... we're all 'riders'. Peace.

Cooper receives a bouquet of flowers on Valentines day......or he just won a race in Japan....or both...

Classic! Is there a favourite, must-do race on your calendar?
I reckon the James Williamson Enduro Challenge is a great one, because the course has something for every type of rider. But mainly because it has a special vibe that's really unique and special. But maybe it's just in my head. Racing in memory of a great friend is special.
Yeah, that's an awesome event, I really like it. How many Strava KOMs do you currently own?
I'm not sure, but Marathon races tend to pick up a few. While most of them are meaningless, a lot of them seem to either be 'flagged' anyway. Or they become banned segments (like the Black Mtn and Ainslie descents) for being too dangerous.

Say what?! Those are the only reasons to climb those hills!! Oh well, do you do much on Strava these days?
Since I got a Garmin 2 years ago I've been uploading the data to Strava. It's a more fun way to monitor training than all the other software around. But really I just turn the GPS on and ride, then each week look at what I've done and then have a gauge of where I'm improving or need to improve.
I like that. Just keep it simple. Which era of Guns n' Roses did you prefer?
Definitely Use Your Illusion II. What an album. The Spaghetti Incident was a tragic affair though.
Nice choice! UYI 2 was definitely the better one of the double release on September 17th 1991. Spaghetti blew big time. You don’t get good without a certain amount of input. What’s your standard week look like, with regard to duration, km, climbing, specific workouts etc?
For the past 3 years I've reduced my training a lot, relying on 'muscle memory' and all the Ks in my legs from previous years, training 10-15 hours over 5 days each week. My most common ride is normally a dirt or hilly road ride (Cotter usually), going hard when I feel like it, then finishing off with my favourite traffic-free loop of Lake Burley Griffin at a cruisy pace. I think I've done a million laps of that lake! BUT, as of last month and for the first time in 3 years I've been hitting up some road bunches and doing more like 20 hours a week (600km or so). I've even done some hill repeats (like with you on Stromlo) a few times. Local crits and XCs give me some intensity training. I like to rely on races to get race fit, which hurts a lot to begin with, but then fitness comes quickly.

How do you train? Powermeter, Heart Rate Monitor, Feel, following wheels, Jedi Force?
I think I'm the least scientific rider on the scene. Since making my comeback to racing in late 2004 I decided I wouldn't do too much structured stuff. But I still love smashing myself. I mainly go by feel, doing four hard days a week, one easy to medium day, and two rest days. I really just try and get a mix of all types of riding in. I've used a heart rate monitor on and off just to see where I'm sitting in my range to tell me if I'm tired or if my threshold is moving up. That's as complex as I get!

The keen eye will notice the rigid fork on the 26er hardtail

You have set the bar for the last few years in the XCM format winning each of the coveted classics that make up the year. Do you have a stand out event that was quite satisfying from a personal perspective?
The Highland Fling in 2011 stands out. Mainly because everything was against me. I hadn't done much training through winter, I got sick 2 weeks out, cramped early in the race (causing me to get dropped from the main group), and got a minute time penalty for stuffing around in transition (nature called and I have a large bladder). But the thing is I really wanted to win it, after being 2nd the year before. The main thing is it showed me that if you really want to win a race and are willing to dig deep, you can. Then again, I've focussed more on race prep since then.

That was a really super tough race that year. Who is on your radar when you rock up to a race?
Everyone I guess, as a whole. But essentially the race course is. Apart from avoiding being held up early on I just try and hit a course as fast and efficiently as I can over the whole duration of a race.
What do you think of the newly proposed XCM races intertwined with the XCO races?
It's a bit of a joke. When I heard they had both series in the same months I thought "surely they're not stupid enough to have them overlap". It seems they are.
Do you enjoy racing the local Canberra Off Road Cyclist club XCO races?
I always have and still do. I love rolling out of my house, riding to and from the club races, and getting a good hit out in a friendly atmosphere on our local trails. CORC do a great job and we're lucky to have so many regular races to take part in. Winning them isn't easy either, especially with some hard training still in the legs.
Yeah, it's almost as hard as winning a National Round some times. So, what’s your take on mountain bike stage races?
Apart from Cape to Cape in 2012, I've only done them in Europe, and loved them. Although they're hard to organise logistically, they seem to be getting more popular. I think they're going to grow even more, if promoters run them well. I'm excited about Port to Port.

You lived the summer to summer dream floating southern to northern hemisphere for quite a while. When was the last time you actually lived through a full Canberra winter?
Including some back packing time, I did ten years in a row with no Canberra winter. I detest the cold, but with more reasons to stay home now I've now bared the last three winters. Cycling isn't a good sport to do in winter, so I shut it down and wait for spring. But being able to ride at midday when I want helps me survive. I don't know how you work full time and still get the miles in.
Do you spend any time on the tanning bed, or is it your Argentinian background that provides you with the bronzed appearance?
Ha ha! Tanning beds are an evil invention. But my half Chilean blood (born in Argentina) and a couple of trips to the coast help avoid any pastiness.
Ok, that seems legit! Where do you feel your strengths lie on the bike? Any place for improvement?
I'd say skill, efficiency and a willingness to hurt all help me win races. But I've become complacent over the past few years and need to tune those up again. I can't rely on those to win now and need to improve my power to weight ratio, general strength and leg speed. Hence my doing more road stuff lately. I should also be a lot more methodical about my training, but I've decided I'd rather keep the balance between fun and performance, without over-stepping the mark. I don't want to be one of those riders that performs well for a few years, then hates it enough to permanently hang up the bike.

That's a really good call. Such a fine line. Another deep one....what is your take on the colour ‘white’ in cycling?
While it's timeless and looks nice and crisp, it's been overdone recently. Black is being overdone as we speak. So I think 2014 is the year of the colour.

Your stem is probably not as slammed or long as this, nor do you rock a skinsuit this well

Apart from myself of course, who are riders that you rate highly (for whatever reason), and why?
Yes, you have my respect JD! My respect for riders usually comes from their personalities off the bike, as people. That usually transfers to how they ride and race. How riders race under pressure also exposes a lot about them. So I find I lose respect for a lot of riders if they're 'sly' or 'soft' or bad sports in races. The riders that gain my respect are those concerned with how they go about things (like winning) rather than just the winning part. That applies not only to elite riders, but anyone. That's why I find myself admiring and respecting non-elite riders more than elites. Those who I see giving their all when they're not as fit us the elites.

Canberra you may have found that it is a pretty awesome place to live if you are into bikes. What are the standouts that you have in your standard ride playlist?
We are lucky here. I never get sick of two-wheel drifts at Stromlo, but if it's wet I love the Bruce Ridge trails. And now the Centenary Trail has taken me back to my junior days when Stickman, the Patons, the Joneses, Lynal, and the crew would take me on a 'Tour de Canberra', joining up all the best trails and bike paths in one day. It highlights how much variety and quality riding we have here.
Recently a few of you hit up the Centennial Trail in Canberra on a Friday on the mountain bikes. I believe that you were the only one to back up for the Saturday bunch ride. Was there a bit of half-wheeling going on during the Friday ride?
Ah yes, I was keen on a tempo ride, but a certain rider (who you perhaps frequent with) decided to start half-wheeling me and others on cruisy sections (eg: bike paths). I must admit one of my pet hates is half-wheeling, especially when I know the half-wheeler won't sustain it anyway. I always give it a while to subside, but if it doesn't then I bite back. It's funny when half-wheelers can't handle the bite back.
Ah yes, the rookie mistake of half wheeling a seasoned #pro..... In your ideal world if you had to pick the perfect day on the bike, what would it consist of?
Massive brekky and lots of coffee, rolling out from home (no packing cars involved) on a warm and dry summer's day, meeting up with mates to ride hard for a few hours on the best trails in town, stopping at a cafe near the end, then getting home to some real food and beverages. I love relaxing after an epic. 

At Stromlo, are you comfortable with a two wheel drift?
Oh yeah! That's what I like most about those trails. They were even better when they were looser and unpredictable, but it seems every month they smoothen and widen another trail. If it wasn't for that dry, dusty surface tailor-made for drifting it could get boring.
Yeah, you just run a low profile knob tire and it is drift city! So, what’s on the cards for 2014 and beyond?
Fine tune the set up on all my Trek rigs, ramp up the quality training, do more racing, work less, and just enjoy the life of a dad and mountain biker. It's going to be a tough but fun year! Beyond that, who knows!
Word Association – respond with one word (or a sentence if required) to the following...
Bakery Bunch: Posing
Sock Height: Tan lines
Internet Forums: Sad
Social Media: Saturated
Espresso or Latte: Soy latte
Road Races: Sketchy
Cross Country (XCO) MTB racing: Lactic
MTB stage racing: Future
100km (XCM) races: Gruelling
Effective training: Hurt
Favourite MTB tyre: A nice and worn down Bontager XR0 Team Issue. So fast!
Hardtail or Dually: As of this week, BOTH
Andy Blair: P.R.
Lewy Cressy: (Fast) Gentlemen
Peter Hatton: Driver
Sid Taberlay: Cunning (in a good way)
Shaun Lewis: Wombat
Daniel McConnell: Class
Thanks Dylan, always insightful. Any final words?
A pleasure. Great Qs. You've made me think too much about riding - past, present and future. That's a good thing. Keep in it JD!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

2014 - Kick off with a new bike! - Cannondale F29er Pictorial Review

2014 is finally here and I am really fortunate enough to be aboard the sensational bikes from Cannondale once again. This year marks my 4th year with Cannondale and once again I will be teaming up with Andrew Hall as a part of the Cannondale-Sugoi Factory Racing team.

Every time I get a new bike, there is also a new psyche! You get really motivated once the new machine comes in. This year I am aboard the Cannondale F29er Team Issue bike. It is a full SRAM XX1 equipped machine. This is my 3rd year on the SRAM equipment, with the last two years having used the SRAM XX groupset. All I can say is that SRAM XX1 is a gamechanger - check it out if you haven't already.

Anyway, I think it will be sufficient to just post up a tuckload of detailed photos and let them do the talking! Check them out!