Welcome to part 2 of our interview with Jared Graves. In part 1 we discussed his thoughts on the Enduro World Series, the merits of the various Enduro formats, and his performance at the downhill World Champs. In part 2, Jared talks about training and racing across so many disciplines, and answers the questions you submitted through Facebook.
In part 1 of out interview, you talked about your decision to race your SB66 at the World Champs a being based on the fact you where most comfortable on that bike. On that matter of getting comfortable on a bike, you’ve obviously jumped between a lot more bikes than most people, including a cross country bike. Where did your decision to race XCO at the National Champs come from?
I got a road bike again after not having been on a roadie for about 10 years. With the EWS coming up I knew I had the skills and the power, but I had to get as fit as I possibly could. So I started road riding in October, but by the time I got to the new year I was feeling strong on the road bike, and I got a cross country bike too. I did a few of the local races, just having fun and I won some of them quite comfortably ahead of guys who’d done quite well at Nationals previously. At that point I decided I’d give Nationals a go.
I managed about six weeks of specific training for it ahead of the event. Again, the only way I can really stay motivated to train 100% is if I have lots of mini goals along the way. And it was just another bit of motivation to keep the training up for the Enduro season.
I’m looking forward to doing it all again. I’ve spent the last three weeks on the road bike and I’m hoping to take things a step further in XCO this year. It’s hard with cross-country training – I don’t want to lose my top end power and become just a climbing machine. It’s always going to be hard when I’m carrying 10 or so kilos more than most of the other top cross-country guys. But it’s good fun and I’m looking forward to giving it a good nudge.
Just on that, tell us about the process of shedding weight to race XCO.
Yeah, it was hard. In BMX and 4X there’s a lot of emphasis on maintaining your maximum strength, and most of the guys are carrying a bit of excess body fat. There are very riders out there who can be at their maximum strength and stay super lean. The first bit of weight came off pretty easy, but the rest was hard, 200g per week or so. I pretty much spent six months of the year feeling a little bit hungry the whole time.
How many calories a day were you limiting yourself to?
I don’t know, to me calorie counting and that kind of stuff just does my head in. If you’re watching that kind of stuff every day it just wears you down – you’ll end up in an asylum if you monitor that stuff too closely. I would just eat when I was really hungry, and only eat to the point I was satisfied.
Straight after the Australian National XCO Champs race I went back up three kilos, I started eating properly again because the focus changed to getting that top-end power back for good solid five minute efforts. When you’re primarily going downhill in enduro, weight’s your friend to a degree, helping you keep momentum.
You could’ve smoked lots of cigarettes to supress your appetite.
Yeah, and that’ll shrink your lungs too, so that’d help save weight too!
Do you have general level of baseline training that you do regardless of what discipline you’re focused on at the time?
Yeah, definitely. I’m not the kind of person who can sit around. I had about five days completely off the bike when I got home from the World Champs and after the EWS too. And that’s about my limit – after five days without riding I feel like I’m a fat, lazy bum, and I need to get back onto the bike. It’s like a bipolar mood swing I have if I don’t get to ride!
As long as I can get in 8-10 hours on the bike a week, you know you’re keeping a decent level of fitness and it’d not too hard to get back up to a peak again from that level. That’s the minimum for to do to not feel like a sack of turd.
Do you do a lot of cross training?
Nah, I mean I do exercises in the gym, but nothing else really. In the gym it’s not really about upper body stuff, just some core stuff and working on some muscle imbalances. You know, when you’re always riding one foot forward, then one leg will have different strength. I always have trouble with my right leg being stiff from having one foot forward, and this causes muscle imbalances in my hips and back.
All my training has some good wiggle room in there for my sanity; if I don’t feel like doing one thing one day, I can mix it up. But when you’re doing road, gym stuff, cross country, downhill runs there’s always something you want to do, which is nice.
Do you have a coach?
No, it’s always something that I’ve had an interest in, and I’ve learnt a lot from sports scientists that we had access to over the years through the BMX program. Obviously there are some areas of specific knowledge when it comes to certain aspects of training, but for a lot of it it’s not really rocket science to work out what you need to do.
I’ve always on the computer looking for articles by different coaches, anything I can get my hands on. Now’s the time of year when I can experiment a bit more, a bit of trial and error to see what works for me. You get good at fishing out the stuff that sounds like absolute rubbish and the stuff that you feel will work for you.
We wanted to ask you about using power meters in your training. Is power training important to you?
Yeah, I can take my files from a racing and then apply that to training. But also I use it racing too, particularly in races where there are timed liaison stages. I could take my knowledge from using the power meter on the road bike and know what power output to sit on where I was able to recover but still maintain a decent speed. Whereas a lot of guys would ride flat-out to get to the top of the next stage so they could rest up when they got there, I was able to use the climb to the top of the next stage as an active recovery.
Now, the Cycling Australia awards have just happened a couple of weeks ago. Despite coming second in the EWS and third at the World Champs in downhill, you didn’t even get a nomination – what’s the story?
Yeah, I figure they didn’t include the Enduro stuff because it’s not a UCI series… I don’t know, I’ve won that award a couple of times before, and the last time I won it I totally didn’t expect to even be nominated. So when I did win it I was overseas training already. This year, I thought I was a shoe-in for a nomination, maybe even with a chance at winning it. And to not get a nomination was hard to understand. It’s just one of those things.
I just get the feeling there may be some people there making the decisions who aren’t really that into the sport. I mean, I’ve always been a really big mountain bike fan, I can list off the names of the top riders from all the different disciplines, I follow it all because I just love cycling. But I think there are some people behind those awards who couldn’t name five of the top Enduro riders or five of the top downhillers. That’s what frustrates me, they’re meant to be in charge of our sport in this country.
How old are you now?
I am thirty.
And where do you see yourself in ten years time?
Ha, who knows? Running around with the kiddies somewhere, just cruising. I don’t know – one thing I’ve learnt is that life has its own plans. You can map things out but you never really know; I’m lucky that things have always kind of fallen into place for me to some extent. Opportunities come up, and if they interest me I’ll take them as far as I can.
You’ve won titles in most disciplines. What do you rate as your greatest cycling achievement to date?
Jeez, there’s probably not one. I put a few of them on pretty level par. I think the things where I’ve really gone after it are what make me proudest. The Olympics is one of those things – I’d only been racing BMX for a couple of years, so to get to that level in a relatively short time made me pretty happy. And this year again, getting to the level I’ve got with Enduro makes me proud. I guess anything where I’ve really worked my butt of to get to a goal and then achieved it I rate equally, it’s about as satisfying as it gets.
Is there any goal you must tick off before you’ll be completely happy?
Ah, I don’t know about a ‘must’. I’m too competitive to not win races, so what’s most important for me is to keep progressing. If there’s ever a time that I feel I’m not going forward then that’s when I’ll be done with racing.
We’ve got a few questions that have come to us via Facebook, including someone asking if they can see you in the nude. Ok, number one: If you to pick one, which discipline would you race for the rest of your life?
Oh, it’s got to be Enduro. It’s the one I would’ve picked from the very start had it been an option all those years ago.
What’s one cycling item you couldn’t live without?
I’m pretty partial to a good set of riding duds. Whether it be lycra on the road bike, or some good baggies on the mountain bike – any really nicely made shorts. You know it when you’re wearing crap shorts.
What is your diet like – are you picky?
I’m not the perfect eater, but I am conscious of what I eat. You definitely won’t see me lining up at the Macca’s drive-through. We try to eat good veggies, fruit and meat, stay away from the crap. There’s always a few little things in the house, biscuits and things like that. My wife Jess is actually probably more of an influence on my diet than any constraints I’ve put on myself. That said, if you put a block of chocolate in front of me I can’t keep my hands off it.
A tech question from Facebook: I notice you run Saint calipers with XTR levers for Enduro, but at the downhill World Champs you had normal Saint brakes. Why?
Ha, that’s someone who has spent too much time looking at photos! Nah, I just prefer the feel of the XTR Race brakes – I use the Race levers, without the Servo Wave just because I prefer the smooth feel of the levers. At the Worlds, the only brakes I had in the team stock were Saint, so we just threw them on there. It wasn’t a performance thing.
Have you experimented with different wheel sizes much?
You know, it’s so funny reading all the comments online about this stuff. It seems there’s two different types of internet warriors: there’s the ‘wheel size is everything’ guys, then the ‘rider is everything’ side. It’s obviously the rider, but the wheel size is a factor. 27.5” works, and it’s obviously the future. I think Jerome Clementz said it well in an interview I read, when he pointed out that the big reason to still be on 26” still is that tyre manufacturers haven’t quite caught up yet and there’s not the same range of tyres out there yet in 27.5”.
Do you run tubeless on your enduro bike?
Oh, yeah, there’s no way you could run tubes. I run ghetto tubeless, using a 24” tube. With the ghetto tubeless setup, there’s pretty much no way you can burp your tyre, unless you hit something really, really hard. I run EXO sidewall tyres from Maxxis, and I didn’t have many flats all year, and none in my race runs.
Here’s something that speaks volumes about the ghetto tubeless setup; I had a pretty beat up wheel that I’d installed in practice for Whistler. We put a brand new tyre on with a 24” tube ghetto tubeless setup. When we pulled the tyre off a couple of days later after it was pretty beat up, I found ten pinches in the tube where the tube overlapped the rim bead. That would have been ten pinches in the actual tyre had I been using a standard tubeless setup. And dead set, the rim looked like a stop sign it was so beat up, but it was still sealed up fine and holding air.
Final question, what would you like to be remembered for: versatility, competitiveness or raw talent?
I guess the only way to answer that would be as a combination of all three really. They’re all really important to me, so that’s what I’ll go for.