Take one World Cup downhiller and one cross-country National Champion, mix them with a little Fox Creek grit, and then stick them in the Adelaide oven for two days… Voila! They emerge as Enduro National Champs!
Troy Brosnan and Rowena Fry harken from completely opposite ends of the mountain bike spectrum, and given their niche backgrounds in mountain biking, you might have thought them a pretty unlikely pair to be donning the Enduro National Champs jersey for 2017. But that’s what’s great about this discipline; it allows riders to bring to bear experience from all areas of mountain biking, rewarding those with the full basket of skills and fitness.
We caught up with Troy and Rowena to chat with them about taking the win over two great days of racing in Fox Creek, Adelaide.
Troy Brosnan, hometown hero, had a close battle with fellow World Cup racer and Adelaide lad Connor Fearon at Fox Creek. Fearon had the edge on day 1, but Troy edged ahead on the final four stages.
Flow: Firstly, congrats on a great season – second overall in the World Cup, and now a National Enduro Champs jersey too.
TB: Yep, I’m super proud of how the season went. Obviously it worked well for me in terms of the team and the bike, it was my best season ever, and I’m super excited to have been the first rider to take a Canyon to the top step of a World Cup.
Flow: And then to come out in the off season and win the Enduro Champs too. Was that a focus for you at all?
TB: It certainly wasn’t something I’d planned to do or was training for, in fact I only entered a week or so before because it’s right in my backyard and the trails out there are pretty fun. I actually thought it was a one day race, so I when I found out it was two I thought about pulling out. Even though it was pretty painful, I’m glad I did it in the end!
Flow: It looked like a great battle with Connor, another hometown rider. Do you guys ride together very much?
TB: Yeah it was good racing him. We don’t actually ride together very much in the off season – I mean, if we both end up riding at the same place we do, but it’s not something we plan. We have talked about it a bit in the past, but with our training both being on different schedules it hasn’t worked out.
Flow: So what bike did you decide to ride for the Champs?
Just my usual trail bike, it’s a Canyon Spectral (read our review here). I prefer it to the Strive, it seems to stay planted a little better, and I prefer less travel on a trail bike. It’s completely stock other than the Rockshox and shock, but otherwise it’s the very same bike you can buy off the website. It’s pretty cool, you can buy a stock bike and then race it to a National Championship!
Flow: So, National Champ, we’re not going to see you stepping into the ranks of the EWS any time soon?
TB: No, EWS rounds are off the cards for me, it’s a bit too hectic with the World Cup too, and it’s not something I really enjoy doing. I love riding my trail bike, but when it comes to the EWS it’s a bit of semi shit show I feel, and it doesn’t really excite me. Maybe when I’m all washed up like all the other old downhillers I’ll think about it!
Flow: Haha! Are you calling Sam Hill washed up.
TB: I’d better not! He almost beat me at the World Champs!
Rowena Fry is a name you’ve probably seen at the top of cross-country, marathon and stage race results sheets a lot over the past decade. The Launceston local has shifted her focus to Enduro this year, and after a good result in Derby stoked the fire, she’s stepped up to beat some impressive names to win the Champs.
Flow: Congratulations on the win. There are a lot of fast bike riders from Tassie.
Rowena: Yeah, we probably punch above our weight for that. We’ve got heaps of good roads and forests to ride in; and we don’t need to spend lots of time travelling in traffic anywhere!
Flow: Which local trails do you ride the most?
Rowena: We go out in Derby a fair bit; it’s only an hour from our place. The local Lonnie trails are more XC focused so we ride up Kate Reed and Trevallyn but they’re getting more gravity trails in now.
Flow: We see people coming to enduro from downhill backgrounds as well as cross country. Having been one of Australia’s top cross country racers, what brought you to enduro?
Rowena: Ummm, you don’t have to train as much! Enduro’s sort of just the best bits of cross country without as much of the not-so-nice bits – having to train for the hill climbs. I was probably one of the better cross country riders on technical trails. I’m trying to teach myself to jump at the ripe old age of 34, whereas the liaison and uphill or pedally stages come a lot more naturally to me than a lot of the downhillers.
Flow: You had a close battle with Philippa and Shelly. How did you feel coming to this race against these local women, both with quite a lot of downhill and enduro experience?
Rowena: I was feeling pretty good and then I saw the trails, and realised there was a fair old advantage if you know them. They were really hard trails to race on because they were so loose, so they were pretty demanding. I actually would’ve liked a few extra days practice, so will remember that for next time! Only practicing stages once or twice each was really hard work from my side of things. You also had to be conservative too because the trails were fairly unpredictable, if you were pinning it you could easily crash and loose massive chunks of time as well, so it was quite a tactical event in those regards.
Flow: Can you tell us about the bike you were racing?
Rowena: I was lucky enough to have the first new Scott Genius Tuned 900 to arrive in Australia. Scott didn’t really have a true enduro trail bike before this. It’s bang on; super light, 65.6 degree head angle. I run it mostly stock. I use the integrated bar and stem which is only 760mm wide, which is what I was running anyway. The new SRAM Eagle is so good; the get out of gaol gear at the top is really amazing. I swapped out the tyres to a Maxxis Minion on the front and Aggressor on the rear which I’m running at about 17/21 PSI without any rim protection.
Flow: Earlier in the year we saw you race at the Derby EWS and finish 10th. How was that race for you?
Rowena: I loved it. That was my first enduro race so I really didn’t know what to expect. Obviously, training was super dry and dusty and then it pissed down in the race. That was actually the most fun I’ve ever had in a thunder storm for seven hours, completely saturated, I’ve never had so much fun! I was actually a bit disappointed with my result. I hadn’t done the first round in Rotorua so I didn’t have a ranking which meant I had a lot of issues with traffic and because of the riding conditions it was just so hard to pass the girls I was catching. To be honest, I was actually trying to plug for a top 5 down there. I was obviously still stoked to get 10th but it made me a bit hungry to do a couple more.
Yeah, I think I’ll do more enduro races. I haven’t raced national level cross country for a number of years because the enjoyment wasn’t quite there for me after racing it for so long.
Flow: So what are your plans for next year? Will we see you take on more enduro national series races?
Rowena: Yeah, I think I’ll do more enduro races. I haven’t raced national level cross country for a number of years because the enjoyment wasn’t quite there for me after racing it for so long. But this is like a new sport; it makes me want to get out there and push my skills, learn to jump and go bigger and further. If they fit in with what I’m doing in life then I’ll certainly try and do a few more.
Flow: What does fill up the rest of your life?
Rowena: My husband, Ben, and I own the Avanti Plus bike shop in Lonnie, but I’m a physio as well so work as a physio full time. We’re into fishing as well.
Flow: Despite being awarded the best EWS trail of 2017, Tassie doesn’t have a round of the EWS next year. Australia and NZ completely miss out. Are we likely to see you venture further abroad to race any EWS rounds?
Rowena: I’d love to but it’s probably going to be too expensive, I think. I’d love to race Whistler, but it is so hard for Australians, if you are self-funded, to get across to those events. Especially after doing it for so long with XC; I’d love to, but I don’t think it’s realistic. That said, there are some good races in New Zealand that look fun to go and do as well.