An Aussie winning Scottish cyclo crosses; what’s that all about? VeloVeritas went walk-about and tracked Paul Rowney down for a billy-can of tea beside the billabong.
What brings you to Scotland, Paul?
“My ‘trouble and strife’ is from Scotland, she’s an artist, I met her in Australia, but now we’ve moved over here. When I talk about, “going home” to Australia, she just looks at me and says; ‘We are home!'”
How are you coping with the weather?
“I have a bit of a dicky knee – too much smashing-away at the 11 and 12 cogs over the years – and it reacts badly to the wet and cold. All that said, I feel rejuvinated here, the traffic is a lot lighter here than it is Sydney and there’s so much variety in where you can ride your bike.
“There are still quiet roads to be found and plenty of opportunity for you to ride the mountain bike or cross bike off-road. In Sydney, you have to go out at six in the morning and be back for nine, or it’s just too-crazy with the traffic.”
Australia’s not renowned for producing ‘cross riders?
“I’m not a cross rider, I’m a mountain biker; I’ve ridden and won three crosses in Scotland, so far, but the first two I was on my mountain bike. My latest win was the first time I’ve raced on a ‘cross bike. It was interesting, definitely faster than the mountain bike on that course.
“In UCI category A crosses you’re not allowed to ride a mountain bike, but Scottish crosses aren’t UCI categorised, so it’s OK to ride the old VTT.”
Word is, you weren’t a bad rider back in Aus?
“Yeah, I was Australian elite mountain bike champion three times, I retired to manage the Yeti team and we got some results. I’d become a bit disillusioned with racing; I could see that a lot of riders were suddenly going a lot faster.
“But I came back and raced again, as a vet in 2007; I won the Aussie vets title and entered the elite short track event. I got in the break with the reigning U 23 and elite champions, they were stepping it into me and I thought; “bronze, that’ll do,” but a couple of laps later, I thought: “**** it! I’m gonna win this!” and I did!”
What do you rate your best-ever ride?
“Tenth in the Sydney Olympics, in front of the home crowd, that was pretty special. It was eye-opener too, though. I rode so hard on the last lap like you can’t imagine, I was turning myself inside-out, but still lost a heap of time.
“I realised then that there was something different going-on, some of the other guys were so unbelievably strong. (Miguel Martinez won, he would become a Phonak rider – like Floyd and Tyler . . . ).
“I also had around 20 podiums in the NORBA (US elite mountain bike races) series, they were pretty cool results.”
You were a full-time pro, then?
“Yeah, I was with the Haro, Giant, Cannondale and Yeti teams during my career; I rode the Worlds nine times.”
Did you ride the road much?
“I was primarily an off-road rider, but I rode things like the Tour of Tasmania and a lot of criteriums – they are great training for the mountain bike.”
Your mountain bike career would overlap Cadel and Rasmussen’s?
“And Landis, too! I know Cadel very well, we were both on the Australian Institute of Sport/Giant programme at the same time. Rasmussen was the same as a mountain biker, he would do nothing all year, then come out and ‘boom!’ at the Worlds, no one could live with him.”
Who were your role models, as a young rider?
“The main guy was John Tomac and I was lucky-enough to involved with him at Australian Institute of Sport/Giant. He’s a really good guy and I learned a lot from him.”
Will we be seeing more of you?
“Yeah, I have a British and Aussie passport, so I’m thinking about riding the British cyclo-cross champs. I’ll be the guy with the sun tan!”
Any cycling regrets?
“No, my aim was to to be a pro; I did that and made a fair living, so no complaints.”
VeloVeritas would like to thank Paul for taking time out to talk to us.