Before today’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad signals the start of the North European season and all that has gone before gets forgotten – particularly, kangaroos, camels and South Americans who can ride away from Grand Tour winners on the climbs … Can we take you back to the land which was first traversed south to north by a man from my home town of Dysart – that’s Australia, and the man was John McDouall Stuart – and a fine ride by a Scottish rider, name of Grant Ferguson?
Grant is better known for his cyclo-cross and MTB activities but he took an excellent 13th place on GC in Australia’s oldest stage race – The Herald Sun Tour which was won in it’s 62nd year by Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE).
Ferguson was just one second behind Serge Pauwels (MTN) in 12th place and seven seconds away from former Italian Champion Franco Pellizotti (Androni) in ninth spot.
The Peebles man stayed on ‘down under’ for some warm weather training but gave us a shout when he got back to his base in tropical … Sheffield.
Shortly after speaking to us Grant headed off again, this time to Cyprus and the opener of the European Season mountain bike race series, the prestigious Cyprus Sunshine Cup – where he took a third place on Stage 1 then went on to take the win on Stage 2.
World Tour opposition in Australia, Grant?
“Yeah, I enjoyed myself; we were accepted by the riders from the big teams and rode well as a team.
“It was hot but not as hot as last year when the last stage was cancelled because of bush fire risk.
“Some of the areas the race goes through aren’t the most populous but the prologue was in Melbourne so there were a lot of spectators out for that and for the Arthur’s Seat stage; that’s about an hour from Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula, a local beauty spot.”
And congratulations on the British U23 ‘cross title, again.
“Cheers, but that seems a long time ago, now !”
How so you cope with constantly changing machines – MTB/’cross/road?
“Yeah, I do change a lot and there is a big difference in the handling of the different bikes but you’re only on the cross bike for one hour whilst the road bike it’s three or four – it takes me about 10/14 days to fully make the transition from ‘cross to road.
“You have to be on the ball with your positions and I try to keep the position when I’m seated the same on all my bikes.
“I’ve been off the MTB for about five weeks but I’m back on it in a week so have a little bit of time to acclimatise.”
Is it discs for the ‘cross, now?
“Disc brakes on the ‘cross and MTB – I’ve been on cable operated discs for two seasons but went on to hydraulic, this year.
“They’re maybe too good, too sharp, I find them quite difficult to ‘feather’ because they’re so powerful.”
Is the MTB still the priotity?
“I’ll be riding the U23 World Cups, this is my fourth year U23 and I want to win one; I’ve had a second in Meribel in France and third places in Windham in the USA and Pietermaritzburg in South Africa.
“I was fourth overall in the World Cup but missed rounds due to competing at the Commonwealth Games.
“Ultimately, I’d like to be full pro as a mountain bike rider, there’s decent money to be made – it’s a big sport in Central Europe and in France.”
The Games, tell us about them.
“Riding the road race in Glasgow was massive and I did a job early on for David Millar.
“In the MTB I made a mistake by letting four get away in a split and ended up sixth.
“The thing is that during the season I beat all the guys that finished ahead of me in Glasgow; I was fifth in the U23 Worlds in Norway and Anton Cooper of New Zealand who won The Games MTB race was behind me in sixth place …”
How do your GB commitments dovetail with your Brentjens Mountain Bike Racing Team programme?
“It works fine, I do most of my racing for Brentjens in the summer but ride the World Cups and The Europeans for GB; we get a lot of support from BC in those races.”
Are you still with the Academy in Manchester and do you have track obligations – do you see much of Mark Stewart and Callum Skinner?
“I’m not in Manchester, I moved to Sheffield, this winter and share a flat with the ‘cross rider Alex Paton; I’m out of the academy and on the ‘Podium Programme’ so can chose where I stay.
“It’s pretty much the same as Manchester buy maybe not as busy traffic-wise.
“I’m in the process of getting used to weather again and recovering from the jet lag from the trip back from Australia.
“As far as the track goes, that’s to provide grounding for the road guys; on the MTB programme we’re excused track work so I don’t see Mark and Callum that often.”
When do you get a break from all these different disciplines?
“I take October off – in the summer I race MTB from March to September – after my October break I build up for the ‘cross champs in January then build up to the MTB season.”
“I’m going to Cyprus for a Brentjens team training camp; the first World Cup is in Lourdes in April with The Worlds in Andorra in September.”
VeloVeritas promises to keep a closer eye on those MTB results, if truth be told we hadn’t realised how well Grant was doing in the world U23 standings. Our ladies will be delighted – more magazines, more time on the computer, more interviews …
We wish Grant all the best for 2015 and hope to interview him about his first World Cup win before the year is out.