You would have thought there was something interesting about Joe Lewis sipping on his coffee at Stromlo Forest Park last Friday. Camera crews from every major television network had a video camera pointed in his direction. He was simply enjoying a brew in his bike knicks – not an uncommon event in the life of an elite cyclist. But this was not an average day. Lewis who blogs for Cycling Tribe was out strutting in the green and gold with his 2010 Australian Cyclones teammates. They met with media ahead of the UCI Road World Cycling Championships, which begin this Wednesday 29 September in Geelong. Colleague Myfanwy Galloway and I stole Joe for a quick chat about his move from the NSW country town Gloucester, fame and magpies.
RW: You’re studying Sports Media at the University of Canberra so maybe you could just interview yourself.
JL: Interview myself. (Laughs) Yeah sure. So Joe, what’s been the highlight…no, you can do the interview Beck.
RW: Cadel Evans has been the pin-up boy for the Worlds Campaign. Do you feel like you’ve been ripped off a little bit because they didn’t want your image up there?
JL: Well I didn’t get a sign up on the way into Melbourne Airport. I was a little bit upset. I think I could have been the face of the Worlds. Maybe in the future. I’ll win a World Championships first.
MG: Boring question. The year started pretty well for you, you got fourth at nationals. This time last year would you have thought you’d be in this position having had an overseas campaign and now riding for Australia at Worlds?
JL: It’s something I asked myself the other day. I talked to my parents and they were like ‘I reckon you probably did think this last year’. It’s something I have always worked towards after seeing Mark O’Brien who came from Drapac last year and rode Worlds. People have done it every year since. It’s hard to get in if you’re from a team outside of the AIS program. But once you’re in, it’s all been good. I’ve got the results to back myself up and talked to the coaches and it’s all been easy sailing from there.
MG: You mentioned your team Drapac. How have they helped you in your development?
JL: I couldn’t have done it without the help and support from Drapac. They’ve been right behind me. They could have been really bad about it and said ‘no you can’t do this, we want you for the National Road Series with us’. They have been fully behind me and supported me all this year. I told them at the start of the year that this is what I wanted to do and I think they are fairly proud of me.
MG: You made the big move to Canberra a couple of years back. How has that helped with your cycling? You have arguably the strongest bunch of boys to train with – several of them racing in the NRS and a few more representing at Worlds. What more could you ask for?
JL: I’ve made a lot of great friends moving down to Canberra. It has been awesome. I love the place. It’s my home away from home. There’s not really all that many people to train with where I’m from. The local cycling club consists of me and my little brother, who’s now not so little. He’s like 80kg and 6 foot 3.
RW: Are you a bit jealous?
JL: I am. Actually, the one underneath him has had more girlfriends in the past month than I have eaten meals. His last girlfriend was 18 and an absolute stunner.
RW: How good has it been having guys from Canberra with you in the Worlds team?
JL: It’s easy to come into a team when you’ve got a lot of friends there already. The guy who will probably win the race is one of my best mates who I train with every day when I am down here. I think that’s pretty special, along with having the Worlds in Australia. If we can win as a team then it’s going to be something pretty amazing.
RW: In cycling you often don’t actually ride for yourself. How is it going into a race knowing that you have a job to do, but you’re not going to be the one up on the podium?
JL: You never know anything until the day. Any of us could go away in an early break that never gets brought back but our plan will obviously be riding for ‘Bling’ [Michael Matthews] who has had an amazing season and is going pro next year. You do ride as a team and while there is only one person up on the podium, the whole team is recognised as the winners. When you’re in a tight-knit team with a whole bunch of friends, seeing a friend or a teammate win is just as rewarding as winning yourself a lot of the time.
RW: Apparently there are a few magpies out on the course. Some of the international riders are scared about being murdered by black and white birds. Are you a bit worried about the magpies? It’s a bit of a bad time for World Champs in the middle of magpie mating season.
JL: I’m not planning on going solo in the first few laps.
RW: Do you have any techniques?
MG: Do you use the swatting ‘I don’t know it’s there’ method?
JL: We’ve got green and gold zip ties to attach to our helmets for the race. Mal [Malcolm Rudolph] will probably be working to go into the early break so we might have to attach a lot of zip ties to his helmet so he doesn’t get swooped as much by magpies. But chances are they’ll only go for individual or small groups of riders so if you stay in the peloton you should be pretty safe.