There’s a burning question amongst many cyclists out there – how do I become a champion? Or, more pertinently: How do you become a World Champion when you are too old, lack talent and ability, and don’t have time to train? I sat down with Grant Johnston after his prestigious win in the Rolloff World Championships held on the same weekend as the Camelbak Highland Fling and asked him the hard questions.
Name: Grant JohnsTon (always a T, no ‘e’)
Home town: The Cycling Factory (Canberra)
Bike: Hard suffering Giant XTC Carbon
So, has the victory sunk in yet?
Mike, it’s a relief and I haven’t had time to stop and think yet, with all the TV interviews, the people trying to push the endorsements, and the signatures for the fans…
So what made you focus on the Rolloff World Championship?
I used to ride horses at an International level and had aspirations of going to the Olympics and World Champs. I was in the running for both Atlanta and Sydney, but on both occasions the horse sustained an injury, and unlike a mountain bike you can’t swap the parts out or replace it with a similar standard horse (unless you have a truck load of cash!). After coming to the realisation that I wasn’t going to make it with the horses, I went into a long search of trying to find what I could do that could get me a HUGE victory on the International stage. At first I thought I would give snowboarding a crack, but, I just couldn’t wear my pants low enough and I hate wearing baseball caps back to front so I had to give that up. Then I considered this 24 hour mountain bike thing after I heard how much food Jason English eats prior to the race. But then I also looked at his training schedule with his 4.30am starts to get the miles in, and realised in order to be good at that, it would take a huge amount of discipline and dedication, and I have NONE of either of those, so I thought I would take an approach that the Australian Sports Commission would take and that is to target a ‘soft’ sport, one of those events that not many people know about, but something that would suit the abilities that I did have.
And what are those abilities?
The Rolloff World Champs really is all about weight. If you don’t have a bit of weight on you, then you simply won’t get the speed and momentum required. If you haven’t been able to tell, I’m not the standard sized mountain bike rider.
Are you just saying you’re heavy? Isn’t that selling yourself a bit short?
You got it in one!
Do you think that after you have earnt this title, some (metaphorically) bigger hitters might turn up, and make it harder for you?
Well that could be true and I know that Andy Blair, Brendan Johnston, Dylan Cooper and Shaun Lewis were considering challenging me, but they couldn’t figure out how to all fit on the one bike, and even if they could, realised that their combined weight wasn’t enough to challenge. Regardless, I beat the reigning dual World Champ, as well as last years runner up.
And where to now?
Well JD (James Downing) had promised that if I won, he would take me in his Gulfstream jet to go and hang out with Slash (former Guns’n’Roses guitarist) in Vegas with all the pretty ladies, but I asked my wife, and she said I’ve had enough bike riding weekends this year, so I’m not allowed to go. This probably means that I better go and do some gardening.
And some last words?
At the end of the day, the Rolloff World Champs gave absolute punters an opportunity to have a bit of fun and a laugh and even the possibility of walking off with a World Championship jersey. The Wild Horizons crew have done a great job of creating a fun and festive weekend with a little bit of everything to appeal for a wide variety of people. More events need to work out how to do things to keep the front end of the field happy, but also make sure the average Joe can get a bit of the limelight too!!! In this case, the average Joe just happens to weigh 120kg and is a passionate mountain biker trapped in a rugby prop forwards body.
Thanks to Grant JohnsTon for the light-hearted interview. Grant is one of the most passionate mountain bikers getting around to events in South Eastern Australia, and a proud supporter of Onya Bike.