Words: Andrew Handyside. Photos: Melissa May
The XCM World Championships are nearly upon us and, as any responsible national governing body would do, MTBA have named their athletes who will pull on the green and gold to represent us against the finest the world has to offer.
As you know, kitting up for the lads we have 2-time Olympian, Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and World Cup winner, Dan McConnell. Joining him for yet another World Championship will be Sebastian Jayne, whose international experience traces back to 2012 where he began plying his trade in the under 23 world cups. Another rider with a wealth of experience racing overseas is in there too, with Morgan Pilley lining up for his 5th World Championship event.
Now, aside from McConnell’s brief blurb I had to turn to google to find some stats on the other fellows, it was easy enough though, drop their names into the search bar and a string of suitable pages appear.
Missing from the World Cup result pages, google search returns and generally flying under the radar, is the other member of Australia’s elite male team heading over, one Ben May. A guy whose back story almost beggars belief.
So, come with us now on a journey through the years and have a look back at just what’s behind the softly-spoken Brisbane-based hill slayer.
Growing up in Katoomba and then moving to the coast Ben had a keen interest in BMX, surf life-saving nippers and body boarding but there was little to suggest what lay in store. After leaving school the lure of fast food proved too much and the kilograms piled on. Reaching well in excess of 100kg by the mid 2000s our man realised enough was enough and decided to either join the Army Reserve or buy a bike and get serious about shifting the excess kilos. Thankfully for us, the bike got the nod.
His first race was the RATS cycling club’s 4hr enduro in what could kindly be described as abysmal conditions, but in spite of the damp conditions, the fuse was lit.
From this first race, things started to change, gone were the t-shirt and flat pedals to make way for stretchy clothes and proper footwear, the Camelbak gave way to bottles, 26 inch wheels were ditched in favour of bigger hoops. No longer was Ben struggling away at the back of the pack, his results steadily improved winning events like the Freedom and Mebbin Marathon, races with fearful climbing reputations, racking up numerous local podiums in 4 to 8 hour events and mixing it with the big boys of XCM races with impressive showings at the Fling, The Otway Odyssey and the Redback.
2017 was truly a breakout year for Ben, despite having sustained a broken collarbone late in ‘16 everything he touched seemed to turn to gold, (or at least silver or bronze if ya get what I mean) culminating in a third place in Elite Men at the Croc Trophy behind Canadian Commonwealth and Olympic Games representative Leandre Boucharde and his countryman (and fellow professional mountain biker) Andrew L’Esperance.
Ben has carried this form through to 2018 and while the racing’s been a little light on, not helped by some unlucky mechanical issues, he showed his form with 6th at Bayview Blast in sloppy, “Euro” conditions.
So, rest assured readers, even if you haven’t heard of Ben, or get him mixed up with the other marathon-racing Ben May, the Green and Gold will be well represented when the gun goes, but still join us in wishing Ben the best of luck.