Thursday, 4 August 2011

Shannon Johnson - Superbikes to Super Biker.

Every now and then new people pop up in this sport and are somehow immediately ahead of everyone else. Ex-rowers, runners, triathletes (who've seen the light). They turn the heads of seasoned racing cyclists who ask, "Who the hell is that motor? And what the hell are they doing?!". The motor reference is due to them coming from nowhere and ripping peoples legs off, and the questionable tactics usually due to the early part of the learning curve they're on.

Rewind back few months to the Cycling Victoria Masters Criterium titles in Castlemaine. I'd looked at the start list and didn't know any of the other MMAS1 riders, and being crammed in with the MMAS2 bunch I didn't know who to watch. I went on the attack all race, keeping an eye on who was still looking good after each effort. Rider #2 in black and blue Bike'n'Bean kit was always near the front and never in too much trouble. After only a few laps we got the bell, a late surge of riders into the final corners, someone going off the course, the nearest MMAS1 rider was right on my wheel as we crossed the line. It was rider #2 - Shannon Johnson from Preston CC. After only taking up the sport a few months prior, and only having a few summer crits under his belt, Shannon had a great race!

So where had Shannon come from? What sport? Superbikes. Two wheels, one motor, a lot more speed, and a lot more injuries than we get from cycling. Shannon isn't one to boast too much about his past achievements, but with the power of Google I've done my research on my new MMAS1 competitor. He'd raced motorbikes for over 20 years, professionally, and has an impressive list of titles. (check them out here in a recent interview:

After the Masters Crit champs, Shannon went to Perth to compete in the UCI Masters Championships qualifier. Winning MMAS1 ITT, and coming a close third in the road race. These results qualified him for the UCI Masters World Championships in Belgium in September. Shannon has quickly learned that the sport of cycling doesn't always go to plan - a 4hr car trip to Port Fairy to find out the Vic 100km Champs had been cancelled that day, resulting in no riding and a 4hr return trip home won't be something he'll look back favourably on. But his drive to succeed in the sport at warp-speed has already paid off. His achievements in the lead up to Belgium include the CV Melbourne to Ballarat, 1st place in the MMAS1 State Road Race, and 3rd in MMAS1 State ITT. I'll steal his status update from Facebook to give an insight into what those results took:

"finish work at 10.30p, bed at 12.00a, up at 5.15a doing planning and paper work to try get to Belgium, 7.30a eat, 8.00a finally some fun get out for a ride for a few hours, 12.00p nana nap, 1.00p drive to work, Repeat....."

No short-cuts, just bloody hard work. Add to this family time, and possibly no job to return to after taking time off for Belgium, labelling this "commitment" doesn't do it justice.

I've since raced with Shannon at the 3 Day Tour, in a few TTs, and we've both suffered in the RMIT lab at the hands of Dr Stephen Lane. It's a welcome change being around another cyclist who respects the sport at all levels of competition, who is aiming high, and is doing everything to get there.

Shannon has sponsorships with Specialized Bicycle Company, Bike N Bean, and PowerBar-Musashi. Not a bad list for someone new to the sport. In the lead up to Belgium he is calling on anyone who wants to be a part of his journey to Belgium. To get behind Shannon and to follow his lead up to the UCI Masters World Championships in Belgium, head over to his Facebook page and hit "Like".

(Shannon I know you'll read this, so I'll put a note down here - You might be chasing me in TTs, but I'm looking behind me and pedalling like mad keeping you off my wheel! Once you're on that start line in Belgium just do what you've done so far on the bike. You'll kick arse! All the best!).

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