Jenni King: Aussie National MTB Champ Unwrapped

Well this superstar female mountain biker is a big favourite amoungst Aussie dirt bikers. We are super pumped to lock Jenni King down for an up close and personal chat with Adz Kelsall about her rise and rise into becoming one of the worlds best female mountain bikers. Read on cycling fans, this one is a beauty.   

Interview By: Adam Kelsall

Adz: Warm up questions – My Favourite…..

Adz: Song?

JK: I can’t say I have any favourites.  I like a whole range of music from classical, jazz and rock. Bit of everything really.

Adz: Quote?

JK: “If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.” -Muhammad Ali

Adz: Way to spoil yourself?

JK: Good food and coffee!

Adz: Place to eat?

JK: I love a good pub meal and alsohave enjoyed some great Vietnamese food.

Adz: Part of the world?

JK: Right now I’m loving the swiss Alps.  Beautiful scenery and awesome MTB trails! Nothing beats home however in Melbourne….even if the weather is crap over winter!

Adz: Memory?

JK: It’s always memorable, meeting up with my sister and 2 nieces. Unfortunately, having them live in Germany means catch-ups are few and far between. Also, I will always remember crossing the finish line to win this year’s national XC champs. It was a long hard road to finally achieve it, but worth every pedal stroke!

Adz: Inspiration?

JK: I gain inspiration from seeing those who are not necessarily the most talented, really work hard and achieve great things.

Adz: Way to chill?

JK: I love to kick back and have a coffee with mates. 

Now for the longer questions

Adz: How did you get into bikes?

JK: I was sitting down having some lunch at a food court in Frankston shopping centre when the Sydney 2000 Olympics were showing up on the big screen.  They showed some great coverage of the women’s mountain bike event and I thought it just looked like some awesome fun.  So the next week I went out and bought myself a mountain bike.  Since then I haven’t looked back!

Adz: And then to racing…how did that kick off for you?

JK: I started out racing the Victorian State series.  I was a bit of a joke at this stage, crashing at least a few times each race. My uni friends would always ask to see my latest battle wounds. I would have a go at any obstacle, but just didn’t have the right technique.  I was certainly having loads of fun though and every race I was excited by the new trails to practice and master.

.

Adz: Was there a moment (a race or a ride) where you thought “Hey I’ve got some talent here? Let’s see how far i can take this”

JK: For me getting to the elite level, has been a gradual process.  I have slowly moved up the ranks over the last 12 years to now be number one in the country. I am certainly not the most naturally gifted rider out there but I do know how to put the hard yards in. I think I have always had an inner belief in myself and over the last few years I have been lucky enough to gather a great support network around me who have helped boost my confidence.

Adz: You do a bit of coaching in between your busy racing schedule…Tell us more about that. What attracted you to coaching? How many athletes do you coach? Do you have a philosophy/style of coaching? You work in
conjunction with sports science guru Mark Fenner.  Are there some pearls you have picked up from him?  Has coaching improved your own riding/training?

JK: Coaching has certainly become my number one passion, apart from riding trails of course! Early on in my career, as a triathlete and then mountain biker, I was lucky enough to have a few top coaches.  These people had a great influence on me and through continuously asking questions I was able to soak up a whole lot of info about theirdifferent training methods.  Every coach, including myself, has a slightly different approach to training. I think that my coaching style has developed bothfrom what I have seen to work with my own training and racing as well as the evidence based and ever developing sports science knowledge available.

Every training program I tackle differently, depending on a whole range of factors such as the strengths and weaknesses of each athlete, available training time, athlete age and previous training experience, athlete goals etc.  Most importantly I believe the training program must be specific to the event that the athlete is training for. Many coaches and athletes forget this!

At the moment I coach 20 riders.  I try to keep the numbers around this mark and unfortunately have had to knock back people in order to make sure the quality of coaching is kept at a high standard. In the last year or so Mark Fenner has provided me with much training advice.  He is particularly knowledgeable in the area of power based training.  The use of power meters have become very common with road riders and becoming more and more common with mtbikers too.  Power-based training can become a lot more specific and accurate than just using heart rate and also weaknesses can be more easily identified.  I certainly find that that athlete’s I coach who use power have benefited greatly, including me.

I definitely think the coaching has helped me in my own racing.  I genuinely gain as much pleasure from seeing the athletes I coach ride well as I do myself.  This takes a lot of pressure away from my own results and I find I ride better with less pressure!  Also I am constantly aiming to learn more and more in the sports science field so that I can give most up to date training advice to my athletes as well as myself.

Adz: You also run a camp for talented junior mountain bikers “the James Williamson Junior development camp” with Niki Fischer, Dylan Cooper and Shaun Lewis…how did the idea for the camp come about and how did it go?

JK: Last year saw the start of the “James Williamson Junior development Camp”, which I thought went extremely well.  I felt honoured to be asked to attend as one of the coaches and am excited to once again be helping out this coming November.  James was always keen on giving back to the sport and in particular liked to help out the up and coming juniors.  These camps are aimed at providing some top level advice on training and racing as well as some hands on skills and bike mechanics sessions.  The juniors involved last year gave some positive feedback and we will be running a similar camp this year with a few changes to make it even better!

Adz: Do you work as well? What do you do? In between work, competing and coaching i imagine maintaining life balance can get pretty tricky some times?

.

JK: I certainly can’t complain about the lifestyle I have got at the moment.  I am lucky enough to be able to travel around Australia and the World doing what I love most.  I am a qualified podiatrist and have been working in this field for the last 10 years.  I am however, taking a break from the podiatry profession for the time being while I concentrate on my racing as well spending more time on the coaching.  I am also able to combine my podiatry and cycling knowledge to prescribe and fit athletes with cycle-specific carbon insoles. These are called Solestar insoles. With their benefit of better power transfer, more and more of the top professional cyclists are using them. I am enjoying the balance of work and competing at the moment and hope to continue with this lifestyle while I can.

Adz: When you do the maths at the end of the year i imagine a fair few dollars go into getting through the racing season. Tell us about some of the financial realities of being a national/international level
mountain biker?

JK: Yes unfortunately this sport doesn’t pay well!  However at the end of the day if I was after money I wouldn’t be doing this sport.  A lot of the money my partner and I earn goes into the racing; however I am also extremely fortunate to get some outside assistance with sponsorship. Without this support I most likely wouldn’t be overseas competing at the moment!  I now ride as part of the Anytime Fitness / Trek team.  The owner of this team, Richard Peil, has been very supportive toward our racing.  Also, I have picked up some personal sponsorship for this year with Momentum Energy. Momentum is part of the Hydro Tasmania group of companies and therefore part of Australia’s largest generator of ‘clean’ energy from water and wind.  I am rapt to have such an awesome company support me in my ambitions!

Adz: Last year you raced the Cape Epic in South Africa. It’s a race on most mtber’s bucket list…tell us more about the cape epic experience?

JK: A good friend of mine, Niki Fisher, asked me to do the Cape Epic with her last year.  I hadn’t at the time realised just how big the event was, but am so happy that I agreed to do it as it is certainly one of the most memorable events I have taken part in.  For us it was as much a journey as it was a race. The previous year Niki’s partner James Williamson had been in South Africa competing in the Cape Epic, when his heart stopped in the middle of the night and he sadly passed away.  So, we intended to complete the race as a tribute to him and it was understandably a roller-coaster ride both emotionally and physically for Niki.  I actually don’t know how she got through it, she is one tough girl! While it was one of the hardest experiences I’ve had it was also one of the most enjoyable and I’d certainly regard it highly on my achievement list. The organisation of the event is top-notch, from the enormous food tent set-up for all meals, to the feed-zones out on course and the bike washing after every stage, everything is taken care of.  One of the highlights of each day was the entertainment put on by the local communities in each town and the highlight of the event was the food hamper each rider received over the finish line! The scenery and terrain was ever changing in each stage and the climbing was truly epic. It’s amazing to learn just what the body is capable of in events like these!

Adz: You were also sponsored by Team Torq, whats it like racing in a team environment? Dean and Gen have certainly invested a lot into riders Australia. What do you see as the outcomes of this investment?

JK: I have actually just made a change a month or so ago and am now riding as part of the Anytime / Trek team.  Torq were an awesome team to be a part of and Gen and Dean have been extremely supportive of me for the last 4 years.  They have invested a lot of time and money into the riders and have definitely set a benchmark for other teams in Australia to follow.  I am still sponsored by Torq Nutrition, luckily for me as it is the best nutrition for endurance athletes! However, as I mentioned I have made the swap to the Anytime Fitness / Trek Team and as part of this team, now travel along with Dan McConnel, Bec and Ben Henderson to the world cup events in Europe.

Adz: On top of a winning a green and gold Jersey for National marathon Champs title last year you have maintained outstanding form to win the national series and national champs in season in 2011/12. Please
just remind the readers how many national races you entered and won this year? Does this feel like just reward for a long period of hard work or have you been surprised at how successful 2011/12 has been?

JK: The form I had this year was a result of the previous 10 years hard work.  As I have talked about previously, I have made gradual progression over the years and have found the right formula that works for me.  This year I have worked on all the little things which on their own don’t make too much difference to performance, however they all add up to make a big difference. I was definitely surprised to win every National Round that I entered, particularly as I hadn’t peaked for every race.  However, I took each race as it came and rode smart and also had some great outside support especially from my partner Ed who always keeps the bike running A1! I had aimed to peak for the National Championship as this is the title I really wanted.  On the day, things worked out like clock-work and I had the race of my life to finish over 5min clear of the next rider.

I also had a solid 3rd place result at the Oceania champs (1st Australian), and wound up winning the Wildside and Cape to Cape stage race events.  So, I am extremely pleased with my domestic Season and how it panned out.

Adz: With such great results it seems you have really enjoyed the new all mountain format. Tell us more about the format and why it suits your strengths?

JK: I did enjoy the change in format this year.  My main focus was still on the XC stage of every round, however my skills are at quite a good level so I especially enjoyed the Super D of each round and I tended to recover well for the point to point races also.  For me it was great to get in a good weekend’s racing for each round, however I think it did make it harder for the age-groupers to factor in an extra day or 2 off work in order to be able to compete. 

Adz: In the last month you have competed in two World Cups – one in South Africa and one in Houffalize Belgium. Would you be kind enough, without giving away any secrets to your competitors who probably read our blog, to tell us about your typical preparation week leading up to a World Cup? How do you prepare Mentally, Physically & Nutritionally? Equipment? Travel?  Who do you have to support you? Physio’s?
Mechanics? Do you get crazy psyched or try to view it as just another race?

JK: I believe the key to a great performance in these big events is to make sure that you get as much recovery time in as possible.  There are many riders who I think make the mistake of over-doing practice time on the course, or stand around for hrs out in the sun the day before and end up just being fatigued on race day.  Yes, course practice is important, but having fresher legs can be of more benefit on race day.  Saying this, I generally do a small hit-out session the day before racing and have a total recovery day 2 days out.  The small hit-out session should be just enough to get the heart, lungs and legs firing without being too fatiguing.  Also crucial to the recovery process is adequate and appropriate nutrition in b/w the training, good quality sleep and stretching / massage.  In terms of mental preparation, I don’t like to be too psyched up, but instead go into the race with a fairly relaxed attitude and not too much pressure.  At the end of the day, as long as I’ve put in 100% and had a good clean race then I am happy, regardless of the result.

Adz: Most of us punters  will never get to the amazing level  of racing a world cup where the top fifty girls can be spread over a mere ten minutes. Talk us through a world cup race like Houffalize…How did the race unfold for you? Were you having one of those Golden days where everything goes right? What is your main focus on? Do you have support during the race? What does your supporter do for you? The pics indicate a super tech course did this suit your strengths?

.

JK: Unfortunately Houffalize proved to be a fairly average race for me. I was happy in that I did put in 100% and did all I could on the day, however I struggled with the conditions and if I had my time over probably would have done a few things differently. The temperature for our day of racing didn’t get over 4 degrees and I really struggled with this! The cold weather does tend to affect me, and I found that my hands were so cold that I literally couldn’t get them to function properly and I think only had one or 2 sips of fluid throughout the race!  The legs didn’t seem to want to work either. So in hindsight I probably should have worn some thermals for the race and maybe even got to Houffalize a little earlier to acclimatise as well as get over the jet-lag.  Anyway, I don’t want to seem like I’m full of excuses!  The courses in Europe are getting more technical each year which I really like and this certainly pleases the crowds more. For most of the races I compete in, I have my partner Ed come along who supports by keeping the bike in great working order, hands out the bottles each lap and just runs around doing anything else he can to help and make my life easier.  You really need some sort of support over here when racing and unless you are on one of the big teams, you become reliant on those closest to you.

Adz: Olympics? After smashing the girls all summer are you are one of the favourites for London Olympic selection in July are you at liberty to discuss where things are at with regards to yourself and Olympic selection?

JK: I am not certain how they will select the spot for Olympics this year.  While I was the number one performer all year within Australia and also at the Oceania Championships in New Zealand, the World Cup results are very important also.  So far I have had some bad luck overseas with a nasty crash in South Africa just before the finish, when I was coming first Australian. Then I suffered with the cold and jet-lag in Houffalize and wound up sick for the 2 weeks following! So, I am hoping for a little more luck in the next couple of World Cups over the following 2 weekends in Czech and France. The aim is to get in the top 35, as this will put me in a strong position for that Olympic spot. Young Bec Henderson is riding extremely well in the under 23 category, however it is very hard to compare her results to ours as they race over a shorter distance (generally 1 or 2 laps less), with less riders and often on a separate day so the conditions can be totally different. Whatever happens, I just want to make sure I put in 100% and have no regrets!

Adz: Have you seen the Olympics course in London? What are your thoughts? How does it suit your strengths /weaknesses as a rider?

JK: Unfortunately I wasn’t given the opportunity to ride over the Olympic course so I can only go by what people have told me. The course is quite a fast one, which apparently suits a 29er.  There are some tricky rocky sections and a fair amount of climbing. The passing won’t be so much of an issue as in World Cup events as there will only be 30 riders as compared to 80+.

Adz: What would it mean to you to represent Australia at the Olympics?

JK: Since watching the MTB event at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, I have had this in the back of my mind and I guess to compete would be a dream come true.  If it’s meant to be it will happen, if not I certainly won’t be devastated. I am proud of what I have achieved so far and I have ambitions of training hard and performing well at the upcoming World Championships in September also. 

Adz: Key People or sponsors you would like to thank?

My major sponsors, who are helping keep the dream alive, are Anytime Fitness / Trek MTB team and Momentum Energy.  My number one supporter is my partner Ed.

Other sponsors who make this all possible include; Torq nutrition, Shimano, Fox, Adidas, 4Shaw, Rubena, Lifecare, Network Four, Nak, Knox Bicycle Superstore, Stable Base Pilates studio and Daymark.

About rossburrage

Really facinated about why multi disipline endurance athletes have such a low public profile when they are arguably the most talented all round athletes on earth, so I thought I would get off my arse and do my little bit to help change that situation and tell a few stories about some of the crazy's I know. Thanks for reading guys.
This entry was posted in Cycling, Endurance, Mountain Bike and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s