Jeremy Thomson has an exciting 2017 date with Joel Stansky
01 January 1970
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Gerald de Kock: Hello and welcome to Old Mutual Live Mountain Biking once again. Another edition where we chat all manner mountain biking, we meet the personalities, the people and the events, we visit the events, we get to know who and how they build the trails. Just what makes this sport so great.
We meet a lot of people, many of whom have played other sports at high levels and then moved onto mountain biking as a way of finding their fix. Some for racing, some for more recreational and social reasons. One man who is perhaps the original rugby player who turned to mountain biking is Jeremy Thomson who is sitting alongside me. Jeremy, you’ve been mountain biking almost as long as you played rugby.
Jeremy Thomson: You’re right Gerald, I’ve played for the Sharks, I think for 10 years. I had one blips when I went to the Lions for a year. But yes, returned to the home of rugby which I still feel is the Sharks, the Shark Tank.
Ten years I’ve been riding bikes and just loved it from the moment I got onto a bike. It brought back I think those childhood memories, there’s that sense of freedom when you’re out there. More than that, you just meet such amazing, incredible people, just down to earth, wholesome people, I just love the sport.
GDK: It seemed in those early years you were racing, it fuelled that competitive edge in you, would that be right?
JT: Absolutely, I think having played sport at a competitive level and relatively high level, there’s no question that when you eventually stop, you kind of find yourself wondering what’s next. It’s very difficult to try and fulfil the level of competition, should I say, that you’re so accustomed to. I really found that in mountain biking particularly, it was a sport that you could make it as hard as you wanted to. Therefore, it gave you that sense of really putting the effort in and the reward after having put the effort in.
It definitely filled the gap, there’s no question in the early years of riding. Then obviously once I’d done a few of the top races and really pushed myself to the limit, I sort of tapped off. Now, the recreational side of it is just incredible. Getting away, being out here with incredible people, wholesome people, like I said before, you don’t think about too much. You leave the day-to-day behind and it’s just you and the bike and the trails and that’s what I really enjoy.
GDK: It’s fulfilling a different need now in your life, is that escape without the pressure of having to perform.
JT: Absolutely, we’re paying now to do these things and not getting paid for doing it! Look, then obviously there’s this category competition that crept in –
GDK: It’s still there –
Excited to be tackling 2017 Cape Epic with Joel
JT: I’m 49 now, so I keep myself in reasonable shape. So that if something comes up I can gear up and get ready for it. I’m doing the Epic with Joel Stransky next year. So there you go, him and I played many, many years together.
I think Joel’s here racing this weekend, we’ve known each other since school, we’ve played Natal together and we’ve got a long history. We both love bikes, I have to up my game a bit because Joel, he’s riding really strong. So we’re in the Grand Masters next year for the Epic.
GDK: That’s a dream combination if you like, isn’t that just fantastic where you can re-ignite a combination that was so great in one sport at a high level. Here you are competing, not at the highest level, but competing again and racing, it must give you a little bit of a fizz to go and do all that.
JT: There’s a great sense of fulfilment in that I think. Fly half centre combination to now like partners. Yes, I’m really excited about it, just to reconnect again, in a different space, a different environment. Also just, without that pressure of being a pro. So there’s a whole lot of dynamics that come into it and really looking forward to it. I just love the sport.
GDK: There was a stage where you were a semi-pro at the sport, winning races and so on, and only you guys as rugby players can know this. How hard is mountain biking, how hard is rugby?
JT: They’re both quite physical to be honest. After a day like yesterday and today, you kind of wake up in the morning feeling like you’ve played a rugby match sometimes. So physically, although it’s not the knocks, but mountain biking is pretty tough.
If you’re trying to compete and racing, whether it’s the top of your category or going for positions, I can say it’s an honest sport. You really have to have put the effort in in training. Then yes, a lot of things have to come together in order for you to win or to do well. It’s tough. I think that’s why we as ex-sportsmen, or semi-professional, professional sportsmen really love it. Because that’s what we’re used to, it’s that tough.
GDK: This is a completely hypothetical nonsense question, but if you were to take what you’ve learnt over the last 10 years from mountain biking and say, right, you’ve got 10 years of rugby career now. How different would your physical or mental approach have been or would it be exactly the same?
JT: I think my approach would have been the same. There’s no question, you can’t escape hard work and that’s what it is. It’s a lot of dedication all round in cycling and rugby. I say cycling more so on the eating side, cause power to weight ratio is a big thing.
Whereas rugby you can kind of get away with eating quite a bit. The similarities, they’re quite scary, they’re the same. You get out what you put in and it’s a lot of dedication, a lot of hard work, a lot of time away from family. But that’s what you have to do to achieve the results you need to.
The training plan for Epic 2017
GDK: You’re going in the Masters, there’s some heavy weights going in there next year. What sort of training regime are you going to be putting together over the next couple of months, how many hours a week, what are you going to be doing?
JT: I’m scared to tell you because I don’t want Joel doing it. He sent me his programme and I’ll be honest, I’m nowhere near that at the moment. Look, I think experience-wise, I know what works for me, I kind of keep gauging by the times. So I like to think that what I do during the year. I just keep myself at a level where I can build on if I need to.
This next three-months is going to be a lot of building for me because I really am not doing the hours I think that Joel and them are doing currently. But hey, there’s a lot of different dynamics and ways of racing and I’ll make sure that I won’t let him down. I’ll make sure that I’m ready so that we’ll have a good Epic, that’s all I’m going to say!
GDK: Have you ridden together before as a team?
JT: Yes, we have, we did the Wine2Whales Adventure, so we’ve had some great rides together. We get on like a house on fire, we’ve got nothing to prove. We want to do well and give it a good go, which we will do. But again, both of us are realistic. We’re not going to try and be or do something that we’re not capable of.
GDK: People still recognise you on the trails as the rugby player?
JT: Yes, there are, but there are a lot of Jonty Rhodes, still. I know it’s getting a bit old and stale now, but literally every mountain bike event I get that odd look, is that Jonty? Yes, in Natal anyway, not that I’m synonymous with mountain biking, but I do support a lot of the local events. All the one day classics, the cross country, I love the cross country riding. I do a lot of cross country events, so yes, in that circle, there’s still some people, there’s JT or there’s Jeremy.
GDK: It’s a lifetime sport isn’t it, and it seems to have got its claws quite deeply into you.
JT: Absolutely and it’s one of those sports that again, you can pick it up whenever and the wonderful thing about it. I’m planning to ride bikes until I’m 60 and there’s guys doing it and they’re inspirational for me. The older guys, I take my hat off to them, the guys that are still out there, still riding. Forget about the racing, but if you’re 55 and you’re on a bike, isn’t that incredible? 60 on a bike, out in this, to me there’s longevity in the sport. So I’m just really happy that I got into it when I did.
GDK: Jeremy, thanks very much for chatting and look out for Stransky and Thomson, back together again, cutting through defences, the chip and charge at the Epic next year. In ten years’ time as they go in the Great Grand Masters, 60 year olds. Jeremy Thomson, former Sharks, Natal centre and now a passionate mountain biker chatting to us here on our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast. Thanks for downloading, until next time, take care, cheers.
JT: Thanks Gerald.