Jared Graves Training at Home
At Home with the Multi-Discipline Champion

Jared Graves: Dangerously Motivated

Words AJ Barlas
Photos AJ Barlas
Date Mar 13, 2018

It’s about 28 degrees going on 50 as I pick up the little buzz-box Fiat rental car and begin my drive from the Gold Coast of Australia, situated in South-East Queensland, and head inland toward Toowoomba, Jared Graves’ hometown. Veering west off the motorway just prior to Brisbane I find myself going over one of the questions that I kept hearing from friends and family prior to my trip; “why does he live in Toowoomba?” In all honesty, I didn’t have an answer for them, I’d never been to Toowoomba and had never really heard much about the place other than in the odd geography class in school. 

The stretch of highway from Ipswich, a city just west of Brisbane, to Toowoomba had me asking myself that very question over and over again – It’s flat, barely a bump for a hundred kilometres and the road is straight with nothing but farming fields for the majority of the stretch. That was until I hit a small town by the name of Withcott, which lay at the foot of some serious looking terrain. From here the road went up, gaining elevation quickly and making the small European rental car whine as I tried to maintain the speed limit up the 10% grade into Toowoomba – it failed.

Early Morning Sunrise from Jared Graves'

Early mornings mean a lot of wicked sunrises from Jared's well-positioned deck. 

Great Dividing Range road sign

Toowoomba sits at a similar elevation to that of Whistler Village.

Picnic Point views looking out at Table Mountain

Picnic Point doing a great job of showing off the view and the elevation of the town.

Australia

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie…

 After making it up the incline I rolled right into town. Toowoomba is perched atop the Great Dividing Range; the most substantial mountain range in Australia and the third longest land-based range in the world. It stretches along much of the East Coast of the country – from far north Queensland, through New South Wales and down into Victoria – and includes the New South Wales ski resorts of Thredbo and Perisher, which are situated at the highest point of the range. Once realizing Toowoomba is located on top of the range the answer to the question began to be clearer: elevation.

There’s more to it for Jared, though. Having grown up in Toowoomba the place has always been home to him and despite traveling all over Australia and the world, he continues to return there. He’s quick to note that of all the riding he’s done in Australia, Toowoomba has some of the best vertical combined with a great climate. Thredbo, an example of a riding location in Aussie that one may contest as a better option, is sure good in the summer months but winter is no friend for a cyclist down there. Jared estimates that there’s about 350m of vertical drop on offer in Toowoomba, which is a good amount in Australia and on Jared’s regular rides he can mix anything from about three minutes of national level dedicated downhill track to 15-minute lung busters littered with variety thanks to a number of connected trails.

Graves Drive, Toowoomba road sign

Graves is kind of a big deal in Toowoomba. A legitimate road sign from a street named after him in a new residential area. 

That elevation also results in temperatures being slightly more favourable in the summer and although it still gets really hot – often seeing temperatures in the mid-30s – it’s regularly a couple of degrees cooler than nearby Brisbane. The town’s size is another attribute that Jared points out as a benefit. With a population of roughly 115,000, Toowoomba is “big enough to have everything that I need, but small enough that there aren’t many of the distractions”. It works in his favour on the trails as well: despite there being a great and growing riding scene in his hometown, he enjoys being somewhat anonymous when out training. It isn’t hard to see that while riders in town who know Jared are indeed proud of him and his achievements, the rural Aussie mentality of the residents plays well into Jared being, as he puts it, “just another face in the crowd”. 

It’s a good thing too because for someone with a laser-like focus on their goals like Jared, the time out riding is incredibly valuable. The ability to say a quick “g’day" and continue on his way allows him to keep on track, whether he’s in the middle of an intense interval or lapping one of the shuttle trails that he frequents. Couple that with the sheer amount of time spent on the bike and it’s even more important to be able to go with as few interruptions as possible.

Jared mixing his pre-training drink

Jared mixing up a pre-training drink before we head out to the trails. These things pack a punch but are certainly an acquired taste… 

Early morning starts to beat the heat

Days start early here, with a regular 5am kickoff to beat the heat of the day. Despite the elevation, it still gets really hot. 

Graves' Training Schedule

Jared literally writes his own program. It seems second nature to him, though, and he rarely checks the notes on the fridge. 

For the 2017/18 off-season though, things have been a little different for Jared and he’s spent more time than ever riding at locations surrounding his beloved hometown of Toowoomba. It’s a twist on his approach that he has introduced for a couple of reasons; it keeps his trails at home interesting, and it gets him spending more time on trails that he doesn’t know well, or at all – an attribute that is obviously going to favour an enduro racer but one that will be even more important come 2018, with the EWS moving to a one practice run rule for all rounds of the season this year. 

That’s not the only place that Jared made changes to his preparation either and he is now training in what he feels to be the most enduro specific manner he ever has. Gone are the heavy amounts of XC racing from the past and the DH races mixed in to keep those skills sharp, combatting the amount of time on the XC bike – a move Jared felt backfired a little. Instead, Jared has returned to reaching for some of the top end power and strength he initially brought across from racing Four-Cross and BMX, something he has noticed disappearing a little more each year and an attribute that he is striving to reintroduce. While he still spends time riding road, even doing the occasional race, and riding other disciplines too, his focus is more on the enduro bike than ever before.

Jared railing in Toowoomba

Through a tricky, loose corner on a trail that Jared built by hand with a friend as a grommet. After huge storms ripped apart all of the IMBA designated trail builds a few years back, the local council decided to make this trail legal, based on how well it dealt with the storms.

Graves and Rude climbing up for more in Toowoomba

Graves with Rude in tow, heads up for more turns. Even with the early start it's hot as hell by the time they're climbing back up.

Jared Graves on Cheeseburger, Toowoomba

This section of trail has changed over the years but is still riding really well, outdoing a bunch of IMBA sanctioned trails in a large storm years back. 

Graves checking Richie video angles.

Toward the end of the session, the boys grab some clips for their social media channels. Graves checking Richie's bodged job. 


Cross-country fitness is so different to the fitness that you need for enduro. You just turn into a diesel, more or less. It’s not the right fitness to be fast for enduro.

Whether on the bike or in the gym, variety keeps things interesting and fun. While he’s spending more time on his mountain bike than before – at least four days a week – this variety is found in all facets of his program. Coaches will say that doing different things and evolving the training is important to keep the body guessing; reason being that once it adapts to particular techniques it needs a refresh to continue improving. That’s something that Jared’s always focused on and continues to improve on with each season. 

This off-season his focus started with a good effort of trying a lot of different setups early on. Seeing what is happening in the industry and wanting to have some first-hand experience, Jared made a lot of changes to his setup and admits that he found some really interesting benefits to it, which he prefers to keep to himself for the moment. However,  you can expect to see him setting his bike up to feel good in every area of his riding, as opposed to focusing too much on feeling great in one area. “You need to know exactly what your bike is going to do in a given situation and if you’re constantly changing suspension settings, tire pressures and bar height and head angles – all of that sort of stuff… If you’re constantly playing with that sort of stuff you’re never going to get a really in-tune feeling with your bike because it’s changing too much.” 

Jared Graves drifting a corner on Cheeseburger, Toowoomba

Never a tinkerer. Graves is a fan of getting the setup right and leaving it alone, minus the necessary adjustments to suspension or tires at a given venue.

Overall, the changes made to his setup were pretty minor, but he is happy to have gone through the whole process and tried a bunch of different things. Feeling smoother on the trail this year than he has previously, and not simply in the visual sense but with things like braking, has instilled a confidence and a fire in Jared that he admits he hasn’t had in some time. Motivation is the driving force behind any athlete and for someone like Jared, a multi-discipline champion with a work ethic to suit, it spells danger to the competition. 


I sort of have a motivation at the moment that I haven’t had for quite a number of years and I’m really enjoying that.

Over the years, Jared has been quite open about his training and his thoughts on recovery within. During that time he’s learnt that for him, active recovery works best, even if it’s a super gentle road ride that only lasts an hour, it’s something he feels he responds better to rather than a day on the couch doing nothing. However, his focus on active recovery is mixed into more than his “rest days” and when in the gym I was surprised to see him doing light spins on his trainer rather than standing to have a drink for the 30–60 second breaks between sets.

Jared Graves working his upper body

Jared's worked hard on upper body and core strength this season, stating that he's never focused on it throughout his whole career…

Graves on the trainer

Active recovery is a training tactic that Graves is big on, even taking to it between sets in the gym.

Graves deadlifting

Straight into the next set or exercise, regardless of how challenging the next one is.

Heading into crunch time and the first Enduro World Series event of the year in Chile, Jared is really happy with how things are going, though like most years he feels the off-season slipped away, leaving him wanting more time. During our time together there was a week or so before his first race since last season, the Thredbo Super Enduro, and with plans of another race in Chile prior to the first event, those pre-race jitters should be put at ease and the cobwebs removed. 


Recovery is more important than the training itself most of the time

It’s hard work being a professional rider, especially if you want to be the best in the world. Spending a couple of days with Jared, and Richie – who spends a month or so with Jared every off-season, as the two are quite close – showed that. From the early morning wake up calls to beat the heat of the Toowoomba sun, whether it be in the gym or out on the bike, to the constant self-evaluation and focus on doing better, it’s no piece of cake. 

Jared Graves shuttle day in Toowoomba

Shuttle laps for more time on the bike. No complaints here. 

Graves hops into a tricky root section in Toowoomba

Loose, dry, and hot, but there's work to be done. 

Zelvy Carbon Shuttle-rig

Zelvy Carbon on hand to help us out with the shuttles. 

And perhaps this is where the farming mentality of Toowoomba has gotten deeper into who Jared is and what he has achieved than one could imagine? Where we grow up plays a pivotal role in who we become and this country town is based heavily on farming, thanks to the nutrient-rich soil. The work ethic of farmers is not to be doubted and with the prominence of this industry and lifestyle in the area, it surely has rubbed off on Jared – after spending time at home with him, I’d argue it’s played a big role. These traits have helped Jared immensely and they continue to do so in what is one of the most decorated riding careers of any Australian professional cyclist, making him a danger to anyone in any cycling discipline he sets his mind to.





Comments

slyfink
+1 Merwinn
slyfink  - March 13, 2018, 7:39 a.m.

nice write-up, thanks.  a bit of a change from "trains hard, eats well, puts the hours in" common refrain of all the off-season pieces.  The role of place in who we are and what we become has always interested me. 

It'd be nice to see him back at the sharp end of the field, consistently.

Reply

AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - March 13, 2018, 8:23 a.m.

Thanks slyfink. 

Yes, to see him pushing the top steps each round would be good and it's going to be really interesting to follow this season. A lot of top guys are going to be very strong!

Reply

natbrown
+1 AJ Barlas
natbrown  - March 13, 2018, 9:33 a.m.

I like the write-up too. I grew up in Brisbane and visited relatives in Toowoomba regularly. It's a pretty nice town I'd say, certainly in comparison to a lot of towns in Queensland and New South Wales. I think you captured the appeal to a mountain biker pretty well, and of course that appeal is relative to that area. The comparison isn't so favourable to BC for riding, but it still has it's merits I'd say. Brisbane though...there's not too much to draw someone there except for work. It has the kinds of things that urban centres do, but it's not great as a city really. I totally get why Jared lives in Toowoomba given his family connections.

Reply

AJ_Barlas
+1 natbrown
AJ Barlas  - March 14, 2018, 10:15 p.m.

Agreed, Nat. Brissy is best if you are keen on advancing your career and living somewhere hot while doing so. That said, by all accounts that I am hearing, the riding surrounding Brisbane has improved a lot over recent years. I may need to check that out some more. :)

Reply

rugbyred
0
Eric Van Sickle  - March 13, 2018, 3:37 p.m.

Great article. A nice twist to the typical pre season workout fluff that is often written (yours isn’t fluff)!

I really enjoyed seeing his week breakdown. It’s not often a professional athletes let’s out their secrets. Jerome Clementz showed his VO2 max scores and a few other bench mark results a few years ago. 

His pre workout mix looks like BSN no xplode. Definitely a different taste. 

Eric

Reply

AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - March 14, 2018, 10:13 p.m.

Cheers, Eric. Jared's pre-mix includes a number of different supplements and I, unfortunately, don't know everything that is in it. It does involve some caffeine in one of the supps though! He doesn't take it before every workout and noted it isn't good to rely on a supp. to get him going every workout.

Reply

JNally
0
JNally  - Dec. 1, 2018, 12:57 a.m.

Jared's "homebrew" Pre-Workout supplement approach has got him in some hot bother now!

Reply

Mic
+1 AJ Barlas
Mic  - March 14, 2018, 6:09 a.m.

Thank you for that feature, I really enjoyed it. I can still remember an interview with Jared in the old Dirt Mag when it was still paper, this interview literally made me taking up hot/cold showers after a practise or training session. Really inspirational.

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