Anthony Connell – Well chaffed!

Anthony Connell 24hr MTB nut

ANTHONY Connell is a mountaineer on a push bike. He thrives on the challenges of solo 24-hour mountain bike endurance racing - the extreme sport of riding a mountain bike for 24-hours non stop around a set course over rocky and hilly terrain.

He loves bikes and has grown up with them since getting his first bike when he was just a little tacker.

Today, at 31, after exploring many different types of riding - BMX, road racing, downhill mountain bike racing - he’s facing his biggest mental and physical test.

Solo 24-hour mountain bike enduro racing is the ultimate for off-road cycling enthusiasts.

It’s a long way from where Anthony started when he got his first, real bike.

He remembers his father walking across Fifteenth Street from Target wheeling a shiny metallic blue bike with gold brake levers in the early 1980s.

“We lived across the road from Target back then and when I looked through the front window and saw dad with the BMX -I knew as a five-year-old I was stepping up to the same bikes as the big boys – it was very exciting,” he said.

Fast forward 26 years and Anthony has qualified for the 24-hour Solo World championships to be staged at Mt Stromlo, outside Canberra, next month.

More than 400 mountain bike riders competed, including about 200 from Australia, with the remainder coming from the United States, Great Britain, Europe, Asia and South America.

To qualify, Anthony raced in his third solo 24-hour enduro in Adelaide in May this year and finished without incident, riding consistently over the 24-hour endurance ride.

Unfortunately, injuries sustained during the 24-hour enduro in Adelaide have put a question mark on his plans to compete in this world class event.

“The 24-hour enduro is a time-based race where riders complete as many laps of the set course over the 24-hour period - most laps wins.

“The courses are set in well established mountain biking areas - in Adelaide it was staged in the Mt Crawford forest in the Adelaide Hills.

“It was very hilly, but less rocky than the Mt Stromlo trails in Canberra where the world championships will be held.

“The Mt Crawford forest course held up really well, which was lucky for me, considering my suspension forks blew a seal and locked up solid in the first lap.

“My wrists took a fair pounding for the duration of the race.

“If it had happened in the rockier, drier and post-bushfired forest in Canberra, my wrists wouldn’t have lasted the distance.

“Riding bikes for me is all about personal inquiry - it’s not so much the competition, it’s the intense focus and freedom it creates.

“As a kid, I had heaps of energy like most kids do - riding bikes let me blow off a heap of steam and gave me independence to go round to friends’ places or hang out in the bush with mates without having to get a lift from the parents.

“Bikes have always meant freedom,”he said.

But that freedom comes at a price and almost cost Anthony his life.

“My downhill mountain bike riding came to an abrupt end after three years of competing and riding in the Dandenongs and Wodonga while living in those areas.

“I lost my focus in a practice run for the National Downhill Mountain Bike Championships, crashed off a seven foot drop, landed on my head and was fully paralysed when I came to.

“I was winched into a chopper, falling in and out of consciousness on my way to hospital.

“I remember one nurse very gravely suggesting I should make what could be my last call.

“I walked out of hospital that evening with just one bruise and a massive headache, but it took me a couple of weeks to regain my short-term memory and a couple of months longer to be back to -normal’.

“The real end of my downhill racing was when I returned to Mildura to live and work and found it very difficult to find a decent hill,” he joked.

“I heard about the Coomealla-Mildura Mountainless Bike Club and joined up to get involved in the mountain biking community.

“For three years I’ve been an active member of the club in both racing and helping organise club events.

“A few months before a 24-hour race I do heaps of kilometres on my road bike exploring the area and closer to the event, I’m on the mountain bike doing intense training and sharpening my handling skills.

“The Adelaide 24-hour enduro in May took a fair toll on my body, the wrists didn’t recover as well as the rest of my body and while having rehabilitation on them it revealed an underlying neck problem.

“I’m only just getting on top of it now - you hurt so much during and after a 24-hour race even when you’re super fit, so it’s really a lot to commit to one knowing your body’s not in peak condition.”

Away from the sport he loves, Anthony relaxes by … going for a ride.

“I’m really keen to get on my new mountain bike and explore further afield - it’s not all about racing,” he said.

“I just love getting out on my bike in the bush getting some exercise and seeing things - if there’s a sign to read or a view to be had, I’ll stop and take it in,” the bike riding enthusiast said.

“It was very hilly, but less rocky than the Mt Stromlo trails in Canberra where the world championships will be held.

“The Mt Crawford forest course held up really well, which was lucky for me, considering my suspension forks blew a seal and locked up solid in the first lap.

“My wrists took a fair pounding for the duration of the race.

“If it had happened in the rockier, drier and post-bushfired forest in Canberra, my wrists wouldn’t have lasted the distance.

“Riding bikes for me is all about personal inquiry - it’s not so much the competition, it’s the intense focus and freedom it creates.

“As a kid, I had heaps of energy like most kids do - riding bikes let me blow off a heap of steam and gave me independence to go round to friends’ places or hang out in the bush with mates without having to get a lift from the parents.

“Bikes have always meant freedom,” he said.

But that freedom comes at a price and almost cost Anthony his life.

“My downhill mountain bike riding came to an abrupt end after three years of competing and riding in the Dandenongs and Wodonga while living in those areas.

“I lost my focus in a practice run for the National Downhill Mountain Bike Championships, crashed off a seven foot drop, landed on my head and was fully paralysed when I came to.

“I was winched into a chopper, falling in and out of consciousness on my way to hospital.

“I remember one nurse very gravely suggesting I should make what could be my last call.

“I walked out of hospital that evening with just one bruise and a massive headache, but it took me a couple of weeks to regain my short-term memory and a couple of months longer to be back to -normal’.

“The real end of my downhill racing was when I returned to Mildura to live and work and found it very difficult to find a decent hill,” he joked.

“I heard about the Coomealla-Mildura Mountainless Bike Club and joined up to get involved in the mountain biking community.

“For three years I’ve been an active member of the club in both racing and helping organise club events.

“A few months before a 24-hour race I do heaps of kilometres on my road bike exploring the area and closer to the event, I’m on the mountain bike doing intense training and sharpening my handling skills.

“The Adelaide 24-hour enduro in May took a fair toll on my body, the wrists didn’t recover as well as the rest of my body and while having rehabilitation on them it revealed an underlying neck problem.

“I’m only just getting on top of it now - you hurt so much during and after a 24-hour race even when you’re super fit, so it’s really a lot to commit to one knowing your body’s not in peak condition.”

Away from the sport he loves, Anthony relaxes by … going for a ride.

“I’m really keen to get on my new mountain bike and explore further afield - it’s not all about racing” he said.

“I just love getting out on my bike in the bush getting some exercise and seeing things - if there’s a sign to read or a view to be had, I’ll stop and take it in,” the bike riding enthusiast said.

This story appeared in Saturday’s Sunraysia Daily 18-9-2010.

www.sunraysiadaily.com.au – The ride of his life

 

3 thoughts on “Anthony Connell – Well chaffed!”

  1. "a couple of months longer to be back to ?normal?."… Anthony… normal?!? haha. Shampoo and Scissors anyone? Too long between beers tho.

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