Jared Graves is one of the household names in the gravity world of mountain bike riding, having placed in World Cup events more times than we care to count. To add to this, Graves has also managed to represent Australia in BMX at the Olympics, as well as recently placing in the top five in the newly formated World Enduro Series. Graves has competed in the following disciplines - 4X, BMX, Cross Country, Downhill, Enduro and also trains on the road.
To sum it up, this guy can ride a bike insanely fast... Recently the name of Jared Graves has also been popping up on the Australian Cross Country circuit, at National Level nonetheless. This is a little concerning, considering Graves is doing it "just for the fun of it, and for some cross training". Last time we checked, Gravity riders weren't built for riding uphill. But in true Graves style, he's come along to prove them wrong. He has managed to nail top three's on multiple occasions while he was at it. You know, just for kicks!
We recently sat down and spoke to the man himself. The downhill demon turned XC powerhouse - and all for a bit of cross training ahead of the 2014 Enduro World Series.
BikeRoar: Jared, thanks for catching up with us! How's your training going for the 2014 Enduro World Series?
Jared Graves: All is going really well. Im back home now after Chile, in my training bubble as I like to call it haha, just working on all the things I pinpointed as some potential weaknesses from last year.
BR: We'll touch on Chile again later, but what are your main goals during the 2014 EWS, apart from winning events and placing well overall?
JG: Well at the end of the day winning is the only goal, don't know what else to say really, that's the only goal! I would be disappointed with anything less this year.
BR: Reckon you're on the right track! What do you think makes a good enduro rider in a broad perspective? Do you feel the need for very particular skills, or do you have to be a confident rider in all aspects including your fitness?
JG: It's absolutely a need to be strong in all areas, if you have any weaknesses they will cost you at some point during the season. You need the skills, fitness, strength, strong mental ability, race smarts, and of course the ability to read the terrain and ride it as it comes at you.
You also need to be good on any type of terrain or conditions. All riders have stages and terrain that they favor or do better at, but you have to be good at everything. You need to minimize time loss on stages you might be weak on, and maximize time on stages that suit your strengths. You must also be brutally honest with yourself and pinpoint your weaknesses to turn them into strengths... That's why I love training for Enduro - there's always something that needs work, and it's a very motivational process for me!
BR: Speaking of skills and fitness, how have you found competing at National Level in cross country mtb here in Australia?
JG: Yeah it was really good! I need mini goals to keep the training up through the off-season and prepare for the upcoming EWS races. So my only goal with the XC races was to make me pull my finger out and get as fit and strong as possible for the upcoming season. I've always been more of a sprinter, and I seem to be able to maintain power and my sprint easily, just had to get as fit as possible. To me, fitness is the base for a successful season. It allows you to ride more, train more, recover faster, and gives you a mental edge. That feeling of "I'm ready" before a race...
BR: Do other enduro riders also focus on cross country racing as intently as you do, or are you doing something unique with the hope of gaining an edge over your EWS competitors?
JG: I suppose I've always done things a little differently to most people. I like to try new things and keep it fresh, because if I spent all off-season riding my Enduro bike like most guys do I would be burnt out. As I'm sure you know, I like to do a lot of different things, and that works well for enduro as you need a very broad range of skills. I knew last season I was as fit as anyone I was racing against, so I wanted to have a mental edge too. Last year I was kind of scared of the long physical stages, but now I can't wait for them! I hope they're all torture tests haha!
BR: Change of focus, what's your earliest memory of racing in any discipline? Personally mine was turning up to Thredbo for a "family ride" only to find my parents had entered me into Australian National Championships. Way to encourage confidence!
JG: I'm from a very sport centred family too, and I was doing 5 or 6 different sports at a time as a young fella. BMX was always a big part of my childhood, seeing me racing most weekends from 5 years old until I discovered MTB at 13 years old. I still remember my first BMX race; it was a club race in Toowoomba, maybe a month or so before my 5th birthday. Dad had to push me up some of the jumps!
BR: You've come a long way since then! As you've developed as a rider, sponsors have gravitated towards you. You tend to stick with brands and sponsors quite a bit more than the average pro rider. Which brands do you associate with the most, and how do they show their support toward your goals in 2014?
JG: I've definitely stayed with sponsors a lot more than almost anyone. I don't like to jump around on equipment. I've always had a thing with only signing with companies who make a product that I would buy if I were a privateer. You have to be on the best stuff at the top level. Yeti has the same thoughts with team sponsors, so I'm very lucky.
This is my 11th year with Yeti, and also my 11th year with Fox Racing Shox, I've also had 10 years with Oakley, TLD in some form of product, and E-13, and 9 years with Shimano, Maxxis, Dt Swiss, and the list goes on... To me, loyalty and building relationships are important.
All my sponsors support me with the latest and best product available. and the long term relationships mean I am lucky enough to work closely with sponsors with developing new product and a few custom things to suit my preferences as well. All my sponsors are awesome, solid companies who have the same goals I do. That's how it has to be!
BR: Take us through your Enduro bike - what makes it the best bike on the circuit?
JG: Like I mentioned above, all my sponsors supplying me with what I honestly believe to be the best equipment available. If I was a full privateer and buying my own product I wouldn't change one part of my bike and I'm not just saying that to keep them happy, I honestly mean it. I will say that there are companies out there that make products that are on par with what I'm using, but no company makes anything any better.
BR: For all the 'non riding' partners out there, how many bikes do you have in your garage, keeping in mind that N+1 is the going formula for determining how many bikes you're allowed (with N representing the current fleet). Any old school favorites?
JG: Well... I admittedly do have a bit of a collection going - In excess of 25 currently! I do sell quite a few of my rides, but there's always a bike or 3 from each season that you get a bit attached to.
Yeti is such a unique company that attracts a lot of hardcore fans, so I knew from when I first signed with them that I was going to get a bit of a collection going. My 2 equal favorites and most special bikes are definitely my prototype Dirt Jumper I won 4X World Championships on in 2009, and my Olympic BMX bike. I have quite a few prototype bikes from over the years as well that I love to just sit and stare at...
BR: If you ever need any bikes ridden, send them our way! Now the 2014 EWS is going to be big... The Enduro racing scene is really picking up in Australia, even having XC events incorporating basic Enduro runs as some of their stages (Buller Festival for example). What EWS course are you looking forward to most?
JG: I'm really looking forward to Winter Park, just because it's close to the Yeti factory and a lot of the guys that work there come to watch. So it kind of feels like a home race! And I have unfinished business there, because I won every stage except 1 last year, but had a mechanical on stage 2 which cost me 3 minutes and any chance of winning. I was gutted, so I hope to change things this year.
BR: Apart from Chile, it seems all the events take place in the Northern Hemisphere. Do you think countries such as South Africa and Australia will also soon see some Enduro World Series action?
JG: Oh yeah, I'm sure it's only a matter of time before the series expands out. I've heard that there will be a round in NZ in 2015, but we'll see.
BR: Tell us about Chile, which was round 1 of the World Enduro Series. How did it go?
JG: The first race is always tricky and you get a little more anxious, you never know where everyone is at when it comes to form and speed. Everyone was in top form, including myself, although it didn't all go to plan for me. Cannondale rider Jerome Clementz took the overall win. It was so close, coming down to the final stage before he took the win off me. I'm pretty focused on the rest of the season, and I'm in a good position to move up a spot. Time will tell...
BR: Hopefully you have a rocking season! No doubt it will be a close one, with the world's best there with the same goals as you. We'll leave you to it, thanks again for your time! All the best for 2014 from the BikeRoar team and all our readers.
JG: Cheers guys!