Yetifan) You've been on Yeti for 12 years if I'm right? You joined in about 2004 was it? (I'm unsure its been a long time!)
JG ) yep, 2004 was my first season with Yeti, 12 years!
You were all about DH back then if I recall, having left the Iron Horse Mad Catz team. It Was an exciting time for Aussie DH domination back then, you used to race DH and then went into DH & 4X at the same time. Can you tell us about the early yeti days for you?
In 2004 and 2005 DH was definitely my main focus, I was getting faster each season, and my results were improving, I won the Norba DH overall title in 2005, and got my first world cup podium for DH in 2005, but at the same time, 1 had a bunch of 4X world cup podiums, and I wasn't even doing any specific training for 4X. Then when I got 2nd at world champs, I just couldn't help turning a bit more focus to 4X and see how far I could go with it with some proper training.
What was your first Yeti?
My first Yeti was a DH9 they sent out to me when I first signed, something to race some national rounds on and get used to the bike…
how did it go compared to the bikes youd previously been on? And do you still have it?
- ah man….ill always remember the DH9 as a total plow machine. I think it was the first bike on the market with a vertical rear wheel path, so it held speed in the rough stuff like nothing else, but that thing was a tank!! 20kg no worries! But that also helped its straight line speed!
you were one of the only a few people doing both DH and the 4X,I can't even contemplate how hard this must have been! do you think this helped with becoming such a versatile all round cyclist?
man, looking back, it was so hard, I was just tired all the time! But it was an awesome way to take pressure off each event with DH and 4X, as long as I got a results I was happy with in either event the weekend was a success, Ive always loved doing different things, always mixing it up. So racing both was a no brainer really. It upped my value as a racer too. I was kind of 2 riders for the price of one to the team.
I enjoyed watching 4X, and seeing you clean up at the World Cup was an amazing sight, and the world champs was a very tough place for you, any stand out races? Why?
- Yeah world champs was always a tough one, just seemed to work against me, I have been in the lead at 5 4X world champs finals, and only won 1 of them. Just always bad luck, a combination of super random mechanicals and being taken out from behind. Pretty much all my 4X World champ finals stand out for different reasons…. Obviously Winning the tile in 2009 stands out, but being drilled over the first corner in 2008 was very hard to handle at the time, and the flat front tire in Champery in 2011 when everyone else was on the ground and all I had to do was roll to the finish, but I was unable to. except for 2009, world champs was always pretty cruel to me.
Best 4x track?
- I think Livigno in 2005 for World champs was my all time favorite, it had everything.
there have been a lot of team bikes over the years, how directly did your own input affect the bikes that people like me can buy?
With the exception of the DJ frame and the SB6c. my feedback wasn't really used at all, but the guys at Yeti know whats going on, which is why there was almost no need for my feedback, the bikes have always been rad!
I heard that the medium 303 is sized up exactly for you?
I had a bit of a say in the geo of that bike, but not like with the DJ or the 6c.
You've had some great team mates over the years, Leov, Gwin, Blenkinsop, and most recently Rude, they've all turned into winners, do you tell them all your secrets? They usually win after being on the team with you!
Well with the first 3 guys you mention, their results were more a reflection on their own hard work, and talent. As I've gotten older though I really enjoy working with the young guys, as long as they are willing to listen and learn. Richie from the day I met him was like a sponge, and I know I've helped him to develop towards his maximum potential a lot faster. seeing him win the overall this year was a very proud moment for me.
I'm imagining you've most of your team bikes still, which 5 are the most special to you?
Yeah I still have a lot of my team bikes, I haven't sold many bikes over the years., hmmm picking my top 5 would be hard, they all have a special meaning. But definitely my World Champs winning DJ from 2009, then my Sb6c that I raced at Finale last year to wrap up the Enduro World title, My Olympic BMX, my SB66 from Dh world champs in South Africa that I got 3rd on, and probably my 2005 303
The no 53 has long been associated with you, for those who don't know, how did it come about?
That was my BMX number, it all came about from the old Herbie movies, 53 is Herbies number. when I started racing BMX again I was pretty small in comparison the the other meat heads on the gate, but I just got stuck in and was winning a lot of races from right when I started. It was a personal reminder that even though the other guys look intimidating that when your head is switched on you can beat them. Herbie was always the small guy but he had a big heart and could take on the Ferraris and win! Even though later after a few years of a lot of time in the gym I got quite big myself.
One of the most impressive results I've ever seen was the bronze in DH at world champs in South Africa, I knew your had a medal in your sights, that must have been quite a nerve wracking experience sat on the hot seat?
All season my only goal with DH racing was to get a medal at world champs, so when that goal was achieved it was super satisfying. Honestly I don't think the small bike was the fastest choice, but its all I had ridden on all year and I was comfortable on it. I knew if I had just jumped on my DH bike that week for the race I wouldn't have been able to get fully used to it and be 100% up to speed, so I felt the SB66 was the best choice for me for that race at the time, and it all worked out. And yes, sitting in the hot seat with 50 riders still to come after me definitely sucked! haha.
The EWS came along at exactly the right time for you, and you got it dialled from the start, how much have you enjoyed the last few seasons?
I think had enduro been an option back when I started racing in the late 90's that it is what I would have done from the start. I had always loved riding natural terrain and I've always been fast on tracks that I don't know at all. So I was pumped when the EWS started up, and it almost felt like what I had been waiting my whole career to do. it just suits me more than any other discipline I've ever done.
you used to be known as Grubby Graves, who came up with this?
hah! thats a Paul Rowney nickname. It was my first race for yeti in 2004, at Sea Otter, I just got all my new team clothes and riding gear, and I was just so excited, ripping all the bags open to check everything out. In my excitement I forgot to clean up after myself, thats where it started and it stuck…sigh… haha
By my calculations, you are by far the longest serving Yeti team member, I guess every party has to end at some point, does it feel special that you've played a huge part in that companies history?
Im super proud of everything I've achieved with Yeti, I guess I have always been the exception to how Yeti generally functions as a race team, with developing riders and then moving on. I think Conroy always saw me as a good person for the young guys to learn from, which helped develop them along faster, which is what the program is all about. Ill always remember Conroy saying to me in 2004 what the maximum amount of money they would ever pay a rider before they were deemed "too big" for Yeti to support and In my last contract they have been paying me almost 5x that amount. They have always looked after me well, and I guess I have kind of been the face of the race team over the past decade and a bit.
The move to Specialized will come as a bit of a shock for the Yeti super fans out there, you'll always be one of the crew though, why did you think it was time to move on?
Specialized is a company I've always had big respect for, from my days when i started racing being a big Shaun Palmer fan like everyone else, I love their innovation and always being on top of product development, always trying new things and being ahead of the curve. So when they approached me and we talked everything over it just got me really excited. So Many super cool new products in the works, and I have just gotten back from a 5 day trip to the headquarters in Morgan Hill to give feedback and discuss new product. Being involved directly in product development is something I am super into. Both Specialized and myself are totally on the same page with what we want to achieve. Ive stayed with Yeti for so long because it just felt right to me, much like to move to specialised feels right for me now. I know some people will be haters towards me for moving, but thats really none of their business to be honest. Money wasn't a major motivating factor, but I really like the team dynamic, its honestly kind of like a bigger version of Yeti. After seeing first hand how the company operates it certainly isn't a robotic corporate company like people think.
tell us a funny Yeti story?
hah such a hard choice, but I'm going to go with when we celebrated after I won my first World Cup round in 2006. Justin Leov was hitting the drinks hard and decided he would get up on the table in the restaurant we were having dinner at, and do "the chick" which basically involves tucking your junk away between your legs. So he stands up on the table in the middle of a packed restaurant full of families, pants down, shirt up, junk tucked, and yells out " has everybody seen the chick" Everybody in the restaurant was looking at him, some laughing, some shielding their children's eyes haha. 2006 - 2008 with Justin Leov on the team was full of stories like that, so many good times!
you must have hung out at the factory quite a bit, will you miss that place?
Yeah Ive spent a lot of time at the factory, its always a cool place to be, and ill miss it for sure. That said, I still plan on doing quite a bit of training in Colorado next year, so no doubt ill be at the factory to say hi to everyone… they will always be family!