BORDER COMMONWEALTH GAMES ATHLETES: Tory Thomas

CROSS COUNTRY MOUNTAIN BIKING

10.30PM, TUESDAY

MOUNT Beauty mountain biker Tory Thomas fell into the sport by accident — not the sort of accident you’d wish on your worst enemy.

Back in 2005, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games-bound cyclist was training for the world 24-hour solo race when she was hit by a car.

In her humble way, Thomas described it as “pretty serious” — she broke her hip, pelvis and lower back and ended up with eight screws and a plate and a pin through the bottom of her back.

Specialists said she would never ride again.

The injuries made marathon racing impossible and Thomas switched her focus to Olympic-format mountain-bike racing.

Nominally that’s about 1½ hours in the saddle, about six circuits of tracks cut through natural terrain or hand-crafted, as is the Cath­kin Braes course on the outskirts of Glasgow.

Two years later, she was the nation’s best.

“After the accident, it seemed practical to do a shorter distance, I couldn’t sit on a bike for too long,” Thomas said.

Thomas, now a mum to Hamish, 3, makes light of her injuries and pain.

“I’m pretty lucky in that I’ve got a husband who’s a physio. Bike riding has helped keep me in better shape with those injuries,” she said.

“Like any chronic injury, you are always in a bit of discomfort — there are muscles in my left leg that don’t work properly, numbness, sometimes a loss of feeling.

“But it’s better when I’m riding and keeping active than not riding.”

Thomas and her husband, Tim, moved to the Kiewa Valley at the end of 2005.

“A big driver in that was being hit by a car — I worked as a transport planner in Melbourne and just commuting to work each day was dangerous enough,” she said.

“Tim had always cross-country skied at Falls Creek and we were always driving to Mount Beauty to ride and ski so I ended up with a job up here and we made the move. We never thought about it as long-term but it is now.”

Thomas said cost had kept her out of the green and gold for most of her racing career.

“I’ve never represented Australia, never gone to a world championship,” she said.

“I’ve been selected a few times but the cost has been prohibitive because, at the end of the day, it’s largely self-funded.

“But last year the owner of Trek Racing, one of my main sponsors, asked me whether I wanted to return to elite racing, wanted to go to the Commonwealth Games.

“It was something I had never done and here was someone willing to back me.

“We went to the key selection events — World Cup races in South Africa, Cairns, Czech Republic and Germany.

“In some ways I still can’t believe it.”

Thomas hadn’t seen the Games course — a fast 1½-hour ride with short, sharp climbs — until this week.

“The 90-minute format is designed for television and spectators. The circuit is close to 15 minutes a lap,” she said.

Thomas said “purposeful” training on the Upper Kiewa trails and staying healthy had been the keys to her preparations.

She left for Glasgow last weekend, later than her teammates. She had planned to make the Albury six-hour event early this month her last pre-Games competition but “it didn’t go to plan — I had a mechanical failure”.

“While I lost most of my training partners to the ski fields, this region is still the perfect place to practice,” she said.

Her final training involved mainly mountain biking on the Kiewa trails — “a lot of purposeful training — a lot of fast riding”.

“The course is open and fast, smaller climbs and less technical, so I have tried to mimic that type of riding and mixing it with Ergo sessions on a stationary bike,” she said.

BORDER COMMONWEALTH GAMES ATHLETE PROFILES:

- Tory Thomas (mountain biking)

- Belinda Hocking (swimming)

- Gaye Shale (shooting)

- Jodi Elkington (long jump)

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