Coffs Harbour mountain bike rider Emily Parkes has her eyes fixed on the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and at just 16 years of age, she is currently the under 19 female champion of the All Mountain Cup National Mountain Bike Series. We catch up with Emily for a chat …
When did you first start riding competitively?
Ever since I was very young I’ve enjoyed sport and as I grew older, I refined that to fast sport. My parents were the family that received phone calls from concerned neighbours that they had seen me zooming down the hill AGAIN on my skateboard at speeds far too fast to be safe. And then I discovered that bikes can do the same! I was introduced to mountain biking by my sports loving dad and after a few races, a local bike rider noticed that maybe I had what it takes to be a really good racer. And so Justine Leahy (former Australian 24 hour champion) took me under her wing and started to coach me.
What have been some of your greatest achievements in mountain biking so far?
Justine and her partner coached and accompanied me on tour in the 2011/12 Australian National Mountain Bike Series. I raced in Perth, Adelaide, Mt Buller (VIC), Mt Stromlo (ACT) and Awaba (NSW). My first national series, and I won the female Under 19 category!
My current sponsor, Torq Australia (sports nutrition and fitness consultancy) then recognised my future and accepted me into their Mountain Bike Team of Australian elite riders – a huge honour and a massive boost to my career. In June this year I came third female in the half marathon at the National Marathon Championships in Canberra.
You recently travelled to New Zealand for the Oceania Mountain Bike Championships, where you represented Australia …
Following my National Series win, I was then selected into the Junior Mountain Bike Long Team and asked to represent Australia and race at the Oceanias in Rotorua, New Zealand, in March this year. This was my toughest race. The New Zealanders knew the track well and had incredible skill. Although I was the winning Australian, I still only managed 4th place. Despite intensive efforts, I still have a long way to go!
Are you riding in the Pleasure and Pain Mountain Bike enduro in September?
Of course! I always enjoy racing locally, and especially on the Pleasure and Pain Track! On 9 September this year, Refusenix Racing will deliver their second Pleasure and Pain endurance event in conjunction with Coffs Harbour Cycle Club’s MTB wing. This is a 25, 50 or 100 km teams or solo race set in beautiful Pine Creek. It is a very popular race, catering for all ages (providing you can ride a minimum of 25 km on dirt!) and all levels of racers. I look forward to this race as a solo racer; although, I have not yet decided on the distance, as it will depend on my training at that time, which needs to fit around national racing. I enjoy this race, as it really shows off the Coffs Coast – lovely forests with some fun and challenging track!
Tell us about your involvement with Refusenix Racing and the Numbers 4 Em initiative.
Racing is a very expensive sport. I require several bikes depending on conditions and type of race/training I do. Travelling around Australia to compete in races such as marathons, state races, 24 hour races, road biking tours, training camps etc is also very draining financially. I was thrilled to be approached by Refusenix Racing, who suggested a fundraising idea for me ,which I am very excited about. Refusenix Racing is an event organising business based in Coffs Harbour that aims to promote rider-focused events in Cross-Country and Gravity disciplines. Racers can help me out by bidding for a race number. Racers register for Pleasure and Pain and choose a race plate number, then bid on that number to ensure they win their lucky number! Funds raised will help me further my racing career around Australia and hopefully further.
You have a bright future ahead. What are your goals for the next 5 years?
This year I will again compete in the Australian National Series. I am also training for selection in the World Cup to be held in Austria later this year. My five year goal though, is ambitious, but I believe achievable – 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Mountain Biking in Australia is a relatively new sport and to be a female in the sport makes my goal an even tougher one. It’s a tough sport though, and I believe I have what it takes!
This story was published in issue 23 of the Coffs Coast Focus