Tasmanian Sam Fox will make his Commonwealth Games debut this week in not one, but two disciplines, in what Fox believes will open further doors for him in the cycling world.
The 21-year-old gets his first taste of action tonight on the mountain bike with teammates Daniel McConnell and Zoe Cuthbert at Cannock Chase, before diving into the deep end with the road team on Sunday.
“It’s a good example of taking every opportunity and seizing it with both hands,” Fox said on his selection to the mountain bike and road team.
“Before this year, I had no real road experience but racing with Team BridgeLane has opened those doors for me.
“It reminds me of what happened to Scott Bowden at the 2016 Rio Olympics - it was a very similar situation and that really kickstarted his career on the road and jumped him across to that side of the sport.
“I think something similar has happened to me.”
Fox grew up in Trevallyn and never thought about riding his bike on the world stage, he just enjoyed exploring the north of Tasmania.
“My family has always been pretty active,” Fox said.
“I’ve got two brothers who have been racing for as long as I can remember and they were the ones that prompted me to come along to a Launceston Mountain Bike Club race.
“I loved it and soon after we set a goal for a 100km race over 2 days called the Blue Dragon.
“That’s where my racing kicked off and I haven’t looked back.”
It was a swift progression for Fox who quickly started racing at the national level and has yet to miss a national championships since the age of 15.
“As I worked my way up the ranks and began racing at national level, I realised I had a chance to race internationally,” Fox said.
“It wasn’t until 2017 that I realised it was all possible,
“Cameron Wright soloed to the junior world title in Cairns that season and the group who had been competing with him all realised that this dream possible as we had been racing at a good level.
“It was the perfect motivator and everything progressed from there.”
A highly attentive and self-aware individual, Fox honed in on every achievement, every disappointment and every result as progress.
The Tasmanian is more than anything, seeing each and every experience as a learning lesson.
“The results weren't there at the start, but they have gradually improved,” Fox said.
“It’s been a bit of a long haul at UCI points but with each race I matured and grew a better understanding of performance.”
Since 2017, Fox has continued to climb his way up the ladder, shocking the field at the 2017 Oceania Championships in Toowoomba to win junior men’s XCO title.
An elusive national championship continued to elude him despite multiple podium finishes over the next few years before the 2021 edition rolled around in his native Tasmania.
It would be that year that the hard work finally paid off, winning two green and gold jerseys in the under-23 XCO and XCC at Maydena Bike Park.
“It was special to get that Maydena win - I’ve always wanted it,” Fox said.
Fast-forward a year and Fox is now racing Team BridgeLane across the world on the dirt and bitumen, a unique and new opportunity made possible by one of Australia's most respected teams.
“It’s been a cool experience,” Fox said.
“It’s been great to get some road races in, obviously the Brazil World Cup was a different way to start the year and the Commonwealth Games was not even on my radar 12 months ago.”
Fox enters Birmingham 2022 with his best run of results on the world stage, including a career best finish of sixth at the under-23 UCI MTB World Cup round in Lenzerheide in early July, and 11th a fortnight ago in Andorra.
“It’s been a really different racing experience, I think having a lot more fitness and more UCI points has helped me this year,” said Fox.
“This year I’ve had a few more points from racing elite in Australia and a few more races, that’s given me a better start position and meant I can have a proper crack and pull some decent results.
“It’s been a nice to experience to be pushing with the guys I’ve watched race since I was a junior.”
Fox is hours away from making his Commonwealth Games debut and is elated to be doing it alongside one of Australia’s best.
“It’s amazing, I think it’s been three years since I last represented Australia and for it to be at the Commonwealth Games is truly incredible,” Fox said.
“It’s going to be wonderful to do it alongside Dan and Zoe. I think Dan is one of the most talented mountain bike riders to ever come out of Australia and to have his depth of knowledge and experience to guide us is going to be special.”
The Cannock Chase course will be a new course for all the riders, with Fox eager to go for broke in Staffordshire.
“It turns out my grandmother grew up about 30 kilometres from there, so that's all I knew about the course before getting here,” Fox said.
“I checked out the course profile and who was competing of course.
“It’s a really talented group of riders in the Commonwealth nations at the moment, such as Olympic champ Tom Pidcock.
“So, it’ll be nice to see where I stand against them and what I need to do moving forward. I’ve trained for everything and I’m coming up to my peak performance, so I’ll be ready.”
Fox stressed he has no performance goal but rather he wants to enjoy the experience in both races and truly give it his all.
“For the lead into all races, I’ve changed my approach a lot, including bringing in a new coach,” Fox said.
“John Gregory has helped me out a lot to iron out all those details coming into a race and the lead-up, a focus on the smaller details like nutrition and what intervals we do throughout the week.
“Those variables affect your performance and as we keep ticking those boxes the performance will come.
“So, my goal for this week is to enjoy it and get a hard race in.
“I know when I race my hardest the performances come, so that’s my only goal and the result that potentially comes my way is a bonus.”
In Australia, you can watch all the cycling from Birmingham 2022 on Seven and 7plus – live, free and in HD.
7plus will be showing up to 30 live and replay channels, so you can follow your favourite events and catch up on highlights. For streaming, visit the 7plus Commonwealth Games Hub. There are specific streaming pages for track cycling, mountain bike and road cycling.
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