Australian Champion chasing off-road success in USA
20 April 2023
Brendan (Trekky) Johnston hits the ground running to start his American off road season
Brendan (Trekky) Johnston is regarded as one of Australia’s most versatile cyclists. He has dominated the XCM scene in Australia since 2015 where he went three full seasons undefeated. He is five time and current national champion in this discipline. In 2020 he decided to dabble in road cycling and won Australia’s longest and oldest road race, the Melbourne to Warrnambool and won the National Road Series overall title. In 2022 he was third in the Australian Cycling Road Nationals. Continuing to swap between disciplines and with the growing popularity of gravel racing world wide, he has now added the Australian National Gravel Championships title to his palmares.
At the end of 2022 Trekky received an invitation to the lucrative Lifetime Grand Prix series in North America, which forms the basis of his 2023 campaign. We will follow his journey along the way as he chases success in this series and other prestigious events on the North American calendar. First up; the Belgium Waffle Ride.
Trekky’s planned USA season schedule:
- Belgian Waffle Ride – California – April 16
- Sea Otter Classic – April 22
- Unbound Gravel – June 3
- Crusher in the Tushar – July 8
- Leadville Trail 100 MTB – August 12
- Chequamegon MTB Festival – September 16
- The Rad Dirt Fest – September 30
- Big Sugar Gravel – October 21
He flew to America last week and jumped straight into the Belgian Waffle Ride – California. This epic mixed terrain ride was 207km (128.7 miles) with 3200m (10,500 feet) of climbing and 84km (52 miles) of unsealed roads. Most of the main players in the gravel worlds were taking part in what would be a big test of who had put in the hard work during the off-season.
“At the start I was quite nervous,” Trekky said. “I don’t know my place in this field yet.” It was an international field mostly consisting of American riders but with a strong Dutch presence at the top end. Trekky gave himself the best opportunity by putting himself at the front and was not stuck behind any of the bottlenecking or dismounts. “I was actually really comfy for the first while.” He made all the selections for the first three quarters of the race. About 50km to go they hit the single track and Russell Finsterwald, Jasper Ockeloen and Trekky forced a gap from a group of about 12. As Trekky kept making the front selections leaving some big names behind he was growing in confidence.
Gravel racing has many nuances and equipment choices can be very important. Trekky was on a gravel bike with 45mm tyres, this was much wider than most of the main competition but he felt on balance this was not a problem. However, he was wearing road shoes and in the final part of the race there were a few moments when riders were forced off the bike. At these moments he was at a disadvantage, as he struggled to clip back in leaving a gap for him to chase back to the leaders. He did get there each time and the three leaders hit the last 7.5km, 5.5% climb after 186km of hard fought racing. This is where Finsterwald showed he was the rider with the most left in the tank, riding away from Trekky and Ockeloen. Trekky ran out of gas halfway up the climb and watched the top two spots ride away. He was even so empty that he was caught and passed by another rider, Alexey Vermeulen, on the run into the finish.
After the race he said he was “really pleased with how I fared in my debut race for this season over here. I’m happy with where I am at and hopefully I can build on today and be in the top 10 next weekend”. Next weekend (April 22) is the Sea Otter Classic, the first round of the Life Time Grand Prix, a 100km MTB race. This will be another epic race and with Trekky quickly finding his feet in America we hope to see him fighting at the front once again.