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hutchinson ur mtb indonesia-15

Photographer Victor Lucas takes the trip of a lifetime to Indonesia to find out about Polygon bikes and their first venture into World Cup downhill racing...

From Dirt Issue 136 - June 2013

Words by Victor Lucas. Photos by Victor Lucas.

They say there’s no better way to get to know people than on a wild travelling adventure into the unknown. Well this is more or less exactly how I spent a week in Indonesia with the Hutchinson UR team. Starting with an epic ordeal of travel from all corners of the Globe, the plan was to get the whole team together to visit their new sponsor Polygon Bikes, take in the local culture and of course do a bit of bike riding.

Paris, 6am. It’s snowing. I'm standing outside in the freezing cold, waiting for a bus. I wish I wore a jacket and I’m thinking how much I hate Charles de Gaul airport – it’s just way too big, the terminal numbers are ridiculous – 2d65 for example, and they really love to lose my bags there. But it’s not all bad, I’m on my way to a new country…Indonesia. Heck I’ve never even been to Asia before. With my board shorts packed, a tube of factor 50 and a bottle of malaria pills that might make me hallucinate, I have no idea what to expect.

As mentioned, I’m on my way to join the Hutchinson UR team on a visit to their new team sponsor Polygon Bicycles. Who's that you say? Well we haven’t really heard much about them before in Europe, but it turns out that this is the biggest bicycle company in Indonesia we are talking about here. And that’s a big thing. In a country of 200 million people, scattered around 40,000 islands, the bicycle is a vital part of daily life. Polygon is a family business built up from nothing over the last 50 years, and now they churn out over 1000 bikes every day in their factory on the edge of Indonesia's third biggest city, Surabaya. I am excited to see what this place is like.

After four connecting flights and 19 hours in the air, it’s a bit hard to keep the buzz going. But as soon as I get off the last flight, the culture shock hits from every angle...it’s loud, crazy and crowded, with people rushing everywhere. ‘Psst Mister, need a taxi? Carry your luggage?’ I get asked at least 20 times before meeting the local company–man who took me on a break–neck drive through the most insane traffic I have ever witnessed.>>

Click through to keep reading...

[part title="Exploring Indonesia with Hutchinson UR - Page 2..."]

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hutchinson ur mtb indonesia-8

I arrive at the Polygon factory, where the team are building bikes and sorting through the stacks of kit they will need for the first few weeks of their race season, which is kicking off in just a weeks time with the Australian National Champs in Canberra. It was a Christmas morning scene, with stacks of freshly opened boxes, contents strewn everywhere, and countless bikes in various stages of assembly. The whole team are here: team boss Frenchman Fabien Cousinie is busy on his laptop and phone, Australian Mick Hannah fitting some cleats to a fresh pair of shoes, while his sister Tracey is trying on various options in knee pads. Young French racer Guillaume Cauvin is in what I would learn is his default mode of 'just chillin', while new team member and Junior DH World Champ, Canadian Holly Feniak, is checking the riding position of her bike, which she has just been introduced to for the first time.

Hutchinson UR is a fairly new team, owned and run by Fabien, who until now has somehow managed to juggle the tasks of team manager and racer. “I started the team in a small way with Morewood in 2009, and the plan now is to concentrate on being a good rider again with this great team. We have so many different sponsors involved, it’s like a big puzzle and you can’t miss one piece. Every single part of running a team can be difficult, because there are different cultures, languages, but I’m glad we have professional riders like Mick and Tracey. We just want to make our riders happy and confident on the bike, all we expect is a good state of mind and motivation."

The gruelling task of getting an eight–person team (along with several hangers–on like me) smoothly from country A to continent B without losing any of their fleet of bikes and baggage is perhaps best approached like a military operation. The man for this job is Oliver Gough, speaking fluent English and French and with no shortage of decibels, he may be the perfect guy to keep this multi–national rabble in some kind of order.

There are an awful lot of things involved in putting together a successful race team. It’s painstakingly prepared over months or even years, with countless subtle factors coming together in the quest for racing success. Obviously the most important piece of the puzzle is the rider – they need talent, skill, experience, determination, dedication and preparation. The second most important component is probably the bike – break it down again and you’ve got the main components of frame, suspension and tyres. Then for number three, well you have to get your bikes and riders to the races, which basically means dropping wads of cash into cars, boats, aeroplanes and hotels.

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hutchinson ur mtb indonesia-6

[part title="Exploring Indonesia with Hutchinson UR - Page 3..."]

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hutchinson ur mtb indonesia-16

So a new bike and fresh enthusiasm from Mick, with a solid off–season behind him, he is looking forward to 2013: “This year, World Champs in Pietermaritzburg is definitely on my mind. I blew my knee out at Christmas 2011 and I could do nothing for two months, then I had surgery and 3 weeks later I got third at the Pietermaritzburg World Cup, so even when I’m not in good condition I seem to be fast there. It’s going to be busy with Mont St Anne and Crankworks before Worlds, and the mental side of things will be important, maybe some experience could help me a little there."

2012 started well for Tracey with a win at Pietermaritzburg, and a secomd place at Windham. She was running fourth overall coming into round 6 at Val d’Isere, but she crashed and broke her femur, missing the rest of the year. Since then she has been working hard on her recovery and return to racing for 2013.

“It’s crazy to think that I broke my leg last July, when I got out of hospital I could just about walk five metres without taking a rest. I haven’t really been riding much downhill, but I feel really good now and I’m ready to prepare for the season. When I’m riding I don’t really think about it. I only got the downhill bike a few weeks ago and I’m pretty impressed so far – I like the small size, it’s comfortable and it suits me well. I haven’t really pushed things too much yet, I’m hoping I can have a few small crashes and get that over and done with, to get some confidence back."

This is Holly's first trip with her new team, and talk about jumping in at the deep end. Flying most of the way round the planet to a crazy place with strange food, to spend a hectic week with a bunch of people you have never met before. After her amazing result in Leogang last year, there is no real pressure on Holly this year. It’s all about learning how to survive a full season of World Cup travelling and racing and still be able to come up with your best riding when it counts. The rest of the team are happy to have her along, especially Tracey – “It’s good to have another girl now, with Holly on the team. She’s very girly! She takes a very long time in the shower! But then sometimes she’s very mature for her age and its easy to forget she’s just 17. But I think we can help each other a lot."

At the end of our seven–day Indonesia odyssey, we had spent countless hours together in crazy traffic, shared unidentifiable food and been collectively puzzled by the exotic culture. Heading our separate ways at the airport, there was a family feel to the whole thing – not just a bunch of riders with the same race–kit. Next stop for the team was their first race at the Australian Nationals in Canberra “I haven’t decided if I will race the Nationals next week, because I don’t like losing! But I’ll probably race anyway. Even if it’s just to get the first one out of the way!" said Tracey.

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hutchinson ur mtb indonesia-12

To be honest I felt a bit guilty about his shoulder too – after asking for a few extra tries at an awkward photo set–up. But it turns out things came together quite nicely, Tracey and Mick both won and are now the 2013 Australian National Champions, a pretty good boost for the rest of the year, and a relief for this photographer!