Hanging up the nobbies: Lachlan Norris renews love of racing with road career
When a professional cyclist tells you they were introduced to the sport through family members or friends, it’s not really a surprise.
With UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s Lachlan Norris however, the story is different. The 30-year-old from Castlemaine, a small town in central Victoria, grew up with traditional sports like Australian rules football, cricket and tennis.
One day, he spotted a mountain bike magazine in the local newsagent and the rest, they say, is history.
“I remember thinking how cool it looked. I saved up all my pocket money and bought a sweet mountain bike, which I took to a local race,” Norris said. “I think I was about 13 at the time.”
Norris brought home a silver medal that day. That fateful mountain bike race laid the groundwork for rest of Norris’ sporting future. Over the next decade, he became one of the best mountain bike racers in Australia. Norris enjoyed much success as a pro mountain biker, but he couldn’t quite reach the level that offered a living wage.
“At the top end, maybe ten or twenty guys are getting support, but after that it really drops away,” Norris said. “The demands of a World Cup a pretty much the same, minus variations to courses and conditions, it’s a one and a half hour effort filled with sprints, jumps and technical descents. So if you can’t mix it with the best at one race, it’s unlikely you will at other races.”
Despite knowing the odds weren’t necessarily in his favor, Norris patiently persisted, knowing he would improve and perhaps find himself in the top ten one day. By the time he had pushed himself to his capacity, he had already raced in eight world championships. It was missing out on a spot on the 2012 London Olympic team that made him rethink his direction in the sport.
“I hung up the nobbies (from racing at least) after that,” Norris said. “It was a decision based on quite a few factors, but by that point I had put my heart and soul into mountain biking for over ten years and decided it was time for a change.”
Missing the Olympic team may have put the final nail in the mountain bike coffin, but it gave birth to a new path. Opportunities on skinny tires were available, and Norris couldn’t pass them up. The year prior, he had spent a few months with HTC-Highroad, one of the bigger World Tour teams at the time, as a stagiare.
“What I love about road racing is that there is a day for everyone,” Norris said. “If you’re a climber, you’ll get your turn. If you’re a sprinter, you’ll get your turn. Even if you’re neither of those, you’ll get your turn. Everyone has a chance to impact the way the race goes, whether that’s riding in a breakaway or getting bottles for your teammates. Even if you’re having a rough day, you can still contribute to the race. If you’re having a rough day on the mountain bike, you’re battling it out in the seventies trying not to get lapped, having no impact at all on the front of the bike race.”
This year, Norris wants to win a road race. The idea sounds simple when he’s pinning a number on 50 to 70 days a year, right? Not quite. The last victory Norris tasted was back in 2015 on the final stage of the Tour of Utah. It was an emotional day for the Aussie, who says his duties as a faithful domestique come first.
“It sounds clichè and boring, but it’s the reality, my teammates should be able to count on me every time,” Norris said. “I want to make it a priority to show up at every one of those days I race this year. Show up physically and show up mentally and perform my job for my team, teammates and myself. And if on one of those days everything comes together for me at the end? That’s what makes this sport so beautiful.”