06 Nov Interview With The Thunder From Down Under
Australian Stephen Hall has won races in Asia, Europe and across the USA in everything from short track events to fast criteriums and grueling Six Day races. He’s the quintessential working pro who earns his living from race to race and the driving force behind the PA Lightning’s victory in Teamtak’s pilot event in LA. He’s also a vegetarian and cycling coach with a degree in Exercise Sport Science.
TeamTrak caught up with Hall after he finished the London Six to learn more about his passion for the sport and life.
Q: You haven’t competed in the Olympics, you never rode in the World Tour, yet you race year round, have won events all over the world and have earned a decent living as a bike rider for years. What motivates you?
SH: I of course would have loved the prospect to race pinnacle track events such as the World Championships or Olympics, had the opportunity arisen, but it’s important to note the level of Australian track cycling is the highest in the world. Find me another National Championships where there are 12 former World Champions in a field of 22 riders? I grew up racing the best cyclists in the world, in my very own city, from day 1 – these were the guys that I measured myself against. While I may have never had the asterisk next to my name that says I competed in the World Tour, I know on my day I can hold my own with the very best. This has always motivated me and, in my eyes, continues to validate my position within the sport. I’ve never received any handouts, I’ve worked for everything that I’ve achieved in this sport, I think that is reminiscent and symbolic in the way I race my bike.
Q: Despite your life on the road, you’re a dedicated vegetarian and have completed a degree in Exercise Sports Science at Edith Cowan University in Perth. How have you managed that?
SH: I have always been passionate about athletes needing to be more than just athletes. The reason I still enjoy the sport so much is because of my many other interests – they provide the perfect balance away from cycling. I don’t think it’s healthy to live and breathe cycling every second of the day. In regards to my diet, I love animals so I think it was inevitable I would follow the path of a vegetarian, after 5+ years however, that isn’t a chore. It’s just who I am, subconscious, regardless of what country or side of the world I am on. Completing my degree this year has really challenged my thinking, both how I can better utilize sport science into my own career but also how to adjust my training schedule around assessments and contact hours. I deferred my studies for several years so there is a great sense of achievement to finally complete my degree and transfer the knowledge to both my own cycling career and future coaching endeavors.
Q: You won Rider of the Year at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in Trexlertown, PA in 2016 and 2017 and have become a popular and respected star in U.S. races. What brought you to the U.S. and what do you like about the American scene?
SH: My philosophy with cycling was always to travel and accept every unique racing opportunity that came my way. For as long as I remember, I’ve been driven to explore new places, different racing scenes – go against the grain. In the beginning I spent several years in Europe racing, as everyone does, and eventually just longed for something new and exciting. I worked hard to network and a through a series of good people, I landed myself a spot on the Incycle-Predator team in 2014. My season was a baptism of fire and finished early with a dislocated shoulder, but I was hooked from that point on and I’ve come back every year since. I love the crits, I love the fans that support the races, it’s so far removed from what we experience in Australia. The crowds at a twilight criterium are some of the best in the world, TTown on a beautiful summer evening is magical. Having the ability to be at the pointy end of these races is something very special, something I still think about on the last miles of my training ride.
Q: You are admired for your tough, no nonsense attitude about racing. Where does that come from and what kind of races do you like the best?
SH: I think that’s just “Hall mongrel.” I don’t press snooze, I don’t cut training rides short, I don’t quit. I like tough races. On the road; windy, undulating, rough roads. On the track; fast, aggressive scratch and points races. I train hard, I want to showcase that.
Q: You competed as a member of the winning PA Lightning team in the World Cycling League’s pilot event three years ago and have been a proponent of WCL’s TeamTrak format ever since. Do you see the WCL as a solution to popularize track cycling as a league sport?
SH: Each and every cyclist on the track during the WCL pilot event will attest to how enjoyable and exciting the TeamTrak format was. It has certainly been disheartening at times throughout my career, deciding whether to continue pursuing track cycling when it seems every governing body is solely focused on the National Teams. I believe WCL has the potential to create something that will revolutionize the sport, that will create another avenue for aspiring cyclists. It is just around the corner. I am so motivated to be one of the original racing pioneers of such an exciting venture. Its time people recognized the electrifying beauty of track cycling once again.
Q: What’s next in your future?
SH: For the next few months I’ll run a pretty standard summer calendar, plenty of racing both locally, Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals and a nice run of Six Day events in both Europe and Asia leading in to the Australian Track Championships late March. I’ll take some R&R and before I know it, I’ll be headed back to the States to join Philly Lightning and launch both the team and the WCL into the spotlight where it belongs.