Welcome to the first of our 2019 Team Australia Interview! Myself, Kyle Middleton will be stepping aside with a few of our team members this year to help you get to know them & get a little bit of insight into what happens at TdN & how each rider operates. First up is Phil Whittle. Enjoy!
Phil, let's start with some basic Phil stuff. What do you do and what are your hobbies?
I'm the owner operator of a small engineering business called PTR Engineering in Bendigo Victoria as well as being the Australian importer of Global Racing Oil. I have three hobbies, motorbikes, motorbikes & motorbikes. The first is riding my BMW GS1200 and competing at trials. The second is building classic and post-classic trials bikes for competition and the third is collecting motorcycles, especially Bultacos.
You've been managing the team for a long time now & had some great success. What motivates you to keep putting your hand up?
I love being part of the Australian TdN team, I believe I bring a good set of skills to the team from organising the travel to accommodation & vehicle rentals as well as dealing with the FIM & organising clubs for our events we attend while in Europe. I have loved seeing the team members skills improve from year to year. Once you have a couple of great results it just keeps you motivated to do a better job next time you represent Australia.
What's your top three moments you've had managing the team so far?
I have had so many great moments over the past nine trips. I have had the opportunity to see the personal development of riders and minders over the years. I have met and made some great friends in my travels. I have also had some very sad moments as well, when Chris Bayles and I received the news that Chris’s Uncle Peter had passed away (while we travelling through Europe). But these are my most memorable moments: 1. The first time we made the podium with myself as manager 2015 Tarragona Spain, the year I injured my knee on the Saturday on the first lap with the Girls. I couldn’t ride the loop on the Sunday with the boys so I had no Idea how the boys were going after section 12 on both laps. The guys were in a great tussle with the USA. The guys kept their motivation high and made the podium in third. 2. 2017 Baiona Spain, we needed two cleans in section 9 on the second lap. You had cleaned it; Chris had a 5 and with the pressure on, Connor rode out of his skin to snag a clean which put us 1 point behind the USA with the hardest section of the day section 13 to ride. 3. This would be my all-time favourite moment, you riding section 13 in Baiona on the second lap. You were the only International line rider to clean the section on the second lap. This put us in the lead with only the Americans to ride section 13. With the USA having three fives, it gave us a four-point lead with two easy sections to finish the trial. I watched the USA ride section 13, then I told you we needed to have cleans in the last two sections to win the trial. The guys held their nerves with cleans in both sections to give the men’s team the win for the first time. This was a big moment for the whole team.
That might have been my favourite career moment too Phil. So what do you think the team needs to do to improve?
It is my belief that the top Australians need international competition to improve on the international stage. This is not just riding the TdN, it is World and European rounds and the Scottish 6 Days. Look at Connor Hogan with a couple of years under his belt. It is an expensive exercise living and competing in Europe but you only have to look at the top British riders who spend their winter in Spain.
Whats the toughest situation you've been involved in whilst managing the team?
There has been quite a few things that have happened to me in the last 8 years as Team Manager. Chris Bayles and I had a major road rage incident in the South of France with a crazy French guy and arrived at the bike factories and were told that the bikes won't be ready for another day. This can be a major pain when you have a schedule to keep to. But the worst moment happened last year when I left my back pack in the back of a taxi in Barcelona. Jacob and I had just dropped the truck back to the Sants Railway station and then headed into La Rambla for lunch. My back pack had my new GPS, glasses, phone charging leads, Truck rental paper work and my PASSPORT. I had several stressful hours making phone calls to the Taxi company, Police and the Australian Foreign Affairs. I had resigned myself to traveling to Madrid the next day to get a temporary passport. Jacob had an Idea to stand in the taxi line to see if he could spot the cab we caught into the city and I had just about given up when Jacob spotted him. The driver told us that one of his customers had found my passport and taken it to a Police station so we had the Taxi driver take us to the police station. After about half an hour we able to see the duty officer. Once we made it to the counter, I saw my Passport, glasses and rental paper work. The duty officer said a man came in and told them that he found the Passport in a tree. What we assumed happened is that a customer of the cab driver did find my back pack and gave it to the driver who then handed my passport into the Police and kept my GPS for the service. The moral to the story keep your passport in your pocket.
Thanks for that Phil. Let's hope this year we can only add to the good memories & results.
Make sure you come back to the teams Facebook page regularly because next up I'm going to interview a rider from this years team.