Five Minutes With... Lewis Ciddor

Lewis Ciddor has become a household name in ultra distance cycling both in his home country of Australia and further afield. He won the Tour Divide in 2018 in 15D 2H 8M. This year, he kicked off his list of results with a first place at this year's Victoria Divide 550, a race he created from Melbourne to Albury on the border with NSW.

Congratulations on your win! Where did the inspiration come from to create this race?

The route came together for a few reasons but mainly because I wanted to link together some of my favourite riding in the most beautiful, remote and rugged places, while traversing the mountains across the state of Victoria. I was also preparing for a run on the Colorado Trail and wanted to create a route that was packed full of technical mountain biking and a tonne of climbing to help me prepare. Last year, I suffered a race ending mechanical when a large stick went into my rear wheel while I was descending and tore out 11 spokes, so this year was a bit of a redemption run.

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📷: Lewis Ciddor - sunset in the Victorian mountains.

Are there any changes or extra features you’ll include for the next edition?

The Victoria Divide will definitely be back for 2021! I had to make some changes to the route this year due to the fires the state suffered earlier this summer, although thankfully this was only a small section of the route. I did make some other minor tweaks to the route to remove some sections of sealed road and will likely have some small updates again to continue to improve the experience.

You won the Tour Divide in 2018, can you tell us a little about your experience then and what it has taught you since?

Melbourne has a rich history of really strong Divide racers whose stories set me off on a path to racing in 2018. In the 2 years leading up to the ‘18 Divide I raced a few short local events and ultras and had a hunger for big, solo multi-day rides (always focused off-road) in the mountains. At the time I thought I was super prepared and I was as a rider, but I learned so much along the way about being a racer. My Divide run was my first real experience with sleep deprivation and that was an element that I really learned about and experimented with on the fly. For many, these events are about pushing your limits, and while I definitely found them during the Divide, I think that I learned so much about racing and about myself that after the race, those limits have shifted and reset. I think what I’m capable is a lot different now than it was before I rolled out of Banff.

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📷: Tom Briggs - all roads lead to Antelope Wells.

You’ve done a lot of cycle courier work over the years much like other ultra-endurance riders like Emily Chappell, Sofiane Sehili, Stephane Ouaja and Pawel Pulawski. What do you think it is about that career that makes its riders so competitive?

Yeah! I’ve been a courier for around 11 years now and these days run an independent company called Momentum Messenger here in Melbourne. Apart from the obvious being that working on the bike every day conditions your body for the daily grind of ultra racing, I think the biggest thing couriering has to teach is grit. I’ve worked in everything from -40 degrees celcius in Toronto to 45+ degrees in Australia. Snow storms, dust storms, torrential rain and scorching heat. It hardens you to the elements and teaches you to take care of yourself in adverse conditions.

We saw you on the trail for the 2019 Colorado Trail Race last year but you had to DNF. Can you talk us through what happened during this race?

Colorado Trail last year was a really frustrating experience. I trained really hard for 6 months and spent a lot of money to get over there only to get struck down by altitude sickness on the first day as we pushed to 4000m above sea level. I descended down to Silverton where I spent the night hoping to be able to push on the next morning, albeit behind schedule, but my body just wasn’t having it. It’s incredibly beautiful in the mountains there and I’d dreamed of that race for a long time (even before the Divide). My biggest frustration is there’s not a lot to take away and learn from the experience. Altitude is such a fickle beast and we have such little control over the way it affects us. I don’t mind failures when you can learn from them but this one was just frustrating.

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📷: Tom Briggs - we're looking forward to following Lewis' dot once again.

You’ve recently launched a new podcast called Overland Archive. What led you to do that and where do you hope it will go in the future?

I’m so, so excited about the new podcast. Overland Archive started as a blog documenting my rides that sort of fizzled out. There’s only a couple of Bikepacking podcasts out there and I thought that I could offer something different in terms of Australian perspective on the sport and also from my experience racing. I hope everyone will give it a listen and it can grow into a cool platform to tell the stories of our community. I’m just about to release an interview with Atlas Mountain Race winner Sofiane Sehili which I’m really stoked on!

What races are on your to-do list and where can we watch your dot next?

After a few frustrating race experiences in the last 18 months, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in 2020 in terms of racing. I think I’d put a lot of pressure on myself after winning the Divide and my failure to execute was getting in my head (even if the events were out of my control). I wanted to step back a bit and try to get back to having fun and remember why I love riding and racing and pushing myself that hard. Getting back to Colorado is definitely high up on my list as well as Arizona Trail and Highland Trail. Mostly the technical mtb races are the ones that speak to me at the moment, but I’m not really sure on a timeline for those. To be honest I hadn’t been riding a lot going into Victoria Divide and I knew it was going to be a real test of mental determination since I didn’t really have the fitness I’d usually like. But getting out there and executing a really great race despite some physical limitations really lit the fire in me again! I’m only a few days removed from the trail as I write this, so it’s got some cogs turning in my brain now and I’ve got some things to figure out!

All the best, Lewis! We're looking forward to watching your dot in the not-too-distant future.

Check out the Victoria Divide 550 route below and get ready to enter next year's event.

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