Chatting to Geoffrey Taylor galvanised in my mind just how diverse a bunch we cyclists are, and just how much of a ‘leveller’ riding is.
I’m a languages girl who these days would be hard-pressed to pass junior high school science. In stark contrast, Geoff’s a Physics Professor at the University of Melbourne who led the 18-strong Australian contingent (from the combined Universities of Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide) of the Higgs Boson discovery team, which at its peak comprised a team of 3,000 physicists worldwide.
Yes - that Higgs Boson.
As in the $600-million+ scientific experiment that for a period in time managed to knock world politics and Hollywood off the perch of top media news stories. The intent of the Higgs Boson was essentially to understand from where all matter came; a little like the scientific version of the Holy Grail, to which it’s sometimes contentiously referred.
Geoff ‘The Prof’ is pretty modest when giving insights into this part of his life. Yes - he led a $50-million sub-detector construction phase for some time. Yes - it was a pretty exciting and successful discovery as far as scientific landmarks go. Yes - it can be a bit tricky balancing triathlon training with a career (at the highest echelons of physics - my words, not his).
But then we get back onto bike riding and suddenly we’re both completely on the same page again.
Geoff’s knee is playing up, and that’s not good given he’s two weeks away from racing in Devonport to qualify for the Worlds in Chicago, USA. A seasoned Worlds athlete (he’s raced in Budapest in 2010, Beijing in 2011 where he placed fourth, and Auckland in 2012), Geoff turned to sprint and Olympic triathlons after running took its toll on that knee. A highly competitive individual (did you already guess that?), Geoff needed something to sink his teeth into, and so he turned to the bike.
That switch in sports helped his recovery, bringing his knee back to full strength but also giving him a taste of another physical challenge. It wasn’t too long before duathlons evolved into triathlons, and he now literally races around the country and the world. Melbourne, Perth, Canberra, Mooloolaba, Noosa, Rockingham, Adelaide; you name the race, and Geoff’s probably been at the pointier end of it.
Geoff’s a member of the relatively newly-formed CF Racing (under coach Ryan Bourke), a coaching business established by pro triathlete Clayton Fettell. He races a Giant Trinity and Zipp 808s and will train for anywhere between 12 - 15 hours per week, going up to 19 when the schedule is fully loaded. He loves time on the bike and although the CF Racing bunch often trains around the Dandenongs and Beach Rd (Geoff mentions the ‘easy’ rides down to Two Bays before working to hang on for as long as he can when the boys really fire it up on the return), it’s the hills he loves.
You’re probably not surprised to hear that when he first got on the bike he decided to just punch out a couple of races like the Three Peaks and Audax Challenge. He loves the thought that no matter how much it hurts, no matter how much of a grind it is, eventually you get to the top. But it’s probably the social side of it that he enjoys just as much - he’s found cyclists and triathletes to be a ‘pretty likeable bunch’ who’ve helped make this sport a wonderful addition to his life.
I can’t help but wonder what kind of addition ‘The Prof’ has made to his cycling bunch. I’m guessing a coffee chat about aerodynamics takes on a whole new level with someone like Geoff on your team!