Some of Australia’s most successful riders hail from regional areas. One can’t help but think Warragul lad Brenton Jones has been handed that baton and is ready to step up to the challenge…
Brenton Jones grew up surrounded by giants. With his mum Karin one of the most recognised behind-the-scenes names in cycling in Australia, the Jonses have holidayed at Phil and Trish Liggett’s, and vice versa, they’ll have Matt Keenan and his family over for a barbie, or catch up with Robbie McEwan when he is in town...
Rather than becoming desensitised, if anything Brenton seems to have grown up inspired, motivated and grounded from mingling with the demi gods.
Sport always played a big role in Brenton’s life – he was a strong rider whose athleticism extended across many disciplines; an attribute that has seen him qualify as a Personal Trainer and manage after school sports care of students for the past two-and-a-half years. But cycling always had a particularly special calling.
In the middle of VCE Brenton took six weeks off studying to focus and race in Europe for the Australian Junior Mountain bike team. Luckily the World Championships that year were held in Canberra so he only had to take a week off before heading back and going straight into exams. It was a juggle but he delivered, and attributes a lot of his success then (and since) to his support network of family, friends, girlfriend, coach and sponsors.
Having parents so intrinsically involved in riding (Brenton’s father cycles at Club level for Warragal) has delivered benefits as well as potentially some drawbacks. He rides and races with an expectation that he’s not sure who would be there if mum and dad weren’t so much a part of the sport… But the flip side is they know exactly when to encourage him and when to tell him to dig deep; guidance he has found invaluable. And if he’s honest, there is probably a layer of tension when mum and/or his girlfriend (who works for Cycling Australia) are around before a race starts, but it’s equally awesome to know they’re there and behind him all the way.
Getting behind him proved critical in 2011 when Brenton suffered a horrific crash in the Tour of Toowoomba. With facial and leg lacerations, a suspected skull fracture and brain bleed, Brenton was air evacuated to hospital and placed into an induced coma for 24-hours. He was on the very edge of sustaining severe head injuries that would have left him with long-term effects. His mother had arrived on-scene thinking she had lost her son. The road back to racing was a long one and he really had to pull his finger out. Recovery took 12 weeks and it was not until week 14 that he was allowed on the lightest of rides – strictly latte-style-riding only. It was a solid six months before he could start driving and doing everyday things with the confidence and fluidity he had pre-crash.
Since Toowoomba, Brenton has delivered his best career results to date, including first place in this year’s Bay Cycling Classic (commentated, of course, by none other than Phil Liggett) racing for Avanti. In his words – it feels pretty cool to now be respected by the big boys. He’s become a more aware and cautious bike rider, and a mentally stronger person. Now nothing is going to stop him from getting his goals. The plan is to keep racing, keep stepping up to the podium, and to eventually catch the attention of the pros. But until then, he remains one very level-headed operator – he’s staying on the tracks, he’s not getting distracted, but he is nonetheless laying the foundations for life off the bike.
There’s an astuteness to Brenton that beguiles his 22 years – he’s one to watch.