Ask The Icon - Body+Soul

Famous for being Australia’s top woman mountain bike rider; currently ranked first in cross country mountain biking and second in downhill; being voted Australia’s Sexiest Sportswoman 2002 by Inside Sport magazine readers; and being a full time sports model.

Favourite hangs Bilgola, Bondi, Freshwater and Bronte beach in Sydney.

Star sign she’s a Cancerian

What does your daily training regime involve? I do about three hours a day on the bike and on the weekend, I might do five or six hours every day. Mondays, I have a rest day. I go to the gym twice a week at the moment because I’m in a maintenance phase. When I’m in a strength phase I go four times a week. I do one hour of weights on one day and another hour of stretching on the other. My coach emails me my program every two weeks. Yesterday I did a four hour ride and two hours of that was solid hills. That’s my hardest day of training.

So how much do you have to eat to fuel your training? Normally, I eat yoghurt, cereal and toast for breakfast with fruit, then at midday a sandwich of salmon, cheese and salad, maybe some chocolates and tea. For lunch I might cook up pasta with some kind of meat and in the afternoon if I’m out on the bike, bananas and maybe some sweet carbohydrate type drink like Red Bull. For dinner, veges and meat. I’m trying to change my diet to include more protein. A naturopath told me to try it because then your body works on a different energy system. I eat avocados and nuts for the good fats.

Do you listen to music to get you going before a race? I used to listen to a lot of punk music before races but now I have changed my tactics and listen to a lot of relaxation stuff to remain calm and focused. I find there’s a difference between being aggressive and assertive. For cross country racing, it’s a one and a half to two hour event. I think punk music and aggression are too draining. It’s better to be calm.

What’s your favourite meal when you are cooking at home? I like lasagne and kumera (sweet potato).

Do you ever eat junk food, sweets or normal soft drink? I love Lindt hazelnut chocolate balls. I like vanilla Coke, even though I don’t like Coke, which is weird. but I let the vanilla Coke go flat and drink it during training sometimes.

How do you feel about being voted Australia’s Sexiest Sportswoman? It was a bit surreal. I think that will only sink in later on.

Do you have a problem with baring your body for modelling shoots? When I was younger I was far more intimidated, but now I’m older I find I have a better sense of who I am. You know your body helps you to win races and you appreciate it’s strengths. When you’re modelling, it’s easy to get caught up and think you’re not the right build, but now I can enjoy it because I’m not hung up on the trivialities. I’ve got the self confidence that comes with accepting who I am.

Are you getting more attention from men these days? Not really - I don’t really go out as much these days, although I do get recognised when I go to get milk from the shops. You don’t expect people to recognise you. And at the gym, people will come up and say hi.

Who is the most inspiring person you’ve met in your life? My grandfather Jack, because he’s extremely intelligent and has time for everyone and is very calm and rational. He’s so good at telling stories as well. Anyone who meets him goes away smiling.

What do you believe is the secret of a successful love relationship? Having goals that you can work towards together, and shared experiences. Having to work for things you want makes you appreciate them more.

If you weren’t being a champion mountain biker, what career path would you be following? Graphic design and advertising. I love graphic design and I love magazines. I just graduated from university with distinctions in graphic design and new media.

How long will you keep doing your mountain biking? With cross country, girls are still racing in their early 30’s but downhill, the top age is more around 26. I’ll just see how far I can get with it and take it as it comes.

What’s the most frightening incident you’ve had while mountain biking? I hit a tree last year at Mt Beauty while I was going pretty fast. It was more a social ride after the National Championships. My handlebars were wider than I was used to and they caught a tree trunk. It basically threw me into a tree. I was in hospital for a few days. It was over a year ago and I’m still going to physiotherapy for it now.

If you could have anything you wanted, what would that be? For everyone in my family to be happy and my friends to be happy.  I just want to be happy and healthy - everything else is a bonus.

What’s your favourite piece of clothing in your wardrobe? At the moment my favourite jeans. It’s really hard to find ones that fit across the small of your back and they make them small.

Do you have any vices and if so, what’s your worst? Too much tea and chocolate. I drink four or five cups of tea a day. I probably don’t stretch enough either. You can never stretch enough. It makes your body more relaxed and you don’t get as jolted because your muscles are more relaxed. After I’ve had a massage and a stretch, I always do better because I’m warmed up.

Do you believe in a higher power, or we’re here on earth by chance? I believe everything happens for a reason. Whatever you’re given, you can deal with and move forward.

Are you into books - what are you reading at the moment? I used to read a lot, but I’ve just graduated from university and I haven’t got back into it. When I was young, I used to love the adult short stories by Roald Dahl.

And what sort of music do you have in your CD player? The Foo Fighter’s latest album is in there at the moment.

Profile: Bronwen Gora. "Ask The Icon - Body+Soul" The Sunday Telegraph, 9th March 2003