A number of years ago a journalist by the name of Reece Homfray – then working for the Adelaide Advertiser – published a list of the top 50 most influential people in Australian cycling. It was a good list and great idea, but was also heavily skewed to people within the road cycling community. Years later I wanted to revisit this list using my own defined criteria of what ‘influential’ means and who would fall onto this esteemed page.
The word “influential’ needs a definition to help inform this list. The Oxford Dictionary defines influence as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.”
To narrow down the definition of ‘influential’ even further, I think it should also encompass the spirit of being positive and in the service of others.
But perhaps the biggest filter I used when sorting through a long list of hundreds was to ask myself, ‘Would this person’s work be missed if it were to stop?’ That’s subjective, but that’s how I’ve tried to frame this list.
The main criteria I used to assemble these 50 names were the following:
- People who invest in the sport (money, time, or other resources), including sponsors, team owners, etc.
- People who run impactful events (races, participation rides, expos, etc.)
- People who inspire others to take up the sport.
- Media personalities who use their voice for positive impact.
- People who are in the often thankless job of cycling administration or non-profits.
- People in the cycling industry doing impactful work.
- Also, to be on the list, an individual needs to be currently living and have made a positive impact within the last decade.
What the people on this list are not:
- Most popular
- Most powerful
- Most race wins
- Historic figures no longer actively involved.
As with any list there will be many who will be missing. This list is not in any particular order, and it isn’t the ‘top 50.’ It’s simply 50 people who are doing great work that benefits more than just themselves.
I’m aware of the bias of our members and audience’s location and that they come to us for a specific type of cycling. Advocacy, gravity MTB, para, track, sustainability, and other areas will surely be underrepresented, so please point out any I’ve missed in the comments.
Here we go, in no particular order:
1. Gerry Ryan OAM: No person has invested so much of his personal wealth into Australian cycling as Gerry. From his first endeavour – supporting Kathy Watt on her way to winning Australia’s first Olympic gold medal in cycling – to his personal pledges for countless athletes, to his continued financing of GreenEdge (now Jayco AlUla and Liv AlUla Jayco), it’s not an overstatement to say that Australia wouldn’t have left its mark on the cycling world without the support of Gerry Ryan.
2. Peta Mullens: As young as Peta still is, she’s been involved in competitive cycling for as long as most of us can remember. Her accomplishments span almost every discipline and she has 12 national titles to her name. But it’s not her race wins that make her a worthy inclusion on this list – her development of younger athletes in her team Roxsolt, while still competing herself for 10 years, is what makes her such a positive influence in Australia. Also deserving of acknowledgement is Kelvin Rundle who has financially backed the team since its inception.
3. Simon Gerrans: One of Australia’s most acclaimed professional cyclists, CEO of The Service Course, commentator, investor, and one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. Whether it’s the many unpublicised charity causes he’s been involved with, showing up to a Sunday crit, being part of the grassroots community, or being involved with school cycling programs, Gerro exemplifies what it means to be an ambassador to the sport.
4. Jarrad Smith and Olli Cousins: Co-founders of apparel brand MAAP, these two unassuming entrepreneurs have taken the cycling apparel world by storm, they support many local and international teams, and have put Australia on the map with their unique take on design, aesthetics, and fashion.
5. Stuart O’Grady: Stuey had a remarkable cycling career but what makes his influence felt around Australia each January is his role as race director for Tour Down Under – arguably the best ‘fan’s race’ on the UCI calendar and the race that kicks off the WorldTour season. Since the TDU has been under Stuey’s leadership, the women’s TDU has grown from a small local race to one that this year hosted nine WorldTour teams and that is growing every year.
6. Netti Edmondson: Not only has Netti represented Australia in three Olympic Games, she’s a three-time world champion with a successful career on the road and track. Netti is also the assistant race director (along with Carlee Taylor) for the Tour Down Under and set up her own rider agent business called Paradigm Shift Sports (exclusively for female athletes).
7. Peter Bourke – Peter is the driving force that brings the bike industry together. He’s the head of Bicycle Industries Australia (BIA) which aims to “foster the interests of the industry, through the promotion of sound and ethical trading and business practices, and is the leading industry voice on issues directly affecting the industry including regulation, standards, taxation and trade”.
8. Stephen Hodge: Stephen’s professional cycling career achievements are something most of us could only dream of, but what makes Stephen such an influence in Australia is his involvement with WeRide, an important cycling advocacy body in Australia. He is also a professional lobbyist in Australia’s Federal Parliament, purely focused on cycling advocacy.
9. Richie Porte: Two years retired and now living a quiet life in Tasmania, Richie’s career accomplishments still carry enormous weight. He still plays a big yet unpublicised role in helping young promising riders get noticed and contracts in Europe. When he’s not swimming laps for 20 km in the local pool he can be found taking part in local events and is never too busy for a chat and a selfie.
10. Gracie Elvin: Gracie was one of Australia’s foremost cyclists during her career. But since retirement in 2020 she has done a remarkable job becoming one of Australia’s best and most loved cycling commentators. She also co-founded the first ever women’s cycling union – The Cyclists’ Alliance (TCA) to represent the female professional peloton and to progress their opportunities. She’s also a regular on Escape’s Wheel Talk podcast.
11. Rob Eva: Recently retired after 25 years at SRAM, Rob has been a staple of the cycling community since the early ’90s when he made history as the only rider to ever win both the XC and DH National titles in the same year (1993). Rob has used his SRAM resources to support hundreds of athletes and teams domestically and has donated countless hours of his own time to support local events.
12. Andy van Bergen: Full disclosure, AvB works with us here at Escape Collective, but how could we possibly overlook the person who popularised the Everesting phenomenon? The movement he continues to inspire is nothing short of remarkable and has over 20,000 people around the world verified as having done the 8,848 metre challenge.
13. Tiffany Cromwell: Tiff continues to be one of Australia’s top professional cyclists and is a valuable road captain at Canyon-SRAM. Her ‘power couple’ status with partner Valtteri Bottas and interests from Oath Gin to RADL GRVL extend her influence far past the professional peloton.
14. Andrew Christie-Johnson: From the inception of his team Praties in the mid-to-late 2000s (founded with Steve Price), Andrew’s domestic team has seen many incarnations but currently exists as Team BridgeLane. Andrew’s domestic efforts and connections over two decades have resulted in sending more than a dozen riders to the WorldTour, including Richie Porte, Jack Haig, and Ben O’Connor.
15. Lisa Jacobs: After a pioneering role in Australian cyclocross, Lisa is currently chairperson for the Amy Gillett Foundation where she gives back to the sport by raising money and advocacy for cycling safety. Of course the Amy Gillett Foundation can’t be mentioned without recognition of its founder, Simon Gillett.
16. Mitch Docker: The face and voice of the ‘Life in the Peloton’ has become prolific in Australia ever since Mitch and has family moved back after retirement. Mitch invented a new career path for himself after pro cycling and uses his own media reach in a down-to-earth style to promote events, places, and athletes in this country.
17. Alison McCormack: Bicycle Network is Australia’s largest advocacy body and CEO Alison McCormack is leading the good work they’re doing. Whether it be their iconic events such as Ride2Work, Ride2School, Around the Bay, The Great Vic Bike Ride, or their advocacy work and programs, Bicycle Network has an enormous impact on all of us. It’s an often-thankless job that deserves to be celebrated.
18. Cadel Evans: Australia’s only Tour de France winner and world champion (and don’t forget his mountain bike achievements) created the so-called ‘Cadel Effect’, pulling many people into the sport. That effect is still felt to this day. His legacy near his Australian home is still felt each January with Cadel’s Race (run in collaboration with his agent Jason Bakker) which attracts thousands of people who ride the gran fondo and watch the thrilling one-day WorldTour races in Geelong.
19. Kipp Kauffman: We’ve seen many leaders come and go within cycling’s various governing bodies in Australia, but since 2010 Kipp has been a constant in the administrative side of the sport and is currently executive general manager of sport at AusCycling. A fantastic operator who works tirelessly to make the sport of cycling a healthy landscape, Kipp has one of those behind-the-scenes jobs that impacts nearly every race in the country at some level and shapes the future of racing for all disciplines.
20. Robbie McEwen: Robbie’s legendary status as a sprinter is well known but these days it’s his insights and analysis behind the camera that makes his voice so widely heard. Robbie’s race commentary has always been loved, and when his contract wasn’t renewed at SBS, many fans followed him when he made the switch to GCN.
21. Jaison Hoernel: The CEO of Good Cycles does fantastic and important work by using the bike for positive social change. Good Cycles is a social enterprise that creates supported employment for young people who face barriers to employment. They run services across a range of enterprises including bike share maintenance, retail, servicing, logistics, asset maintenance and commercial horticulture. The work these guys do is inspiring.
22. Phil Anderson: It was a long time ago that Phil was the first non-European to don the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, but Phil’s support in the cycling community at grassroots events continues to this day.
23. Darren Baum: Australia has a thriving custom bike scene, but it wasn’t always this way. It was pioneers like Darren who arguably raised the bar and put Australia on the map for custom builders.
24. John Sunde: If you’re tapped into the Sydney cycling community, you’ll surely know John – a man who’s been part of the road furniture in Sydney for donkey’s years. Not only is he the last to leave Latteria most mornings, he continues to be the driving energy behind Heffron Crits which are so widely supported in the southern beaches and have become an institution.
25. Glen Jacobs: The owner of World Trail, Glen’s innovative trail building company is a world leader and has risen the bar for what people expect from mountain bike parks around the globe. World Trails efforts have literally transformed the town of Derby, and Tasmania’s standing in the mountain bike world.
26. Matt Bazanno: The managing director of Shimano Australia is not only one of this country’s cycling pioneers, but his commitment to supporting the cycling community in all disciplines is something that endures to this day.
27. Matthew Keenan: The voice of cycling isn’t only influential because of his commentary activities; Matt is also prolific at grassroots and charity events across the country. He’s never too busy to give a shoutout to a local business or person during his live commentary which is always a buzz for anyone involved.
28. Frank Fortuna: A staple in the cycling industry and Sydney cycling community, Frank has supported countless riders and teams throughout the years with the brands he distributes through FRF Sports. What he has achieved with BikeBug, allowing it to remain competitive in the online space, is something few others have succeeded at. He is a leader in the quickly changing industry.
29. Michael Drapac: Michael’s grassroots support for cycling over the years eventually grew to sponsoring Cannondale-Drapac in 2017 and sending many riders to the WorldTour along the way. Michael spearheaded a focus on the importance of holistic athlete development rather than performance alone, and that thinking has left a legacy in many of today’s high-performance programs. Michael took a step back from the sport after the tragic loss of his son Damion, but his name carries on in the annual Damion Drapac ANZAC Day Classic.
30. Geoff Coombs: The co-founder of Tour de Cure charity rides which have raised over $117 million and funded more than 975 cancer research programs. This is a noble cause to say the least. The organisation continues to demonstrate the power of the bike for social good, and Geoff now uses his charity and fundraising experience to run Stryde4, a charity collaboration effort for social good.
31. Michael Hands and Nathan Lorkin: The founders and owners of Corporate Cycling bring many corporate cycling events to life that most of us will never hear of. But the ones you will know very well are their public events such as the Giro della Donna, The Dirty Pig & Whistle, the Handmade Bicycle Show (now ‘Spoken’), along with their fantastic ‘Off the Wheel‘ charity lunches (in association with The Groupetto Fund), all done in conjunction with charity partners to help raise money for their worthy causes.
32. Troy Brosnan: Australia’s most successful and consistent downhiller whose career is still going strong, he keeps Australia represented and high on the world stage and an inspiration to aspiring youngsters in this segment of the sport. He’s also known to pick up a gravel bike from time to time.
33. Mick Ross: Mick is the founder of Flow Mountain Bike and has done an immense amount to promote mountain bike destinations and report on issues important to the community. As someone who knows how difficult it is to run an online publication, I value and respect the work that Flow has done and their ability to keep going and doing important work for the MTB scene.
34. Annie Ford: A name you won’t hear in the race scene but the marine biologist’s 4,000 km ride from Tasmania to Queensland late last year drew mainstream and parliamentary attention for her cause to end Australia’s largest seismic blasting project in the Southern Sea. She’s using the bike for “adventure activism” and articulating the cause and telling the story in a joyful, accessible and effective way on her Instagram page.
35. Sarah Hammond: The three-time winner of Race to the Rock and sixth overall at the TransAm (she should have won, but that’s another story) has been an inspiration to ultra endurance racers in this country and is one of the female pioneers of the sport in its current format. Sarah continues to be active in this community by hosting weekly women’s gravel rides, organising bikepacking events and flashpacking trips, and facilitating free information sessions for people looking to explore the genre.
36. Kate Leeming OAM: An explorer and adventurer, Kate has cycled in places most of us could only dream of. Breaking world records on African expeditions through war-torn and poverty-stricken nations, a Trans-Siberian expedition, crossing the South Pole … the list goes on and on. The good that her adventures bring are brought to life through her Breaking the Cycle initiative, which is an education program that aims to “inspire students to lead their schools, communities, countries, and the world in making positive change by utilising Kate’s journeys as a source of innovation and creativity.”
37. Rebecca Cotton and Brendon Morrison: The duo behind the Tour of Margaret River and Seven, Rebecca and Brendon do a tremendous job running premier and accessible events that bring people to WA and showcase its attractions through cycling.
38. Simon French: The man who made Maydena into one of Australia’s top mountain bike parks (northwest of Hobart) and an enormous part of Tasmania’s earned reputation for being a world-class mountain bike destination. Watch out in 2024 because Redbull Hardline is coming to to Maydena and that, dear reader, is a big deal.
39. Darren Rutherford: Managing director of Giant Australia for over 20 years (he was employee #4), Darren has been at the helm of Australia’s largest bike brand which has supported countless ambassadors, athletes, teams and events.
40. Anna Meares: Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medalist, world champion, television commentator, and so much else, Anna is a symbol of Australia’s track dominance. Still active in the sport, Anna has been appointed Chef de Mission of the Australian Olympic Team for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
41. Andy White: Australian cycling’s original ‘blogger’ and ‘influencer’, Andy’s Fyxomatosis and its evolution have had a huge cultural influence on Melbourne’s cycling scene, making it one of the most colourful bike cities in the world. His Melburn Roobaix has grown from a clandestine alleycat race into an institution in Melbourne. Not to mention his trailbuilding efforts that have contributed to some of the best public mountain bike trails in Victoria for all to enjoy.
42. Scott McGrory OAM: Olympic gold medalist, speaker, commentator, race director, Scott left a significant mark on Australia’s track history after winning Olympic Gold in the Madison with Brett Aitken. Scott is still active in the local cycling scene (as National Team Selector for track and Nationals Race Director) and you’ll hear his voice and insights while commentating on some of the world’s largest cycling events.
43. Jai Hindley: The only Australian to ever win the Giro d’Italia and still actively competing, Jai was someone who couldn’t be overlooked in this list. The act of winning such a monumental sporting event cannot go unnoticed and it’s things like this that inspire people to take up the sport and shows them what’s possible. Keeping Australia on the map with his achievements helps keep the sport thriving in this country.
44. Rebecca Henderson: Part of the XCO World Cup circuit for nearly a decade, Bec is one of the most successful XCO mountain bikers Australia has ever seen. Five World Cup round wins, 15x national champion and so much more, Bec gives this country someone to cheer for in XC mountain biking and for up and comers (such as Zoe Cuthbert) a road to follow into the top end of the sport.
45. Caroline Buchanan: Nobody can deny the role model that Caroline has been for young girls and women who have sporting aspirations. She transcends her BMX accomplishments and launched her female mentorship program in 2014 with “the dream to be the bike role model she wished she had growing up”. Since then, her efforts have evolved and in 2021 her IGN!TE program was born. Caroline has proudly supported 16 girls with personal mentoring plus over $100,000 in raised funds, helping them achieve their goals and compete in BMX, MTB, and motocross.
46. Berrick Wilson: The founder of the Chain Reaction Challenge Foundation, a series of challenging charity rides all over the country that has raised over $41 million on behalf of its children’s charity partners since 2007. The events target senior executives and decision-makers who are in the position to raise significant sums of money for sick children, and in return the riders benefit from valuable networking opportunities and the satisfaction of directly helping children in need. A very clever model and noble cause.
47. Nik Cee: Before Nik (and Hamish Fitzsimmons) got together to create Dirty Deeds CX, cyclocross was almost non-existent in Australia. Since they started the series it caught on to other cities and states and we have seen a thriving cyclocross scene (relatively speaking) with state series, national championships, and Australians represented in World Cups, Superprestige events, and the World Championships.
48. Marne Fechner: CEO of AusCycling, Marne took the reins of the newly formed sporting organisation that combined all disciplines and state bodies in cycling from all over Australia. The initiative that was executed by Duncan Murray and Steven Drake would have been a difficult transition for the sporting bodies (and likely still is), but was a momentous milestone in uniting the fragmented cycling landscape in Australia in order to help grow the sport.
49. Each and every club president and volunteer: Many of the people above were chosen because they are public figures and their jobs afford them the opportunity to inspire and influence their communities. The heroes without capes, however, are those volunteers who create the same (and often more) impact without commercial incentive and do so because they love it. I wish I could meet and name every single one of you. Please give those champions a shoutout in the comments.
50. I know there are others I’ve overlooked or missed, so I want #50 to be a continuation in the comments. Creating this list made me realise how many people there are in this country doing outstanding work for cycling, or using the bike as a means to that end. What a community we’re all a part of!
In closing, I want to acknowledge that capping this list at 50 was incredibly difficult. Firstly, because there is no way to properly rank these names. Also, no matter how I define it everyone has their own interpretation of what “influential” means. And the effects of the social media bubbles in the places I solicited these nominations will certainly hold strong biases.
What I learned from this is that there are so many people doing good things to make a positive impact on their communities – people who should all be acknowledged – and this list could be extended into the thousands. Thank you to everyone who contributed.
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