Wamuran’s Tahlia Drew has hit the senior women's motocross scene in recent weeks, and instantly established herself as a contender, defeating all comers in the first round of the Airoh series at her home track of Coolum, then finishing second at Mountain Man at Echo Valley.
We caught up with the 16-year-old student to discover her motives and ambitions, and a little bit about the way she sees the world.
Tahlia, what do you do when you aren’t wearing a helmet?
I’m studying at TAFE - a Cert 2 in Sport and Rec, and a Cert 3 in fitness. I’m hoping to build that to by the time I finish school and possibly go to TAFE or Uni to get a degree in fitness and possibly become a personal trainer.
We’ve just seen an incredible introduction to seniors, making a big splash at the Airoh opener and getting all three motos in the sand, which was pretty cool. How did it feel?
It felt amazing to be honest. I train a lot at Coolum, and it’s one of the tracks I’m most comfortable on.
It just felt really good to be able to pull three moto wins out of the bag in my first big senior race.
Was it a surprise when you were within range? Did it get scary? Did you tighten up at all?
In the past years I sort of have, but in this event, because I know I’m new, and because I knew there were some fast girls in it, there wasn’t any pressure on me to win. The girls in that class have been fast for a few years, and they’re very aggressive and competitive, so if they did beat me it wouldn’t have been a big deal. I’m still learning.
That’s nice. De-emphasise the outcome so you don’t get all funky about it, and just focus on the job.
Yeah, I was just trying to focus on making smooth laps and not making any mistakes.
How did the regulars respond when you won?
I think they were quite surprised. They’re really nice girls and they all congratulated me and were very supportive.
And then we go to Mountain Man and Chelsea certainly found her feet, didn’t she?
Yeah she’s on the new bike and back on a two-stroke, which she knows best, and she definitely had the speed. I wasn’t that far behind her, but she definitely just had that little bit on top of me, where I just couldn’t keep up.
So how do you look at this? Where do you consider you sit in the grand scheme of things?
At Coolum she was on a four-stroke so I knew she wouldn’t be quite as fast as she usually is, but I knew before Toowoomba she’d be fast again. So, I’m just going to work on getting up to speed so I can beat her.
So where are you going to put your effort into getting faster?
I’m going to try and train on some different tracks with some flatter, skatier surfaces and get used to letting my bike slide out a bit. I’m a bit too hesitant on my flat corners, and that’s where Chelsea excelled on the weekend.
So tell us about your journey. How long have you been doing this for?
I started riding at age 11, at the start of 2014, and I started racing about 6 months later. So I’ve been competitively racing for 4 or 5 years.
What do you tell someone who looks at you and think this is a pretty interesting sport, but they’re maybe worried about the danger. How do you see the threats in motocross and how do you minimise them?
At every track there’s danger and there’s risk of injury and stuff - like if somebody crashes in front of you, you can’t do anything about that, but the risks in every corner, if you know how to avoid those risks you’ll be fine. It really comes down to how you ride. If you are taught well and know how to ride a track properly, you can avoid getting hurt.
You need to train your body outside of riding to deal with the intensity of riding, so if you don’t train in a gym you won’t be as fit and you won’t be as strong, but if you train every day and get your strength up then it will be easier on your body and you’ll be able to hold on easier and push harder for longer.
Where have you got the most benefit out of coaching?
I’ve got my technique up, and with that you can build your speed and your skills. Now I’m just working on coming in faster and minimising mistakes everywhere.
Have you been taught much about your mental approach?
I’ve been taught a bit, which has helped quite a lot because in the past few years I’ve had a really bad approach mentally. I’d give up easy if I made a mistake that would be the end of it. Now if I make a mistake I can come back from it better.
What changed that?
I’m not sure. Coming into seniors I took a different mindset. I don’t have the stress and pressure of being in juniors any more, because I don’t have any expectations.
But you will have if you keep winning races.
Haha! Yeah. But I’m just hoping that I can keep my training up so I can just stay that one step ahead and keep building my strength and confidence, and once I have enough confidence then it will make it a lot easier.
When you sit on the start line before a race, do you have any routine that you go through with your thoughts, just to get yourself ready?
I think about the track and what different lines I’ve seen in previous races, and if I’ve ridden the track before I know where it gets good lines, smoother lines and passing opportunities, so I can have clean laps. Whereas if you just go out and ride you’ll hit bad lines and get all out of shape and then lose your focus if you’re making too many mistakes. Then your race will be over long before it actually finishes.
So where are we going with all this? Are you going to be a professional racing in Europe in three years or what?
That’s the goal, eventually, to go to Europe. I think I’d rather race the Women’s GPs over America, because it just seems a lot more fun, and the tracks look a lot cooler in Europe. And that’s where the world Championship is. But for now I’ll just keep chipping at it here in Australia and hopefully in the coming years I’ll get fast enough that I can get an opportunity to get a ride over there.
What things do you tell a beginner they need to go out and get? Do they need to go out and make sure their core strength and upper body strength is reasonable? Is that important?
I know myself, I’ve got very strong legs, but I’m struggling with my upper body strength and holding on, so that is one thing that everybody would need to be strong with is their arms and their shoulders, because it does get hard holding on to the bike at high speeds.
Tell us about your bike.
I ride a 2018 Husky FC250. I’ve always been more of a four-stroke rider – on the 85 and the 125 I just didn’t ride it like a 2-stroke should be ridden. On a two-stroke you’ve got to be more on the gas and you’ve got to get on the throttle earlier, whereas the four-stroke is just easier to ride. They are a lot heavier though. Moving from the 125 to the 250 I got a lot of arm pump while I was getting used to it, because of the headshake you’d get coming into braking bumps. So, I had to work on getting my strength up. But it’s it’s probably the best bike I’ve ever ridden - they’re so smooth and they’ve got awesome power, and even if you’re powering down a long straight, there’s still power at the end of it. It doesn’t seem to stop.
It gets good starts too.
Goals for this year. What are they?
I’m hoping to get top three in the Airoh series, if not a win, and then for the Women’s Qld titles hopefully the same result.
And then, if I have then if I have the opportunity I might go down and race the first two rounds of the Women’s nationals in south Australia. I don’t really have any definite position goal for that but just see how well I go. Just so I can see where I’m at.
And then NSW titles as well. There are some fast girls that go to that so I’m hoping to get a top five there.
Well we wish you all the best Tahlia, thanks for your time.