HE’S represented his country at five mountain bike world championships and raced all around the world.
But for Queanbeyan-born mountain biker Andy Blair, there’s no place like home.
In a distinguished career, Blair has ridden for Australia at one cross-country and four marathon world championships, most recently in Ornans, France last year.
But far from the French countryside, it was on the rugged slopes of Mount Jerrabomberra where a young Blair first honed his skills.
“When I was growing up we didn’t have a massive trail centre at Stromlo or Kowen Forrest like there is today,” Blair said. “The best trails were always here in Queanbeyan and they’re still my favourite ones to ride.
“The trails I grew up riding at Mount Jerrabomberra behind Southbar Road and over behind Greenleigh, they’re so accessible from Queanbeyan so it was an awesome place to grow up.”
Blair began riding competitively as a 15-year-old in 1994 before representing Australia at the World Junior Cross Country Championships in Cairns just two years later.
“Back in the 90s when I got into it we had a really good crew in this area,” Blair said. “Out of that group two of us, myself and [fellow Queanbeyan rider] Damian Ruse, went on to represent Australia.
“People talk about nature or nurture and for me that just highlights how big a factor the environment you grow up in is as well as your natural ability.”
Blair is currently preparing for next month’s Scott 24 Hour Race in Canberra as well as Australia’s biggest stage race, the Cape to Cape in Western Australia’s Margaret River.
He also already has one eye on next year’s Marathon World Championships in South Africa.
Now living in Canberra, Blair admits he doesn’t get to hit the trails of his youth as often as he’d like these days as he juggles riding and work commitments.
But there’s no doubt he’ll always have a particular affection for the tracks of his hometown and for where it all began.
“I don’t get out there as much as I’d like to nowadays but whenever I get the chance to ride at Jerrabomberra, or with my dad and my brother up behind their place, I love it,” Blair said.
“There’s definitely more trails out there than there was, particularly at Jerrabomberra. It’s just blown up, there’s heaps more stuff in there.
“There’s plenty of guys building trails and plenty of guys riding them these days so it’s good.”