It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Mike Ross

Published
Dec 8, 2022

Words
Mandy Lamont

Photos
Mandy Lamont

Featured Image
Thredbo Resort

Mike Ross is Australia’s rising slopestyle superstar. From launching himself off the stairs on his plastic trike as a three year old to Crankworx Speed and Style and now following the FMB World Tour. Mike is setting his sights high, aiming for the pinnacle Slopestyle competition where only the top 17 in the world get invited to compete, Crankworx.

The wildcard

Getting a wild card in 2019, Mike’s Crankworx debut in Speed and Style at Rotarua wasn’t on a dirt jump bike. The only bike he had, a trail bike, still making the top 8!

Mostly self-taught, riding and learning from others, he trains with Caroline Buchanan on the set-up at her property in Canberra. Mike also has his own backyard set-up with a flat drop off his roof. “It’s good for practicing and keeping stuff you already know sharp and ready to go,” he tells at his place in Queanbeyan. “We’re gonna get a nice big flat airbag, like a foam pit. Which should be good for trying brand new stuff where you don’t know where you’re going to land.”

The ranch vibe

Running the ranch vibe you’ll often see Mike rockin’ a cowboy hat. Growing up in Queanbeyan, he spent a lot of time on his grandparents’ property out of town. “I just like the vibe and feel and the look. I really enjoy all aspects of that, so I’m running it,” he tells me. “I’m on a mission to find the perfect shape and size hat.”

The home setup

When looking to buy his own house, the size of the yard was the first thing he thought about. “Can I build ramps in the backyard?” he wondered. With a massive 1,700 metre long block, the answer was yes. Needing somewhere to practice flat drops, he built a drop off his roof, since there’s nowhere else in Australia high enough to practice a flat drop.

Slopestyle in Australia

Talking about the slopestyle scene in Australia, Mike tells me how hard Crankworx is to get into. “But it’s hard to get into for a reason, you have to be that good. It’s really awesome for Australia to have an event of that scale on home soil. Cairns (Crankworx) is really important because the people behind the scenes who are putting on events here don’t necessarily know what they’re looking at when it comes to slopestyle or speed and style. It’s going to open a lot of people’s eyes. And make it easier for us to build more courses and have more events like Highline in Mansfield, Australia’s pinnacle event.” 

“Australia’s lacking in builders that can build jumps properly. But I think having a course like that up there gives a sense of the scale and the angles. It should be better for everybody. A few people are trying to push the sport and having Crankworx in Cairns has changed everything in Australia. It’s changing the whole way that mountain bike events are being done, for the better. Crankworx to me is the best run event, not just the races but everything around it, the kidsworx and all the other categories, everyone can be involved.”

Northern Summer 2022

A full-time sparky, Mike took six months of long service leave traveling the world last northern hemisphere summer, having an awesome time.

Starting 2022 off with a high, placing second at Highline. Part of the Freestyle Mountain Bike World Tour he was already gaining points. He then went on to hang out in the Utah desert. Building some cool stuff at Red Bull formation as a digger for Harriet Burbidge-Smith, before heading to Europe.  Competing in Sweden and Slovakia at the funnest event he has ever been to. Without bunting the crowd lined the entire length of the slopestyle course and could reach out and touch the riders.

“You’d land your trick and then ride through a tunnel of people to the next jump.” Mike tells me in awe. “Getting fourth place in Slovakia was massive. There were some really good riders there. But I rode well and landed everything and that’s what resulted, I was stoked with that.” Mike then went on to ride La Poma Barcelona, the best bike park in Europe. With airbags and immaculate dirt jumps before going to Crankworx Innsbruck.

Crankworx

Gaining enough points to place 25th, Mike was invited to some gold level events in Canada before Whistler Crankworx. “Basically it’s the same level of riding that’s at Crankworx, just more riders, it’s so insane. It’s just good fun riding diamond courses, the same level as Crankworx. To ride a course that big and feel comfortable is awesome. I could really stretch my legs and do some tricks that I couldn’t do on smaller stuff.” Breaking his wrist at Crankworx in Whistler, he was ready just in time for Cairns.

Always on the hunt for points to get closer to the ‘Big Show’, Mike is constantly pushing himself. “One of my major motivators is knowing I can do better.” With a few tricks already lined up he wants to level up his trick game.

The mental game

“We’re not doing four or five minute downhill runs where you’re tired at the end. With slopestyle you’re mentally drained by the end of the week, as well as physically because it’s high impact. But mostly it’s mentally draining. I do a lot of visualising before competitions. Which carries on all through the night before, so I’m a bit tired on race day. But by the time you drop in, everything goes away. You’re fully focused, then collapse at the end of it because it’s all over and you’re happy. You gotta be mentally strong to do slopestyle that’s for sure, it’s not for everybody.”

“An extremely risky sport, It’s risk versus reward, every time you drop in, you have to decide if this is gonna be worth crashing for and potentially injuring yourself. So you just make that call and most of the time it’s worth it.”

Check out the Crankworx site here

You also might be interested in reading about Highline here

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