Rider interview: Hairstyle and mustache may be your trademark, but Mitch Docker has a lot more, as evidenced by his 14 years of work in a professional peloton. Ed Good has caught up with the current podcaster to hear about his career and life now in “Down Under”.
A selection of Docker styles
I owe this interview to my dog Seoras. On the weekends I take it for big walks and start listening to podcasts when we enjoy the coastal trail of Fife and the mighty Fort River.
My favorite hearing, “Life in Peloton” organized by a man of mullet, ‘mulled and mullet of choice in a hat – Mitch Docker. I return with Mitch in June 2010 when interviewed after his victory on stage at the UCi 2.1 Delta Zeeland Tour in the Netherlands. He was then a Skil Shimano man, but in 2012 moved to GreenEDGE; with his last team was EF, with whom he has been since 2018 until finishing his career late last year in Paris-Roubaix. I thought I should catch up with Mitch and ask about his new career “podcaster”, but also go back to his early years too.
PEZ: Originally you were a simulator, winning at the legendary Bendig Madison in Oz, but you didn’t go on a simulation career?
Match Docker: In Australia you drive both on the road and on the track, the 2008 World Championships in Mallorca was my last serious campaign on the track, I saw that I have no future.
Tour de Langkawi 2008 with Drapac
PEZ: You were on the junior team of the Australian pursuit team, which went all the way to the World Cup final – but you didn’t make it to the final, it must have been heartbreaking?
It was a grief, and it would be easy to turn away from the sport – no final, no medal. But it actually made me succeed more firmly, probably it was the best thing that could have happened to me at the time.
PEZ: Your first professional team was Drapac in Australia; it sounded like a great little team.
It was a really good team, it started with three riders in the first year, then with six riders the following year, and on the third we came out on Pro Conti. The team’s philosophy was to educate well-educated people, not just cyclists. It was an alternative to having to go live in Italy and fight to get a team. I went to university at this time and did what you do at university – got drunk on Friday night, but still chased on Saturday.
PEZ: Skil Shimano – how did the contract come about?
Drapac’s idea was that they would eventually push riders to the professional ranks. We went on the Tour of Qatar and we were beaten, but I shone a little in the race, and although I never won big, I was consistent with some good results, such as the second stage of the Tour de l’Avenir and the second stage of the Tour de Langkawi where i finished top 10 on gc. The first professional year was tough, I was getting kicked in all my races, I told my DS, the former Dutch champion in professional road racing, Rudy Kemna; “Why did you sign me, Rudy?” He replied; ‘I’m unsure!’ “It wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear, but in sophomore year I won this stage of the Zeeland Tour and then one at the Route du Sud,” Rudy told me; ‘so we signed you!’ But that’s what professional bike racing is about, spending your time in harsh conditions, learning the ropes.
Roubaix from Mitchellton-Scott
PEZ: GreenEDGE, the Australian team, that was probably cool?
It was great for a number of reasons: it was an Australian team with Australian culture, it was a World Tour, and I was a teammate with the guys who were my idols, Stewie O’Grady, Robbie McEwen, Baden Cook. . . I was there for six years, but then I was not offered to extend the contract because the team changed direction, they signed Matteo Trentino – and maybe I would be happy? It was another one of those times when it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me – a wake-up call!
PEZ: Then EF, the light team atmosphere looked created for you?
It was similar to early GreenEDGE, I could be myself, it was a breath of fresh air.
Vuelta of Spain 2019
PEZ: You finished your career there – in Paris-Roubaix.
At the time I had two children and I wanted to go back to Australia to live. I was thinking about ending my career after Paris-Roubaix in April, but finishing my career in the middle of the season didn’t seem right, so when the race was postponed to October, it was perfect. But of course I had to be selected to take part in the race, and it was a bitch because I broke my elbow on the Benelux tour, three weeks before Roubaix, and I had to work hard to be selected. But when I was racing, I didn’t want to be there, I crashed early and was scared, I had a serious accident in Roubaix in 2016 and I know what consequences it can have on you hitting the pavement. I fought in Orenberg where there were guys from my fan club and they drove me to the finish line. It was a good way to finish, in a car with my fans drinking beer with them, a holiday – not to drive to the velodrome an hour down or in the car of another team full of suffering.
PEZ: It seems to me that with your nature you would be the perfect material for a DS?
I love working with people, it’s true, but the role of the DS involves a long time away from home and family, and I don’t want to do that. There are a few young guys I teach here and I enjoy the experience.
Rub with EF
PEZ: You came back to the country of Oz after your career was over, I thought you were well settled in Girona?
I’ve spent 14 years in Europe and it’s been a great time, but I’m Australian through and through, I like to want to go to a pub and talk to a bartender about anything – I can’t do it in Belgium or Spain. I now have three children and I want them to grow up in Australia, next to their grandparents, and I want to have a cold beer with my dad from time to time.
PEZ: The last question about your career – the trip you are most proud of?
Paris-Roubaix 2011, when I was on a break and ran to the top 10 – I finished 15th and always tried to match that figure, it moved me.
When I came back to Australia, people always asked me about peloton and what it is. I thought it would be good to start podcasts so people could understand what I was talking about. For a start they were pretty average, but have evolved into where they are now.
PEZ: Has anyone ever beaten you up for asking for a chat podcast?
Sometimes support staff don’t want to be the center of attention, they prefer to stay in the background. And you get people leading you, telling you they’ll come and let you down. . .
PEZ: Who would you like to have on the podcast, but not yet – maybe Lance?
Tom Bunen, this is a hero, I wrote him a message, but he never came back to me. I wrote to Lance, but never got an answer, he’s not one I would particularly think of, but I guess everyone thinks of him.
There are a bunch of things where you think I should have done this or that, but I think such worries shorten your career. You have to be happy in peloton if you want a long career – I spent 13 years in European pro peloton and have no regrets about my time.
PEZ: And the last podcast, Mitch?
This is with my former EF teammate, Joe Dombrowski from the US, now he is from Astana. He won the Baby Giro in 2012 and won the stage at the Giro last year – he’s a clear and interesting guy, worth listening to. . .