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Going for a bike ride with Mark Webber

Jake Humphrey | 16:19 UK time, Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Fancy riding a mountain bike through a field of nettles?

No, me neither, so how did I end up with itchy red legs and in search of a dock leaf or two on Tuesday?

Well, because the question I was actually asked by my boss was "fancy going mountain biking with Mark Webber?" a question that necessitated an immediate 'you bet' from me, simply put, it was an offer I couldn't turn down - I'm sure you'll agree.

Since starting in F1 this season I have been quite intrigued by Mark Webber, the man I was about to share a 'gentle' ride through the forest with (hmmm, more on that later!).

You see, I think there is an air of mystery around most of the top drivers on the grid. Some you can't really get near as they wrestle a pack of TV and stills cameras to get from their garage to their motor home before disappearing from view.


A couple sometimes walk past you with a thousand-yard stare that unnerves you so much you daren't say a word, others are willing to chat, albeit whilst hidden behind sunglasses more suited to Naomi Campbell... and then there's Mark.

Open, engaging, straight-talking Mark Webber. Dare I say it, seemingly 100% normal and not in the slightest bit affected or phased by the strange, always travelling, global goldfish bowl that is an F1 drivers' life.

These guys have to marry an overwhelming workload with media pressure, corporate demands and the expectations of fans - to do all that and stay normal takes some doing.

One story that really stands out to me was when were boarding the Heathrow-Istanbul flight and I remember chatting to Mark as we walked down the gangway. Together with his trainer Roger and partner Anne we were laughing at the absurdity of the Monaco race weekend and Mark joked that he'd buy a dinghy and moor it up in the harbour next season - 'just to make a point, mate!'

I'm not sure any other guy on the grid could detach themselves from the F1 circus that is their world for long enough to take notice of some of the madness that surrounds the sport - however, it seems Mark can.

So, 8am on Tuesday, I met the AP Tom (Genty as we call him) at Television Centre and we fly like the wind to Buckinghamshire, well as fast as you can fly in a Ford Mondeo hire car whilst listening to Radio 2!

Mark had invited us to his home for a chat, and when we arrive there he is, welcoming us all to his (very lovely) house in shorts and t-shirt with the offer of a cup of tea and a handshake. Not a hanger-on or a press person in sight. Well, apart from a mate of his who was over visiting from Oz and got a close up meeting with one of Mark's dogs.

Apparently he was on the phone and without thinking he wandered outside without Mark. Whoops! Moments later the Weimaraner was giving his forearm a friendly nibble...thankfully the dogs were inside when the BBC rabble turned up. I'd have gladly sacrificed a light stand for my right arm...just for the record!


We then sat down in Mark's playroom, festooned with sporting memorabilia, various helmets and signed photos, and even a little golden Bernie Ecclestone trophy that Mark won in 2003 for being the best newcomer to the sport.

We then had a great chat about the season so far, Mark's November leg break that has left him with a pretty big lump on his right shin, and how he believes the next two races are the most crucial of the season so far.

One thing that really hit home to me is how disciplined and driven Mark is. His house is littered with sports autobiographies by high-achievers, sports psychology magazines with headlines like 'Burnout, what it is and how to stop it' and reminders of his achievements so far.


He might be a relaxed, approachable guy but his will to win and inner steel is abundantly clear as he explains the origins of the Australian cricket team logo. He told us it means you keen on attacking, keep on going forward. "Sport and war mate, gotta keep goin' forward," he says.

I guess you need that kind of genetic makeup to recover from a leg-break as severe as his was and eight months later be in the hunt for both the drivers and constructors world championships.

It is also that approach to life that meant we ended up on a couple of mountain bikes cycling through a field where he peddled through a forest of nettles as if they weren't their, just another hurdle to beat.

The locals out walking their dogs can't have seen anything like it as a Red Bull resplendent Webber flew off into the distance saying things like "the body is a quick learner mate" and I followed behind doing a poor impression of Paul Newman in 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' as I tried in vain to avoid the stingers below.


Mark spent the time on the bikes showing me just how fit you need to be to race an F1 car. It had been a wet morning but he hardly broke sweat as I did my best impression of Mark Cavendish just to keep up with him. He didn't break sweat, I was a broken man.

If the cycling reminded us he's a true athlete, when we returned to his place he reminded us that he's just a normal guy as he hosed off both the bikes whilst I allowed my muddy, stinging legs to recover and just pointed out the bits he'd missed.

They say nice guys never win. Well, having spent a day with Mark Webber, I'm not so sure.

PS - You can see the finished package, edited to make me look superhuman too hopefully! during our race build up on Sunday afternoon!



  • Comment number 1.

    Just so you know - you've got a little mud on your face on that top picture.

    Good to see you two out and about this week - be interesting to see the final results on the GP weekend.

  • Comment number 2.

    Radio 2? Tut tut tut

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm not sure if I want to watch on Saturday/Sunday now... Just make sure you keep your legs out of shot :)

  • Comment number 4.

    That's awesome, it is not to often you get a phonecall from an international sportsman to go for a bike ride!

  • Comment number 5.

    Nice to hear that your finally getting some exercise done. Nice blog, can't wait to watch this piece of comic genius before the race!!

  • Comment number 6.

    I was very pleased to see Mark win a race, he seems like a normal bloke who manages to remove himself from the spotlight. I guess it's because he's never involved in controversy and the such like. Unlike certain other drivers. Hopefully the luck curse has changed on him, but as a Vettel fan, I'm split between the 2. I suppose with Mark it's very difficult not to support him.
    He seems to enjoy his cricket also, so I hope you reminded him of what was going on at Lords!!

  • Comment number 7.

    Well done Jake! Great blog,

    were u hobbbling after that bike trip! lol

    Mark sounds like a proper person not just a being that turns up goes round a track and doe ssome extra sponsorship!

    can't wait to see how u look on sunday:P

    P.S Hav u ever been round the nordshleiffe? (its bit late i know but i forgot to ask earlier!)

  • Comment number 8.

    Ps. Unfortunately I won't be able to see the cut version of this, I'll have to video the race, cause I'll be there.

  • Comment number 9.

    A link to a torrent from a BBC site... naughty naughty!

  • Comment number 10.

    I have always thought Webber was a great bloke and it was fantastic to see him finally win a race.

    Does he ever wear anything that doesn't say Red Bull on it?

    Hope you mentioned the cricket.

  • Comment number 11.

    You deliberately went 'into' the nettles? You are both nuts! Crashed into the nettles in Richmond Park one time back when I was living in that area and cycling semi-regularly - doing the rest of the circuit with stinging arm was not fun.

  • Comment number 12.

    Played tennis with him, had a beer with him. GENUINE nice guy, scarily humble, but theres a steel in there. He loves his cycling think he'll be keeping a sly eye watching Le Tour on saturday, (after qualifying obviously), as they go up Mont Ventoux!Cant wait for Sunday be interesting to see if Brawn can react and if there's a fall out to Ruben's rant!

  • Comment number 13.

    and the point of all this is what exactly?
    mounting biking with some bloke..? yeah,AND...

  • Comment number 14.

    Brilliant. I can already tell that this piece on Sunday is going to be very funny.

    I was really pleased to see Mark win in Germany. He seems to be a really nice and normal guy.

    BTW those cycle shorts were just a little bit scary ;-)

  • Comment number 15.

    what a sad man your are Gazzafen!!

    I would say that a few quid spent taking the crew to Oxfordshire is money well spent. It has resulted in an article for the web and something to fill the Sunday race build up adding another dimension to the show.

    The cost pales into insignificance when compared to much of the BBC output - such as the obscene amounts shovelled into the coffers of the disgraceful Jonathan Ross.

  • Comment number 16.

    gazzafen - seriously, get over it

  • Comment number 17.

    gazzafen - if you do not like it, do not read it. The rest of us love reading Jake's updates

    Could say I am so jealous - but sorry to say this time I am not (Well I am as you got to spend sometime with Mark) as I'm really not into nettle stings. Ouch!

    Looking foward to his weekend


  • Comment number 18.

    Another great post jake. But i have noticed this year that the front runners are all nice guys willing to chat on the grid ect. Shame that next year we might get a return to ferrari and mclaren being at the front, with good old "i am lewis hamilton i am the best attitude" i have not missed this year thanks to his poor performance. (and to the moderator this comment doesn't break the house rules!)

  • Comment number 19.

    Great blog as ever Jake. Thanks!

    Just like you, Jake, I will be unable to eat before and during the show at the weekend. My nerves are slightly different than yours though... I'm nervous about seeing those legs and shorts on TV in glorious technicolor!

    A bit harsh I know, but I couldn't resit!

  • Comment number 20.

    Can't wait for Sunday. Do you ever have a normal day? You are always at work (well, I say work), I don't know how your family cope.

  • Comment number 21.

    gazzafen just read the last blog and Jake explains the point of this blog and why we like it. Waste of money, pah, coming here and ranting is more of a waste of time than the couple of quid the BBC used to get up there.

  • Comment number 22.

    Great blog again Jake, I am so jealous. When I watch the blokes goon about on cbeebies and the like they must be thinking 'a few years of this then F1!'

    Keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 23.

    Going off the fact that you didn't mention it in your blog once, it's amazing how an injury, sustained whilst cycling, that could have wrecked his sporting dreams hasn't not even come to mind when it comes to getting back on the bike.

    Nice post again jake!

  • Comment number 24.

    "A link to a torrent from a BBC site... naughty naughty!"

    Not all torrents are illegal, and that is from a magazine, so while it may technically be in copyright, it's availability will be very low. So to actually give people the chance to read it, and possibly even show them it's a publication they want to pick up in the future could only do good...

    Looking forward to Sunday, always feels like months have gone by between races for me, and that's with MotoGP to keep me going.
    Kepe up the good work.

  • Comment number 25.

    Liking your coverage Jake. Mark Webber comes across as a typical Aussie which makes me prouder to be one. Actually Jake you come across in a similar way, any of your ancestors like boats?

  • Comment number 26.

    I envy you the time spent having a natter with Mark, but not the bike ride - I'm exhausted just reading about it! While he may have out-cycled you, at least you were still in one piece at the end ;-) Sounds like a fun day, despite the stingers...

    This weekend can't come quickly enough. Is it really only two weeks since Mark's victory? Looking forward to a great show from you and the chaps. Have fun in Hungary!

  • Comment number 27.

    Loving what you share here at the blog, Jake.

    Always interesting..



    p.s. Make sure you add the hashtag F1 to your tweets, so that all F1 searchers will find ya.. just add this to your tweets #F1 ;)

  • Comment number 28.

    Webber didn't even break sweat? I'm almost sweating just thinking about mountain biking!

    Looking forward to seeing it on Sunday.

  • Comment number 29.

    Great stuff yet again Jake! I really like these features that show the drivers away from the circuit - where you get to see what makes them tick and what they're really like.

    As for Mark Webber, I have really become a fan of his this year - he seems like a top bloke and I hope he gets a proper shot at winning this year's world title :)

  • Comment number 30.

    Nice to know that there are some normal, approachable, down-to-earth F1 drivers out there - enjoy Hungary, Jake, and I look forward to some more Brawn/Red Bull scraps at the front of the grid this weekend.

  • Comment number 31.

    3 words Jake:


    Have a gr8 weekend in Hungary. Let's hope it's a warm one, for Jenson's sake.

  • Comment number 32.

    Ah the perks of being a BBC sports commentator - not only that, but you looked darned good in bike shorts!

  • Comment number 33.

    Ha, looks fun! Mark seems such a genuine guy - I was reading this week Australian brands are unwilling to give him sponsorship even off the back of his first victory, since F1 sponsorship is seen as too high risk in Oz compared to sports such as cricket.

    Do you think an F1 driver has to not just play to the media (Mark clearly has no problem with press) but actively hunt them out (Hamilton in particular seems good at this)? Would love to hear peoples thoughts!

    And since everyone else is - - v.cheeky I know!

  • Comment number 34.

    Nice blog Jake! The fact that Mark Webber is a nice bloke doesn't surprise at all. Through all the years I've been an avid F1 fan (32 and counting...), I had a "sixth-sense" to pick the good guy as my favourite driver. First it was Gilles Villeneuve, a shy but thoroughly great guy; then it was Patrick Tambay, the only racer to win four years in a row the "orange trophy" for being the most approachable person in the grid (Nelson Piquet won three "lemon trophies", for being the opposite, by the way...). Next in line was, you might have guessed by now: Johnny Herbert; not a bit shy, but a completely fun and simple fella, someone who always had time (and a joke or ten to tell) for anyone, and a guy a got to meet in my native Argentina in 1996. Following these good guys came Mark Webber, another regular guy who happened to be an F1 driver. As you can see, my favourite drivers haven't exactly become the most successful of all time, far from it in fact. But they all are remembered now as being good persons and that, for me, is much more important than if they won a zillion GPs or many championships. Webber is in with a chance of become the firt truly successful of my "protegees", so I'm delighted and eager to find out if the "good-huy curse" has disappeared for good........ Send my love to Mark next weekend, will ya?.

  • Comment number 35.

    Cool Blog Jake,

    The photos look cool too. I do hope that Mark can build on from his win because he deserves it after the horrid off-season he had, be good to see the finished package during Sunday race build-up show.

    Keep Up Fantastic Work

  • Comment number 36.

    Great blog as usual Jake...
    Although, I have a quick question, 'Did you fall off the bike at any point'?
    You see, the only reason I ask is that I've just seen you on 'Oops TV', during your CBBC days, fall off a perfectly good stool and wondered how you must've fared on a seat with wheels - Funny stuff! :-)
    Just thought I'd let you know they were airing that, in case you didn't!
    Keep well, loving your blogs and the coverage has been fantatsic this year. You've been a breath of fresh air ...

  • Comment number 37.

    Another excellent blog,its really great to get an insight into the F1 guys off the track i feel that it complements all the racing action as we get to know more about the drivers themselves which stops them being just a name on the scoresheet,now if we can have a video with Kimi at a karaoke now that would be special!!!!!

  • Comment number 38.

    Are you sure it's wise to link to a torrent website Jake?

  • Comment number 39.

    Great stuff! how are the leg muscles? Aussies never quit which is why we love to hate them but always love them. They are our best mates, unless you are playing cricket at the moment! Mark enjoyed a long overdue win. He has been so unlucky in the past, in fact I believe the unluckiest driver in recent years? Just let him know the ashes are ours! Apart from that, as long as he comes 2nd, I will cheer him on!

  • Comment number 40.

    I agree with Nigelcraft: If you can make a video of Kimi at a Karaoke bar, you'll be the first in line for a Pulitzer Prize!. Does Mr. Raikkonen have any blood?. The motto "IceMan" is well deserved!!

  • Comment number 41.

    I think if you asked any F1 racing buff this weekend you would be hard pressed to split Brawn and Red Bull.I think also in interviews with Ross Brawn he is surprised with the rapid technical movement of Red Bull.When Ross was the brains at Ferrari on many occassions their was no competition Red Bull have two excellent drivers and Adrian Newey to work out.In the land of Dumplings and Goulash it can get very hot hot hot so you might need a salad to cool yourself down.Hungary is a good hunting ground for the Brits I remember Nigel Mansell being given a camel or was it a horse for winning and of course our Jenson did a Mark Webber and won his first Grand Prix in Budapest.A very difficult track to overtake on bit Monacoesk so pole again very important cars tend to bunch up alot here.I would just for an outsize bet like to see Robert Kubika on the podium and Jenson winning the race!

  • Comment number 42.

    radio 2???? should be radio 1 on in the car!!!

    Mark is a great driver and bloke i am so jealous of your job - which i could hang out with the drivers and teams. Great job x

  • Comment number 43.

    Once again, an excellent piece. well done to all the team.

    now for a request from all us marshals here in the uk. one of the best parts of the bbc coverage is the F1 forum after the races but unfortunately we can't record it whilst we are away at our own events. would it be possible for the bbc to make the forum available for, say the next week, on the red button or Iplayer?

    keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 44.

    Great Blog Jake.

    Just one request. PLEASE can you play the press conference in full with the winner's final comments. PLEASE! It happens every time that you cut away. Today Lewis had this to say:

    "Finally, my thoughts are with Felipe today. Despite our celebrations, its important to remember that theres a guy lying in a hospital bed tonight, and I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say that we all had Felipe in our hearts and minds today and we wish him a speedy recovery.

    Please - this would have been a fitting end to the broadcast but instead just before he was going to say it, it was cut back to talk about Lewis's win.

    :) Thanks!

  • Comment number 45.

    Yeah good point (blog 44), it really annoys me when you cut away - especially yesterday and Felipe in hospital!

    More comments on Massa situation later once Jake has written his new blog for the Hungarian GP

  • Comment number 46.

    Jake, Please help me with my 60th Birthday Dream present to myself. I want to walk all the F1 circuits on the morning of each GP in the 2010 season. I will pay all my own expenses, travel etc. Have you a contact who can help me?

  • Comment number 47.

    That was a great piece. I've been a massive fan of Mark Webber over the last few seasons. He is the most genuine of all the drivers. Does anybody know what the music was that was playing at the start of the piece was? It's really bugging me.

  • Comment number 48.

    Ive got a Question?

    What are the rules reguarding replacing a driver temporarly (if massa can race again?). Felipe most likely wont be able to race in 4weeks time and may miss the rest of the season.

    I noticed on sunday ferrari did not replace him like they would have last year?


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