Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Steve Peat interview!
Steve Peat on the podium in Canberra. Photographer: Kathy Sessler/Santa Cruz Syndicate
I admit it - speaking to Mr Peat floored me. legend. When I looked back at my notepad after 20 minutes, all I had recorded was the word 'fry-up.' Luckily I have a very good memory.
You can read the piece on the Guardian's bike blog here.
Or it's below. Whichever you prefer really. Bosh.
When it comes to the diets of gold medallists, fry ups and beer probably aren't the obvious choices. But Steve Peat, the newly crowned downhill cycling champion of the world, sounds rather put out when I suggest downhillers aren't fit.
"You need to be fit to be a downhiller even though it looks as if you don't do much work. You're pedalling out of corners, pedalling into your line, the terrain is rough, the bikes are heavy so you need to train and be fit definitely. My bike comes in at around 37lbs and that's on the lighter side." Peat is talking about the Santa Cruz V10 which he powered to victory in the downhill world championships in Canberra earlier this month, coming in a screamingly tense 0.05 seconds ahead of his team mate Greg Minnaar.
Aged 35, and with 15 years of racing – including no fewer than four world championship second places – how does it feel to finally have the title under his belt? "I'm still celebrating. It's a race I've never won. I can't describe how it feels, it's amazing. It's definitely a massive relief for me and a huge weight off my shoulders," he says.
There are legends in mountain biking and then there is Steve Peat. After trying his hand at cross-country racing, the Sheffield local switched to downhilling when he realised he was really rather good at it. As well as featuring in the highly acclaimed mountain bike film Seasons, his roster of podium places is impressive: two World Cup wins (a title awarded for a series of races over the course of the year), two European championship titles and seven British championships. But the world championship had remained out of reach, forcing Peat to watch younger riders like Australia's Sam Hill and fellow Brit Gee Atherton claim the glory.
"I don't feel that old," Peat insists. "People say: 'Is this the end, what are you going to do now?' but it's not like that for me. I'm keeping going. I can't see any end. I enjoy racing – it's my life. I love everything about it: dropping into the run, crossing the line and looking at my time, the whole atmosphere, everything. And I train hard. I just try to make it as fun as possible."
Downhill is an electrifying discipline within mountain biking. In Canberra riders were reaching average speeds of more than 31 mph over the entire length of the 1.3 mile course. It took Peat a mere two minutes and 33 seconds to complete his run. Courses are made up of a series of obstacles – tree roots, rock drops, tight, banked corners and very steep sections.
He says: "I think downhill is one of the hardest sports in terms of the mental preparation you need to do. It's you and your bike against the clock and that's a lot of pressure, you have to focus, it's a real test. The sport has changed a lot since I started. Everyone takes it a little more seriously now. It's fractions of a second you can win or lose by: a tree root, anything, can make or break your race so you have to stay focused."
He's certainly had his fair share of disappointing races. In 2005 he crashed out of the world championships in Les Gets with only 200 metres left to go. "But then in that year I also won the Fort William leg of the World Cup and that was probably one of my favourite races to date. I was the last man to race and as I came into the final stretch the crowd went wild – 20,000 people yelling my name. Awesome."
This coming weekend sees the final race in the World Cup calendar in Schladming, Austria. Peat is currently lying in third place and still has gold fever. "If I have a bit of luck on my side and I get it right, then I'm in with a chance of winning that too and to get the double in the same year would be amazing."