Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Interview with Jess Stone

You know when you go and see a band in a scuzzy pub and you watch them thinking 'wow, these guys are really good,' then a year later they are massive? Jess Stone is like that in DH riding at the moment. Could she be the new face of women's DH next year? Read on ...

Woohoo! You won! It's a really exciting time for you at the moment. What does it feel like being at the beginning of something which could be really big?
It's really amazing you know! It's certainly an incredible feeling. I'm aware that I have a lot of work to do though. It's not easy and I lack experience, so I'm just taking it race by race and aim to continually push my limits every time.

Do you work towards specific goals or are you just riding and seeing where you end up? Do you feel any pressure at the moment?
Of course there's pressure, but only from myself to perform as I'm so competitive within myself. I have a few goals and I'm constantly setting myself little targets just so that I know and can measure how much I am improving. I always take each race as it comes so whatever happens, happens! The targets can range from getting within a certain time behind the leader at a World Cup (get within 22 seconds of Tracy Moseley) or being able to sprint that extra 10 seconds - something like that.

What does next year look like for you at the moment? What are your plans?
My plans are to do a full season of World Cups and get some top 10's so that I can compete at the World Championship. Compete at the British National Champs Series and hopefully win that. That's as far as I have got. It's still early days as the season has only just finished and decisions are still being made about the 2010 season.

On the podium in Rheola last month, winning the Nationals.

Nice Loeka pinstripe DH shorts ... If you could design/adapt any piece of DH race clothing, what would it be and why? I have a thing about DH jerseys - still haven't found a nice one.
To be honest, and without being biased - if I was to design a piece of DH clothing, I'd have designed the pinstripe shorts! Got beaten to it - damn! It's great I get to wear ladies stuff that fits well and that looks cool. The jerseys are difficult though, it's always about personal preference. You might think this weird but I'd love to have a jersey that has the picture of the head of a tiger in negative either on the sleeves or on the back and front. The colour scheme would be, black, white, pink and gold!

Where's your favourite DH track? Do you ever turn up there and think 'ah stuff it, I can't be bothered to ride today.'? What makes you not want to ride?
My favourite downhill track is Hopton. That place is like home to me! My usual ride over the winter is a place called Bringewood in Ludlow close to where I live. It's 20mins on the train then an hour's walk to the track. Then you have to push up all day. One time, it rained so hard you couldn't see, but I made myself go. I made the train journey and the push on my own, I was so cold and soaking wet through. Then I saw that the track was super, super muddy ... I was over it! So I walked back to the train. Nothing normally ever makes me not want to ride, I love it too much, hence why I still ride even if it's raining.

And conversely what gets you psyched for riding?
Imagining myself riding usually. But if it's a beautiful day, all I want to do is ride my bicycle!

Where is one place you haven't ridden but would love to/plan to?
I haven't ridden at Whistler bike park yet. Everyone raves at how awesome it is there. I can't afford to go there just yet, probably be a few years down the road 'till I can make the trip.

Is there any part of your riding you feel you need to work on at the moment?
Hmm … well everything to be honest. I'm very critica. Particularly though - I feel my jumping is not the best, my pumping technique needs some work and learning to carry my speed better.

Have you been star-struck recently?
Oh yes... But I couldn't possibly tell you who he is as if they read this I will get very embarrassed!

Do you ever look down a DH run and think 'are you insane?! no way!'? What freaks you out most in DH?
I've never thought that but I definately wonder sometimes how I'm going to make it. The biggest thing for me is jumping and drops - getting my head over trying to launch myself into mid air - it doesn't feel natural at all. But I'll give everything a go.

Can you tell us about your rig? Any quirky set-ups we could copy and use to get good?!
I ride on the most unique bike on the World Cup circuit at the moment. It basically has two air shocks instead of your average one coil shock. It's the '2Stage Elite9'. It's fantastic to ride and so good through corners and over small bumps - it's also really great and easy to jump. I hate to be boring and very unhelpful, but I have no special set ups! I just ride what is set up for the normal factory setting and that works perfect!

What skill/ technique/ event pushed your riding forward the most?
Definately, definately, the first two rounds of the Maxxis Cup Series. It was only the second time I had ever been abroad and this was my first international elite race - they had the biggest jumps and drops that I had ever done until then. They really pushed my mental ability, I had to do them to get a result. The tracks were unlike anything I had ever ridden. I came second in both races, not too far off Tracy Moseley. I believe they pushed me forward in my riding as when I did my first World Cup qualifying (which was only a couple of weeks after the Maxxis) I qualified 10th! I then came 17th in the finals.

Who's the coolest chick on the DH scene do you think? How would you describe the women's scene?
I don't know, I wouldn't say there's one cool chick. I will name a few names who I think are cool - Tracy Moseley, Helen 'Weapon' Gaskell, Fionn Griffiths and Katy Curd. They are all pretty damn cool!

Are you at Uni at the moment or are you riding full-time?
I wish I was riding full time but I've just started University at Worcester studying Sports and Exercise Science so I'm flat out. I've joined the cycling and boxing teams at Uni too - I'm keeping busy.

Jess racing at the World Cup in Bromont, Canada earlier this year.

I always ask this question: can you tell me a story? It can be any length, and about any subject, it just has to be a true story in your life.
Oh dear I'm rubbish at stories! I have a few pretty cool ones but I'll tell you this major one in my life:

I played football for as long as I can remember. When I was five or six, I used to watch the big kids play and all I wanted to do is to become a footballer. I moved up to Shropshire from Surrey when I was about eight. I started to play a bit of football and got pretty good, beating the boys and scoring goals. When I got to Church Stretton secondary school, things kicked off. I was asked to play for the school football team and I was put in goal (because I was so enthusiastic and no one else could be bothered). So from then on, I was to become a goalkeeper. I had no idea about goalkeeping, so I had a few tips then went for it.

I did my first national with the team that year. Looking back, I was a terrible goalkeeper! However, we got to play on Aston Villa's premiership ground, Watford's and Chelsea's Stamford Bridge pro ground where we won 6-1. That was such an amazing experience!! I was totally hyped and determined to be a better goalie! I worked really hard, went for trials and ended up playing for Shrewsbury's centre of excellence team. I got a little bit of coaching there. I also started to play for the county (Shropshire) and we were doing pretty well. I managed to get some specific training off Andy Mulliner who was a top goalkeeper coach.

When I was 16 (2007) I started to play for Crewe Alexandra Ladies team, who were a league below the premiership. It was hard, the standard was so high. At this time, I decided to have a go at downhill biking as well. My P.E teacher had inspired me to have a go so I went for it, now saving for my first DH bike.

That year, our school football team went for another national title. I was ready for it this time. We kicked butt in all the matches with a only couple of close games. Every game was so emotionally draining for me as I wanted our team to win so much. We did awesome and got to the finals which were at Manchester City's premiership ground! I was so nervous I felt sick. However, I had the best game of my life and only one goal got past me. We scored six! That feeling was amazing when we won. Like nothing I had ever felt. We were on TV, had interviews and everything!

Shortly after that, I received a letter saying that I had been selected to be on standby for England's Under 19's and Under23's training camp and I was so happy! However, things were getting rocky with Crewe, I did not like the players they were bringing into the team, so I wasn't motivated to play for them anymore. I wasn't enjoying the football and I couldn't transfer to another team as transport was a huge issue for me. I had also managed to save up for my DH bike and I was really getting into it. The biking was so different.

Two months after this, I did my first race and did well and decided Downhill was the way forward. It was the hardest decision I had ever made. A massive risk I know and I got a lot of stick off people - they couldn't understand why I was leaving football. I guess they thought I was giving up and lost ambition. I believed in what I could do, so nothing else mattered.

That first year in 2008, I won the Junior National Championship, the Junior English Championship and won two Series. (I had been both a National Champion at Football and Mountain biking before the age of 18!!) Then I moved into Elite this year (2009) and won myself my first International Series: The Maxxis Cup, I had 3rd place at the National Champs and Won the last National Round at Rheola ...

So I guess I'm not doing too bad for a young novice!! ;)

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