The Steve Peat Syndicate (SPS) offers up-and-coming racers the chance to ride at a professional level with world-class support. Our sister mag Mountain Biking UK teamed up with the former world champ to give away a place on the squad, and the competition entered its final stage this week.
Fifteen finalists headed to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire on Monday, and by yesterday afternoon they'd been whittled down to just five frontrunners in time for a final showdown.
The judging team included Steve Peat and MBUK legends Andrew Dodd, Rob Weaver, Ric McLaughlin and James Blackwell. Features editor Doddy said: “We were looking for a well rounded rider who, as well as being able to turn it on when pointing downhill and through the rough, had to be good off the bike.
"Results are great but will only get you so far initially – it’s important to be an approachable person who can represent sponsors in the best possible light. The person we were looking for needed to be quick on a bike, well presented and willing to try. He needed to be forthcoming, take initiative, listen and be level-headed.
Steve Peat chats to eventual SPS competition winner Michael Vickers
"I’ve seen a lot of incredible riders around the country, but off the bike it’s a lot harder to find good representatives. Initial skill is important, fitness and race speed can always be improved and worked on – but having the right attitude is the foundation for a sponsored rider. With the amount of talent over the past two days, it was a tough job picking the right riders."
That "right rider" proved to be 24 year-old Michael Vickers from Chorley, Lancashire. "We’re very happy with our winner," said Doddy. "From the first morning on the first section he immediately impressed. Where other riders suffered some early nerves or tried too quickly to get up to speed and impress, Michael was cool, calculated and well prepared.
"He listened to what both Steve Peat and ourselves wanted, he wasn’t afraid to ask questions and conducted himself like a seasoned rider. He’s going to become a great addition to the Steve Peat Syndicate and we’re looking forward to working with him here at MBUK.”
Steve Peat Syndicate team manager Tristan Tunstall said: "We’re really pleased to have Michael on the team, he seems like a super cool guy and should make a good member of the SPS family. The idea of the team is about furthering the riders' skill levels, whilst having a good time. When the guys at MBUK discussed the various riders with us, we felt happy Michael would make a good team member. There was some great talent at the Forest of Dean showdown and it was sad that there was only one place available, hopefully the guys take it as a positive experience and keep on pushing their riding."
"Look out for Michael in 2011, rocking his Carbon V10!“
Watch video highlights of the comp, including an interview with the winner, below: