Interview: 4X racer Scott Beaumont

See 'Boom Boom' in action at BikeRadar Live

With more than two decades of BMX and mountain bike racing under his belt, Scott ‘Boom Boom’ Beaumont has been there, got the T-shirt and has all the stories.

He’s been on every UK national podium since 2004, not to mention nine World Cup podiums. He was also national 4X series champ four times and is the current national champion to boot.

Boom Boom paved the way for the British contingent in 4X and its earlier incarnation, dual slalom, since it all kicked off in the mid 90s. He brought with him a silky smooth style that he’s transferred to both his downhill riding and his 4X moves, and he’s the consummate pro many riders aspire to be.

With a CV like that he has to be one of the favourites to win the MBUK Eliminator dual slalom at next weekend's BikeRadar Live festival.

BikeRadar: How has your year gone so far?

It was the first 4X national a few weeks ago and I ended up winning that. Then I went to South Africa and got seventh at the first World Cup round, which was really good.

But with 4X comes ups and downs, and at round two of the World Cup I ended up getting T-boned out in the first round by another rider. Last week in Andorra exactly the same thing happened.

In qualifying I was one second off the fastest time so I'm definitely on pace and riding well. I'm going fast enough but unfortunately I had a couple of kamikaze riders who fancied their chances.

This weekend is rounds two and three of the NPS [National Points Series] so hopefully I'll get back to winning. I've got BikeRadar Live next week and then Fort William, which are both very important races in front of big UK crowds.

What's it going to be like racing in the dual slalom at BikeRadar Live?

Dual slalom for me is the same as 4X except no one is going to knock you off your bike, so hopefully it'll be a good weekend!

I'm going there with the hope of definitely making the podium. I'm pretty psyched up about it and hopefully can get a big result.

It's going to be great, with it being floodlit and all the work Will Longden has put into the track.

Who do you think your biggest competition will be?

Some of the downhill guys pull it out of the hat in dual slalom. Greg Minnaar and Mick Hannah – if he's riding; he may be training for the World Cup instead – are really good, and Brian Lopes was a master of dual slalom in the past so he's going to be tough to beat. They're the three big rivals.

Are you coming for the whole weekend or just popping along to race?

We're going to have our race truck set up and I'll be there from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon, then going straight to Fort William. I'll be there to speak to people.

Is riding your bike a job or would you ride and race anyway?

Racing my bikes is my job, but if I wasn’t employed to race I would obviously still ride bikes. I’ve spent the vast majority of my life riding bikes so I won’t be stopping any time soon.

You annihilated the opposition at every National Points Series 4X round in 2008. Only Will Longden was able to give you a run for your money at the national champs. Who do you regard as your closest rivals in the UK?

I’d have to say that Will Longden and Lewis Lacey were the main rivals back in 2008. Will only raced at a couple of rounds last year, but when he does race you always know it’s going to be a tough day on the track.

Are there any young riders who show World Cup 4X potential?

Definitely Lewis Lacey. He’s starting to creep up the world rankings with some solid results. Pat Campbell-Jenner and Tom Dowie will be the next two riders to start making an impact at world level, I think.

Do you think 4X is a minority sport compared to downhill?

I don’t really think so. 4X is the discipline that’s getting live TV coverage. A lot more hardtails are sold in the UK than downhill bikes. I believe more people in the next few years are going to start racing 4X because the entry fees at downhill races are just going to keep increasing.

What’s your take on the new style World Cup tracks?

I love them! The rock sections are pretty good fun, but mainly it gives the riders something to really think about. In the old days tracks used to flow so much that you could just ride down them pretty easily. The rocks now make you slow down and the races get more bunched up – usually leading to more passing.

Do you think the UK is in need of that style of track?

Not really. I think that for a national series, in any country, it’s always going to be about the majority of riders and that means flowing downhill, at really fun tracks like Redhill, Chicksands and Bridgenorth.

Some people say it’s all about how you do on the gate…

A lot of 4X is about the gate, but there have been so many races in the past few years where this idea has been thrown out of the window. There are amazing passes at every 4X national and World Cup. The great thing with 4X is that there are always crashes. I think as well as a good gate, it’s as important to stay out of trouble on the track and avoid the carnage.

You have one of the best gates in the business. What’s your secret?

A lot of practice! The key is to stay relaxed as much as possible, but when you hear those beeps you have to explode into action in a split second. A lot of things have to happen at the same time and so a sense of calm is needed throughout.

I started racing BMX at four years old and even after all these years I still make the occasional mistake on the gate. To the day I retire I will have never absolutely conquered the start gate. That perfect start still eludes me.

This year the ‘random’ gate has been used instead of the traditional cadence style. What, if anything, has this achieved?

It has just stopped ‘sling shotting’. Some riders onthe old style gate used to be able to roll back from the gate and be moving with a bit of speed even before the gate dropped, so it was deemed unfair. Now there’s an equal playing field and all the riders start from a complete standstill at the moment the first beep sounds.

When you’re on the gate what goes through your mind?

It depends on what race I’m at and who’s next to me on the gate! Usually I’m really just trying to stay calm. A bad gate makes the next 40 seconds a lot harder!

You race a Rocky Mountain hardtail which is well suited to typical UK 4X venues, but with World Cup tracks getting a lot rougher these days, is there a place for short-travel rear suspension bikes again?

I honestly don’t think there will ever be a World Cup track rough enough to justify full-suspension bikes only. 4X will always be about big jumps and berms, so the hardtail is always going to be the preferred bike.

With the rougher sections it’s nice to ride a full suspension, but generally I think 4X is all about hardtails.There is one exception though – Rafa Alvarez. He can make a full-suspension bike go as fast as any of the rest of us can make a hardtail go!

Your dad is your mechanic. Do you ever disagree on bike setup?

Never. He raced speedway and grasstrack motorcycles for 27 years and knows how to make a bike hold together through a weekend. He has forgotten more than I will ever know. When it comes to mechanics, I ask for changes on the bike, then I keep quiet while the changes are made.

You were BMX world champion – how come you left the sport?

I won the title two years in a row, and then I was approached by Kona to race mountain bikes professionally. They made me an offer that was worth a lot more money than I was making as world champion in BMX.

At the time I felt that Ihad achieved everything I could in BMX, and this new challenge was presented to me. I had never even ridden a mountain bike! So I had a go on a couple of bikes just to try the sport and loved it straight away. It was a crossroads in my career and I changed direction.

What does the future hold for 4X?

4X has a fantastic future – there will be more live TV and more riders, and there’s a national series developing all around the world, meaning grassroots events will grow.

And what do you think the future holds for you?

I want to win a World Cup 4X race. For 2009/10 I’m going to be riding more 4X than downhill, so hopefully that focus can get me to the top.

Have you ever considered returning to your roots?

Absolutely! As much as anything, I would’ve loved to have ridden that BMX track they had at the Olympics in Beijing – it looked amazing! I would also love to be apart of British Cycling at the moment – their training methods and coaches are truly world class.

Do you think there should be more club level 4X races?

4X is still a very young sport so this is going to take a while, but there will definitely be a lot more local races happening at Redhill, Chicksands, Bridgenorth and the UK Bike Park in the next year. The demand is really growing all the time and the potential of 4X is blooming.

Have you any plans to retire?

No plans at all. I will certainly be riding for the next two years as I have contracts in place till the end of 2010. Dale Holmes is my benchmark when it comes to professional racing. When he retires, I will see that age as a good goal! Basically I want to race for as long as I can. I’m enjoying my racing more and more every year, so I can’t see my career ending any time soon.

When you come down the track, neither you nor your bike makes a sound. How the hell do you do that?

It’s all about practice. I have a naturally smooth style on the bikeanyway, which helps. And 26 years of riding a bike every day makes you pretty in tune with your machine!

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