Interview: World downhill champion Steve Peat

Canberra, being the underdog and 29er V-10s

Sheffield's Steve Peat is the most successful World Cup downhill racer ever and the closest British mountain biking has to a household name. Last year he finally achieved his career-long dream and was crowned world champion in Canberra, Austalia.

BikeRadar grabbed a few words with Peaty as he met up with the winners of our Garmin MTB Days competition (more on that next week) at Cannock Chase, and he revealed he isn't planning on giving up racing any time soon.

Firstly, congratulations on winning the Worlds. How does it feel?

It feels pretty good. It’s finally sunk in. It was strange for a while because it took me so long to finally get there. This year I thought I was never going to do it. I didn’t feel that confident going out to Oz so I thought it might never happen. Then my sports psychologist gave me a few things that gave me more confidence and everything fell into place.

Did the fact you weren’t expecting to win help you to relax?

I definitely think that happened. Before the World Champs I always get messages from people saying 'good luck, this is your year'. I try to reply to each message. This year I was like, 'here we go again', so I ignored all that and put it behind me. I think it stopped me putting so much pressure on myself.

I wasn’t trying to win it like I had done for so many years before, and I think that definitely helped. Before, I felt the pressure and wanted to do well for the sponsors and the fans. This year I didn’t feel that pressure. I was just going there to make up the numbers! When I race I like to be the underdog, and taking the pressure off did that.

At the start of last year you weren't necessarily seen as a contender, but then you started winning World Cup rounds...

I had a couple of wins at the start of the year and that definitely gave me confidence and hope for doing well.

What are your goals for 2010?

To enjoy the World Champ jersey! I’ve always got goals in racing and I like being stood up on the podium.  I want to do good things for the sport...

There’s been talk of you racing the Megavalanche in France this year. Are you considering following the lead of people like Brian Lopes and getting into the enduro downhill side of things?

I’ve just signed another three-year contract with Santa Cruz so I’m going to be racing downhill pretty seriously. Who knows after that. I’ll see how I feel and hopefully carry on forever!

I’ve done the Megas on Reunion Island and in Peru. The race in France is one of those events I’d like to tick off.

How about your Santa Cruz Syndicate team-mates – there have been rumours that Greg Minnaar’s moving to another team...

Greg's staying for three years and Josh [Bryceland] has another year on his contract. The family is together again! Kathy Sessler is still team manager and we have the same mechanics, Ricky Bobby and Doug Hatfield.

What bike will you be riding?

We’re still on the V-10. There’ll be a bit of new stuff coming out mid-season but we’ll start on the same bike we finished last year on. The bike’s working really good. We’re constantly evolving it. It’s set up the best it’s ever been.

Who do you see as your main competition on the World Cup circuit?

The main guys that are top five week in, week out – Sam [Hill], Greg, Gee [Atherton], Fabien [Barel] on his day... There are a few younger riders who [are in with a chance if they can]... put a good run together, like Brendan [Fairclough], Sam [Blenkinsop] and Josh.

What other races will you be doing this year?

I’ll be doing the Lisbon Downtown, which I’ve won for the last eight years. It’s always hard going into a race to defend, but it would be nice to win again!

You’re know for helping promising young riders. What’s happening this year?

Josh ‘Loose Dog’ Lewis and Billy Matthews are the riders on the Steve Peat Syndicate at the moment but we’re going to open it up and do a race package for people to be a part of.

Josh Lewis, one of Peaty's latest proteges on the Steve Peat Syndicate

How will that work? Will you offer a subsidised bike and kit, that sort of thing?

Yeah, we’re putting the final touches together for it all now but we’ll probably be looking for about 10 riders, and it’ll be open to most people. We’ve got a guy, Tristan Tunstall, who’s going to organise it for me – he used to run Minibikepro.

What else are you up to?

Royal Racing [the clothing brand Peat started with friend Nick Bayliss] is going really well at the moment. I’m pretty involved with Royal and quite excited about all the things to come. There’s some really nice new race kit for 2010 and a few more bits added to the casual line, plus a big new range for 2011.

One last thing we hear Bryceland has been trying out a Santa Cruz Tallboy 29er. How about you?

I’ve ridden one once and I’ll be ordering one this year, just as a fun bike. I can’t see me ever putting 29ers on a V10 though!

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