As reported first here on BikeRadar, World Masters Downhill champion Nigel Page has been stripped of the title he won six months ago.
The competition took place in August in the French Alpine resort of Pra Loup and here Nigel offers a detailed account of the background to the story and the run-up to what he describes as the “best day of my racing life.” He also explains why he feels the title is being unfairly taken away from him.
“Let me start by saying that Downhill (DH) and 4-Cross (4X) mountain bike racing are totally different disciplines. As I hardly race anymore and rarely ride Downhill, I am a Masters standard rider. I have not been or raced in the Elite category for a number of years. When applying for my license I was eligible to ride in either the Masters or Expert category, as I used to race Elite in both Downhill and 4-Cross.
However, I never had the time to race Downhill in any national events and British Cycling [the UK’s national cycling federation] thought it fair to upgrade the 4X part of my license to Elite because, although I hardly compete in 4X anymore, if I was to race Masters 4X in the UK it would be far too easy for me and would not be fair for all the other 4X masters riders who race week in week out in the UK. Additionally, I would not like to cause any bad feelings by riding in a category (which I am eligible for) but would be pretty easy for me to win.
I did compete in a 4X UCI event and while I was at the race I competed in the DH but did really badly in that, just as I expected, because I am nowhere near fast enough anymore to compete in Elite DH.
I was then told I was fine to compete in the Masters DH as I had not gained any UCI DH points and was therefore eligible to race the DH Masters worlds as I had done the previous year where I placed 6th! That’s not exactly what an Elite rider would place in the Masters.
So I applied to race through British Cycling as I was told I qualified to race Masters. British Cycling then registered me through the UCI who accepted my entry. I therefore had no reason to believe I was entering a race I was not eligible for.
As I hadn't done much riding last year, I drove myself all the way to the French Alps at my own expense - you don’t get any help for support from sponsors when you are a Master. I practiced DH for two days and pushed myself to ride faster than I have for years, taking some risks in order to try and build up my confidence as I knew I had been a long way off the pace at the previous year’s Masters world championship - 8 seconds, in fact.
I then drove from the further south, down to Pra Loup for the Worlds. I rode as hard and as fast I as could in training and felt pretty good on the course. I knew I wasn't very fit, but luckily the course flowed well and was downhill all the way, so didn't require as much fitness as other courses.
I was very nervous before the race as I knew I was up against a lot of fast (also ex-pro) guys who race and compete a lot more than I do these days. However, I’d felt good in practice and believed I had a chance of maybe winning a medal.
In my race I started a bit sketchy as I was so nervous but kept my composure and rode the race as hard as I could, taking some big risks and nearly crashing a few times. I took a line through the steam crossing that was very risky but faster. I didn’t see anyone else go for it but I knew it would save me some time and luckily I made it. By the time I got halfway down the course I was exhausted and didn't think I would make it but I could hear the roar of the crowd from the bottom as the riders finished in front of me. That pushed me harder and got me to the finish where I crossed the line first in my category which covers riders aged 35-39. I didn’t compete as a Master straight after turning 30 as I though that wasn't fair after being a Pro previously, although a lot of other riders who are faster than me have done so in the past!
So I’d posted a time fast enough to win my category and become World Champion. I’d beaten some guys I thought I wouldn’t and I also got the second fasted time of the race, just being pipped by tenths of a second by the 30-34 age category winner Shaums March who also won the Masters the previous year when I came 6th. Shaums was always a top professional rider who I never beat when we both raced pro.
I was delighted to win, this being my best achievement in the sport I love and to which I’ve dedicated many years of my life. I had previously raced as a pro and suffered many serious injuries which pretty much ended my career back in 2002. I did compete in a few Pro races in 2003 and 2004, but never was able to get back to the speed I had in 2002.
I was awarded the Medal at the race and congratulated by everyone there and it was the best day of my life in my racing career.
I wish UCI or British Cycling had told me I was not eligible to race (as surely they would have known) before I put all the effort in went there and won. If I had thought I was not eligible to compete I would not have gone.
I feel this decision is totally unfair and a disgrace. I would like to hear the views of my fellow racers who know I won that day and deserved the title. I totally feel the UCI have let me down in a huge way and obviously someone sat behind a desk doesn't care or know how it feels to be a racer!
Unfortunately I am not able to race the Masters this year because I have to work that weekend as my new job as a team manager.”
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