Unlike most of his rivals British downhill rider Josh Bryceland didn’t grow up deep in the hills or mountains. Instead, he hails from the decidedly flat Poynton, in Cheshire, where he honed his skills on the canal tow paths and grassy banks.
Mind you, thanks to his dad he did grow up with some pretty cool links to the world of downhilling. Recognising his natural talent, his dad’s friend, downhill legend Andy Kyffin, signed him up for his local Northwest Mountain Bike Centre team. Then after a few years of winning junior regionals and nationals, he was approached by another of his dad’s friends, Steve Peat, to ride on the Royal Racing team. Shortly after that Nike signed him up for their Nike 6.0 extreme sports program.
Josh came to international prominence riding for Peat’s Royal racing team in 2007, when he was the Junior World Cup Champion and took a very respectable ninth place at the Senior World Cup round in Maribor.
He also on fire at FortBill in last summer’s Junior World Championships until robbed by a puncture. Just before his 18th birthday he took a step up to the Santa Cruz Syndicate race team along with Steve Peat, Nathan Rennie and Greg Minaar.
BikeRadar contributor Marcus Farley talks to Josh and Steve about Josh’s background, his hopes for the future and the horrible crash he had at this year’s Maribor World Cup round.
BR: How did Steve Peat discover you? And what have you learnt from him?
JB: I have known Steve a long time. He was a friend of my dad’s and I have always looked up to him. I first rode with him on a Steve Peat masterclass for MBUK back in the day. From that day I learnt so much from riding with him and he never fails to do something rad and old school still. Anyone can learn a lot from him on and off the bike as he has so much experience! I think the two main things I have learnt from him are how to deal with certain situations at races and how to go through sections quick as fook!
BR: But Josh was not taken under Steve’s wing just as a favour to Bryceland senior and Andy Kyffin. As Steve explains, he spotted real talent in Josh as soon as he saw him ride for the first time:
Steve Peat: I have known Josh for years now. He was 12 when he first came on an MBUK clinic day and he was the youngest by far, yet he smoked a lot of older dudes and I knew from that day that he was going to be good. I got everyone trying this little jump in Wharncliffe woods and he was the only one who could clear it properly and actually looked ok doing it. He is a class act and a future British icon and champion, why else would I have picked him?
BR: Having just signed for the Santa Cruz Syndicate, I was keen to know what it’s like for Josh riding the factory set up V10:
JB: So good, the bike suits my riding style really well, I ride on flat pedals and it’s really forgiving sometimes because it is so plush I can get away with things I wouldn’t be able to on other bikes. I have ridden the new model for some time now and I much prefer it to the old one. With a full team of mechanics too, it’s always tip top!
Josh bryceland: josh bryceland Kathy Sessler©.
BR: Do you feel the pressure to deliver on everybody’s expectations? And what sort of support do you get nowadays?
JB: It’s funny, I used to really feel pressure that wasn’t actually there, now I only get nerves and the pressure I put on myself. There is no pressure on me from my team and I go into events just wanting to do the best I can for myself and the results come with that. I do most things by myself. Steve helps me out with training and me and dad always have a bit of a motivational chat before I go up for my run.
BR: What off the bike training do you do?
JB: I’m a member at the local gym, and I like to go for intense sauna sessions at least three times a week, ha ha. Seriously, I do plenty of cardio work through the winter months on my cross country or road bikes. I also do plenty of motocross and some climbing for upper body strength. I find it’s a great way to get away from cycling completely, but it’s still a real buzz and a good laugh with my mates. I ride a lot of skate park through winter as well to keep my jumping skills up to scratch.
BR: What’s it like sharing a team with Steve, Nathan Rennie and Greg Minaar?
JB: Awesome, we have so much fun on and off the bikes. I never really knew Nathan or Greg that well before, but they are two great guys who are really talented riders and there’s plenty to be learned off those two as well. It’s pretty crazy really being team mates with three of the guys I have looked up to for so long.
BR: Who do you travel with? Who sorts out all the basic mundane stuff, like clothes, food etc? How do you find the traveling – dealing with people in other languages etc.
JB: I travel from race to race with the whole team but when we come home it’s usually just with Steve because dad will be driving the van home. I really enjoy seeing all the places, it’s killer. Kathy Sessler the Syndicate team manager is great. She sorts everything out flight and accommodation-wise, but still there’s plenty of me trying to communicate with people in different languages, you would be amazed how much you can communicate with people through both knowing a few words or just hand signals.
Josh bryceland: josh bryceland Kathy Sessler©.
BR: What’s your focus for this year? The World Cup? The UK NPS? The Senior World Championship? And what do you hope to achieve?
JB: Well, I’m still a junior this year and I have unfinished business with the Junior World Champs. This is a massive goal of mine and I’m hungrier than ever after getting a flat tyre last year. I also want to try and get some solid top ten finishes at Senior World Cups, so I was pretty happy at Maribor this year when before the crash I qualified in ninth. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to make it to any of the Nationals so far this year, but I will definitely be at some and the National Championships for sure.
BR: You had a massive crash in the race at Maribor – can you talk us through what happened?
JB: My crash was in the rock garden. It was a section I was really enjoying and I felt I had a really good line. I just took it as a normal run really. I felt quietly confident after a poor qualifier which left me in ninth. I set off on the actual race run and just felt amazing straight away, hitting turns pinned and just going flat out. I jumped my triple coming into the rock section and got so pumped I just went for it hardly braking going through.
I made the corner then the shit hit the fan. I’m not sure really how it all went wrong but it was one of my bigger crashes! I had a fairly bad concussion but my leg was the main concern. My thigh had a really bad haematoma and we weren’t sure what damage was done to the knee.
(Thankfully, the injuries weren’t as bad as initially thought, Josh is now back racing and came in a respectable sixteenth at Fort Bill).
BR: Who has inspired you the most?
JB: I have more than just one main inspiration. There are lots of people from lots of sports. Jeremy McGrath’s autobiography is really cool he’s done some crazy stuff and lived the dream then got down to it and worked hard! Steve has always been a huge inspiration, and Jason McCroy for getting out there and getting it done, he was amazing in so many ways! My parents for being so rad, they have done some cool stuff in their time.
BR: The final word is with Josh’s mentor, Steve Peat. How long before your prodigy is beating you?
Steve Peat: Never, he dare not coz I will beat him up…ha, ha, ha, ha…it will be a problem when he can beat me up, though!