Laurie Greenland is currently one of the fastest downhill racers in the world. His second-place run at this year’s World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy, was nothing short of mind-blowing. We sat down with the 19-year-old Bristolian to ask him about how he got into the sport and where he goes riding.
Growing up Laurie lived in a house overlooking St George’s Skatepark, and its cracked and crumbling 1980s concrete bowls were where his love of skateboarding and BMX began. He might never have discovered mountain biking if it hadn’t been for his dad. “He got into mountain biking because he was bored watching me at the skate park,” laughs Laurie. “He got himself a bike, and we’ve always done everything together, so I just tagged along with him and his mates when they went riding. They’d go to the Mendips, the Forest of Dean and Wales.”
Laurie has no shortage of great riding locations on his doorstep, but it’s the riding in South Wales that he loves the most and where he spends much of his off-season.
We asked him why this is the case: “The hills are big and there’s just so many steep loamy trails. If you know the right spots, there are new tracks popping up everywhere. It’s as if the trail fairies have been out overnight! I love it when I haven’t been home all summer and when I come back there’s so much new stuff to ride. In the right conditions the tracks here are some of my favourites in the world.”
The South Wales based Dragon Downhill Series is where Laurie cut his teeth racing too. The series ran for a decade, from 1999 to 2008, and was organised by Jason Carpenter, dad of 2014 DH World Champ Manon, and a man who’s done a lot to nurture the riding scene in these parts.
The racing at classic locations such as Rheola, Abercarn and Mountain Ash had a big influence on Laurie. “I used to watch the Earthed films back in the day — actually, not even that long ago — and see all my heroes riding tracks like Rheola. Then having the chance to go myself was really cool.”
The mountain bike scene has changed a lot since the days of the Dragons, but Laurie reckons the riding here is as good as ever. “There are so many fashions and fads in mountain biking, but at the end of the day, the hillsides and terrain remain the same. It’s the same as it ever was, it’s just that now the trails we used to uplift on downhill bikes we’re combining into big loops on the trail bike. People are cutting in new trails to link everything together, which is pretty rad.”
But it’s not just secret hand-cut lines that Wales has in abundance, there are tonnes of great official trails to ride too. We asked Laurie about his hot tips on where to go, so one day we might get as good as him.
Welsh Downhill Mountain Bike Association
The Welsh Downhill Mountain Bike Association (WDMBA) run uplift days at classic tracks such as Rheola and Mountain Ash. If you want to experience Valleys downhill at its best, get yourself down there. Check out WDMBA’s Facebook page for dates
Cwmcarn is another classic South Wales venue with loads to offer; two cross-country loops, two downhill tracks and a small pump track. Cwmdown runs an uplift service on the original Y Mynydd downhill track. Visit www.cwmdown.co.uk to find out more.
Black Mountains Cycle Centre
This farm-turned-bike-park near Abergavenny has some of the biggest and best jumps in the UK. If you like railing berms and boosting jumps, look no further. www.blackmountainscyclecentre.com