Despite spending twenty years atop World Cup Downhill game, Santa Cruz Syndicate’s Steve Peat is showing no signs of slowing down. We catch up with gravity racing’s elder statesman and talk history, team dynamics, and raising the next generation of shredders.
GF: It’s become something of a post-season ritual for the rumor mill to report that you’re retiring from downhill. Is this the year you throw in the towel, or can the fans expect to cheer you on for the 2014 World Cup season?
SP: They had better be there to cheer me on, it’s so much more fun when the crowds get behind the riders and shout at us.
GF: You’ve been World Champion, you’ve won more World Cups than any man in history, and you’ve taken World Cup Titles. You’ve also won British Downhill Series Titles, you’re loved by the fans, and you’ve mentored a number of riders who are now regular top 10 World Cup finishers. It seems like you’ve done everything, so is there anything else you want to accomplish in downhill?
SP: Yes, I am an out-and-out racer, and I like winning races. I want to win more titles, more races, and to keep having fun with the young riders.
GF: This season marks your seventh season on the Santa Cruz Syndicate program. In that time, it’s become one of the most successful teams in downhill. Is it all down to top tier equipment and team rider selection, or are there factors behind the scenes that contribute to the Syndicate’s stellar results?
SP: The Syndicate is an awesome group of people, and we all thrive off each other to perform. Rob gives us the best equipment, which makes our jobs easier on the day, and we work as one big family. It’s always fun times in the pits, so I think that helps us to get focused.
GF: Between racing BDS rounds and being an active mentor for young riders, you have your finger on the pulse of UK downhill. Are there any up-and-comers that we should be keeping an eye out for?
SP: Yes, we have a huge, deep range of young kids coming through, and Brad Swinbank is one of them. He is an ex-British champ on a quad, and he’s showing how fast he can be on his DH rig, now.
GF: Can we expect to see your sons racing DH in the years to come?
SP: If they want to they can—no pressure from me.
GF: Aside from being highly entertaining, “This is Peaty” offers viewers a candid look at the goings on between racing. How has the response been? Are you going to continue the series next year?
SP: Yes, TIP will continue next season. Joe Bowman does an awesome job of filming it, and his editing skills are getting better each episode. We have lots of fun filming, so why would we stop?
GF: You’ve mentored Josh Bryceland since he was just a little rat. Obviously, he has the riding skills to show for it, but most of his interviews could really use subtitles. When are you going to teach him to stop mumbling?
SP: Josh is his own man. There is only one Little Rat, and he can talk how he wants………..I understand him…haha!
GF: You started your career as a professional downhiller during the era of hardtails and rim brakes. Conversely, you’ve been involved in developing of a number of pivotal technologies that have changed the sport for the better. In particular, early air forks, lightweight bikes, and composite downhill frames come to mind. In your opinion, what component or technology had the biggest impact on allowing you to ride faster and in more control?
SP: Disc brakes, they were a huge upgrade when they first came out.
GF: As the founder and still part owner of Royal Racing, what role do you play in product development? Anything coming down the pipeline that you’re particularly excited about?
SP: I work with Nick Bayliss on a few things in the off-season. We started Royal all those years ago, so it’s good to still have Nick there. I like to see the new designs and give my feedback. 7 pads is going to be the big game-changer, dropping in shops soon.
GF: You’ve raced against the most sport’s most dominating talent. Whether we’re talking Vouilloz in the 90s, Hill finding his stride in ’07-08, or Gwin in 2012, you’ve been one of the only guys who has been able to consistently rise to the occasion when other racers find unprecedented speed. In your estimation, which of your peers has had the most impressive hot streak during your career? And what factors do you think contributed to said hot streak?
SP: I think when someone gets on a roll and builds confidence from week to week, it is always impressive to see. Those are the guys that are willing to change their training and bring in new techniques to find that edge. Nico had a great World Championship run, which will be tough to beat!!
GF: What’s your favorite method for making a cappuccino?
SP: Let someone else do it!!!!!
Photos Courtesy of Santa Cruz Bicycles