July 21, 2006 – British DH star Steve Peat is having a cracking season, and heading towards the overall title of World Cup Champion. We caught up with him on home soil, as he set about to defend his national title – unsuccessfully, crashing out in the final meters of the race.
It must be gutting to lose your title, yet the Atherton brothers didn’t even show for the race, which is literally on their doorstep. How important is being national champion to you now that you’re at the top of the world pile?
SP: I always like to win, in every race, that’s what inspires me to race hard. But it’s not really any different to other races. There is the big issue of riders being forced to wear national championship jerseys in action, which really downs the return you can give to a sponsor, so riders stay away. Maybe they should just put bands on the sleeves, that would solve things. I did think twice about it, but there are history books, and I’d rather have my name in them.
I guess that these days even being the best Brit in a downhill is an achievement?
SP: Yeah, the level has really come on. Gee (Atherton) and Marc (Beaumont) are snapping at my heals, and then there are a few guys right behind them, which had made us the top downhill nation.
You were the first Brit to really make it big on the world scene, do you think their progress is due to your efforts?
SP: I’d like to think I played a big part in it. When they have to race against and try to beat me even on home soil every week it really pushes things on, and they know where they’ve got to get to. I’ve trained with Marc for years, so I think that’s really helped him come on. But I think most of this in my opinion is down to Jason McCroy; he took his chances, paid his own way on the world scene and was the first Brit to break into an international team (Specialized). That really inspired and drove me.
What inspires you these days, and do you still enjoy it?
SP; Yeah I still enjoy it; things have changed some though. Now I have a family I try to keep my travelling to a minimum, so I can spend time with them. I try and keep things to 2 weeks maximum. But the same things still drive me – winning, and winning.
Have you slowed down since becoming a dad, or changed with growing “older”?
SP: Well, I really don’t think I’ve slowed down any, or taking fewer risks. But I do see things a bit differently now. I know what I need to do to win, but I have to have fun when I’m racing. I love to win, but I try to keep the pressure off and to enjoy the whole thing more, I have to.
What’s the team situation this year, and what happened to the privateering?
SP: I’m riding for the US Santa Cruz/Syndicate team this year, and it’s a really good set up. They do everything for me. Before I just got a frame from Orange and had to sort everything else out myself, it’s much easier and less stressed this way.
What are your goals this year?
SP: I’ve got a pretty good lead in the World Cup, but I’ve won that before. The big tick I don’t have is World Champion.
You’ve been doing a lot of charity fund raising recently, what’s that all about?
SP: It’s for Weston Park Cancer unit at a local hospital. We had a cross-country race and party the other weekend, I’ve been doing a few other things too.
What is Steve Peat’s philosophy on racing and succeeding?
SP: Put in the hard work, always do your best, and set your goals really high!