by Ben Haworth
December 11, 2009
Steve Peat is probably the most famous name in the mountain biking world and a hero to all British MTB enthusiasts. He’s been at the top for over 15 years and shows no sign of slowing down.
He’s won countless honours – 8 British Championship titles, 2 European Championship titles and is a 3 time World Cup Champion.
Yet for a long time it looked as though Peat was destined to miss out on the one title he desperately wanted and one that constantly eluded him – the World Championship.
In 2008, Peat was moments away from victory when Gee Atherton stole the title from under his nose and no one can forget what happened at Les Gets in 2005, when Peat crashed 200 meters from the line with victory in his sight.
But this year saw Peaty finally don the Rainbow jersey and fulfil his driving ambition.
“It’s hard to explain the feeling I got – it was just unreal, all kinds of emotions were hitting me” said Peat. “This year was a weird one for me. I went into Canberra thinking I might never win a World Championship and I got it out of my system and lifted the pressure of myself. To win it now is just unreal.”
“I’ve been trying for so long, I’ve won everything else. Every year I’d get messages saying ‘This is your year Steve’ so I tried to ignore them and take the pressure off. I like to be the underdog and come into a race without expectations” said Peat.
Perhaps the underdog tag relieved Peaty enough to become champion, but, it wasn’t an easy victory and the winning margin of 0.05 seconds shows just how close he came to disappointment once again.
When Peat was in the hot seat, with Greg Minnar and the man who ruined his chances the previous year, Gee Atherton still left to ride, victory was anything but certain.
“I was most worried about Greg. I knew Sam (Hill) and Gee were a little off the pace and when Greg’s time came up, I thought to myself, ‘I’ve won this’. I was in tears, I knew I’d won it but I didn’t want to celebrate until Gee finished, just in case” said Peat.
Prior to the 2009 season, the highlight of Peat’s career came in 2005, when he won the World Cup race at Fort William, in front of 20,000 adoring British Fans and he says these two moments are his most memorable.
“We’d raced at Fort William a few years before I won there. I used to put so much pressure on myself to win there, it being the ‘home’ track. When it all came together in 05 it was a pretty special feeling to have 20,000 people cheering for me. The sheer noise is something I’ve never witnessed in any other sport.”
So, the Sheffield born man has done it all, but he’s still as hungry as the day he started, “I’m one of these riders that wants to win every race. I can’t go into a race and say I’m not bothered”. And he’s showing no signs of retirement just yet.
“I just love riding my bike. I love racing, I love hearing the start beep, preparing the track, learning the track, crossing the finish line, hearing the fans. I just love riding downhill” said Peat.
Amazingly, it was never really his ambition to take the mountain bike world by storm. “I never set myself any goals; I just took each race week by week. It wasn’t until I started winning world cup races that I thought I could succeed and be the best on any one day” said Peat.
“Mountain biking has moulded me into who I am, I just sort of walked into it and I’ve been lucky to do well with the whole thing”.
And to any young riders out there who dream of being the next Steve Peat, the advice is simple.
“Don’t chase the sponsorship, go ride your bike and have fun, if you’re good enough the sponsor’s will come to you. A lot of people think they need the best equipment and sponsorship to do well. They don’t, you can take a bike from the shed and if you have the talent and enjoy yourself it’ll all come together.”
Despite his love of the sport, a full calendar of business appointments and race meets can leave you worn out, but Peat looks forward to every minute of off-time and spends as much time as possible with his family.
“It’s hard to get on a plane and go to a race, it’s a tough thing fitting in and out of family life, especially for my wife because I go away for a week and come back and disrupt her routine. Racing’s quite selfish, you have to think about yourself and prepare yourself, but I’ve done it for so long it’s quite easy. When I come back I have to get out of that selfishness and fit back into family life which can be tough” he said.
Now, with two sons running around, the mountain bike world may not know what’s about to hit it. He said, “Little Jake is nearly 5 and he’s naturally talented on his bike. We don’t teach him anything, but he’s just a natural – he pumps off stuff and jumps off stuff nonstop. But he wants to be a skateboarder!”
Whether the Peat legacy continues remains to be seen, but one thing for sure is that it will be a sad day when Peaty finally hangs up the racing jersey.
Steve’s reaction to winning the “Mountain Bike Personality Of The Year” category in this year’s Singletrack Reader Awards: “It’s great to hear I’ve won the ST award. It’s been a pretty amazing year and I’ve won lots of awards and it’s a pretty good feeling to get recognition. I’ve got a huge following and it’s pretty special for me to have that. I want to thank all those people who follow me and for the reader awards, it really means something for me to have that support”
Steve Peat was interviewed by Nathan Clarke.