Interview with Nigel Page

7 minutes of your time with Nigel Page: Interview by Marcus Farley.

Nigel Page earned his racing stripes through BMX, entering the world of Downhill at a relatively late 26 years of age. After a career-ending crash in 2002, he started his successful skills teaching sessions and helped long term sponsor, Intense Cycles, develop their Slopestyle frame. For the last couple of years, he’s managed the Chain Reaction Cycles Intense Mountain Bike Team, where his experience as skills trainer, product developer and professional blagger come in handy!

You grew up in BMX (famously racing Jason McRoy as a lad)…if you were a lad today, do you think BMX or mountain biking would prepare you best for downhill and 4X?

Yes, I raced BMX from Feb 1983 at 3 sisters BMX track in Wigan, until I turned 17 in Feb 1989. They were the best memories of my childhood. BMX racing was huge in the 80s and a great base skill for any bike riding I think. My Dad took me all over the country and world racing and he paid for everything. I was really lucky. I got to have some great friends and see places all over the world.

I did race Jason a few times, around 1984/85 I think. He was a lot faster than me back then and twice the size. The one close race I remember having with him was at an indoor track in Gateshead. The track was not a big and open as the tracks back in those days and I got close to him over a jump into the last corner but he just looked over and powered off down the last straight and left me standing. He was really big and strong for his age. I didn’t grow or get any power until I was about 16, but then I lost interest and wanted to go out driving and go to raves with my mates, so unfortunately I packed in racing bikes really until I was about 24 and had a go at MX for a season and a half. I loved racing MX.

Did you prefer being a racer or are you enjoying your team manager role?

Ha! – Racing of course! No, they are very different but both great. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to do both. I love bike racing and it’s the only thing I have ever really put any real effort into. I only started racing DH when I was 26, so I wish I would have started a bit younger to have a real go at World Cup racing. I got a lot further than I ever expected before I had a bad injury that really finished my racing and for a while I didn’t really know what to do. The team manager job I have now for Chain Reaction Cycles.com is amazing. It’s like racing again, but different – obviously. I miss the riding, of course, at all the great tracks, but I am too old and knackered now so it’s great to not have to race as well. I just really want to make our team the best and win some big titles for CRC and our sponsors. It might take a few years but that is my goal.

I get more nervous when my riders are coming down than when I raced, it’s weird. I want them to win so bad! So to answer your question, I liked the racing and managing equally. If I got an offer to get paid the same just to race now, I would stick with the Managing job. It is a fantastic job, again I am very lucky.

Walk us through your average day…

Well, my average days change a lot. This time of year I wake up, check my emails and try to answer those and get on with the jobs that the emails create. Mostly team related, dealing with our sponsors, planning the team for the year, taking care of riders’ requests. Then skyping and phone calls, working on our new bike designs with Intense etc. There is a lot to do with a big team. Sometimes I end up on the computer most of the day. This time of year, just before the season, it is stressful as most stuff that gets promised way in advance of the season is not always here and I am always chasing up things and having to re-schedule stuff.

Then some days I try and get a ride on my bike in or go to the gym to try and keep a little fitness. When I am home, I go and see my mum most days as she has Alzheimer’s and I have to organise all her stuff and see her. She looked after me when I was little, so it’s a role reversal now, I guess!

I also have to try and fit in time for my friends and family as I am not home much in the summer, which puts a lot of pressure on a relationship.
Then in the evening it is more emails and skyping, mainly with sponsors that are in other parts of the world and on a different time zone. Then bed and start all over again.

In the race season we are just pinned travelling and racing every day.

What lessons did you learn from the 2009 season and what can we expect from the CRC/Intense race team for 2010?

Hmmmm, where do I start? Well, it is difficult dealing with a big team like ours. Everyone travelling and basically living with each other. People piss each other off at times and this can create a negative atmosphere in the team. So, as soon as there seems to be a problem I have to get onto it straight away and try to help and resolve it.

A huge problem is getting the bikes and components in plenty of time before the season, so that riders and mechanics can get them dialled in and feeling 100% confident on them way before the first World Cup. Otherwise, this will play on a rider’s mind and take away their focus and belief in their own ability. Our race bikes arrived a little behind schedule last season and the first World Cup was earlier than usual in the season. So we spent a bit of time at the early races trying to find the right set up for each rider on the different tracks.

We learned a lot last year as a team, and I think we have tried to address the problems we encountered as individuals and with products. I hope we have things a lot better for this season, which should reflect in our results and my blood pressure going down! Ha ha – seriously!

How about the new Intense M6. How’s the testing going?

Well, that is what we have been able to do more of this year, as myself and Jeff Steber got onto this straight from the end of last year. The only problem is with Intense being a relatively small company still, Jeff has so much to do and then he has to make our bikes himself in his own time sometimes. We are a bit behind what we had hoped for on getting the finished race bikes, but all the riders that have been testing the new frames and Marzocchi suspension have said they are even better from what we have had the last few years, so that is good. I am confident we will have the best bikes on the circuit come Maribor!

Can you tell us about your joint skills week with Ed Oxley?

Well, I met Ed through Brant Richards over the winter. Ed runs his skills days now pretty much full time. I have always done and really enjoy my own skills days, part time over the last 10 years. I have not done that many the last few years with being so busy with the team, but I do like doing them. Last month, I did a joint weekend day with Ed up at Gisburn forest with 10 guys. It was great having another person to help out. I have always ridden a lot myself when teaching, as I think it is important to show the riders how to do something you are trying to explain. So it was good having Ed explaining while I was riding. We had such a good weekend that I suggested we try and organise a trip for people to go and get the Alps riding experience that they might not have tried.

When teaching, what’s the most common mistake you pick up that needs addressing?
I would have to say position on the bike and just how little a lot of riders move around on the bike and work it. Your bike will do some amazing things, but you have to make it do it!

Finally, can you tell us one of your famous excess baggage stories?

Well, this is certainly an area where my stress levels max out! Some of the excess baggage charges I have talked and argued my way around have been ridiculous, but when you arrive at check-in with 150 plus excess kilos you can imagine some of the charges. If I had agreed to pay the charges that the airlines tried to charge us last year going to and from South Africa we would have paid an about an extra £15,000. I managed to blag my way out of paying about £12K going out there, but on the way home the check-in lady was having none of it. The usual happened, the rest of the team left me to it, more out of embarrassment than anything else, but I had tried everything I knew from my blagging book and still I had to pay the excess of 125 excess kilos at £30 per kilo, otherwise we were not getting our stuff checked in. So off I went with the credit card to the payments desk with a bill for £3750 for excess baggage. I was stressed out massively, thinking about our team budget after just the first race, and I thought there has got to be a way around this. So as I queued up I thought I would try one last idea and got out my pen and put a point between the 2 and the 5 so my ticket said 12.5 instead of 125 excess kilos. I thought “This is going to be dodgy…” and as I approached the payment desk I noticed the guy had a Liverpool FC tie on, so quickly changing into my bessy scouse accent before I handed over the ticket, I asked him if he had ever been to watch the reds at Anfield? We had a quick chat about the Pool before he took my ticket and frowned at it and asked: “Is that 12.5 Kilos?”I said “Yeah mate” Obviously sh*tting it, as they don’t normally put on point 5. He said, “OK, I will just charge you for 12 kilos.” So I paid my £360 instead of £3750 and returned to the check-in desk with my stamped paid receipt just praying the lady didn’t check the amount I had paid. She handed me our tickets and told us to hurry up so we didn’t miss our flight. We all rushed off with my heart rate at about 170 until we sat on the plane! Then I thought ‘I bet the bloody plane will be too heavy to take off now and I’m going to be responsible for killing everyone!’

You can find out more about the adventures of Nigel and the team at http://www.CRCintense.com

Assorted photos from Nigel’s collection – let us know if they need a credit if you took one of them…

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