We talk to 17 year-old Team Singletrack GB wunderkind Nial Oxley after his qualifying run.
Nial Oxley is the son of Great Rock founder, mtb skills coach and majestically bearded luminary Ed Oxley. From beginnings in Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, Nial has worked hard, using the steep, rocky local terrain to refine his riding technique.
“I’ve been riding since I was ten or eleven, and from pretty early on I’ve always wanted to race.” So he entered some: “I started to race more and more downhill events. It’s always been about downhill for me. My first full national DH season was in 2011, when I was around 15.” Since then Nial’s been working away at downhill, improving his fitness and skillset, until finally he was selected to race the World Cup at Fort William for Great Britain three weeks before.
“They sent me an email saying I’ve been accepted to race for Great Britain, which was fantastic.” There’s huge honour in being selected to race for your country, but he still has to find somewhere to stay, and of course he needs support. Nial’s backup consists of his mum Sue, and Singletrack Office Padawan and trainee journalist Daniel Bladon on wrenching duties.
Nial’s experience of this World Cup has been very positive so far. “The course is great, It’s running really fast. It’s open to the public most of the time, so the track gets beaten up on a regular basis. It’s the same as it is normally but they’ve taped in a tight, slow rooty section.” This suits Nial’s Hebden-trained style well. “Yeah, it’s kind of slow, but it works for me. If you attack it slowly and just get through it you end going faster than if you plough straight into it.”
And what of today’s qualifier? Nial came a creditable 14th fastest in a field of 41: “I was very happy with today’s run. I posted a good time, but hopefully I left myself room to improve on it tomorrow!”