Our very own racer of mediocrity, George Thompson, has started a brand new Downhill World Cup Podcast for the 2019 season in association with Hope Technology, Revolution Bike Park and us, Singletrack.
Intense Factory Racing UK’s Joe Breeden joins George and co-presenter Richard ‘Binzy’ Binns in the studio and they catch up with Mojo Rising’s Chris Porter on the phone
We’ve split this huge first episode into two parts for your easy listening pleasure. Part 1 is below and when you are ready, Part 2 is here.
Joe Breeden discusses his race preparation, bike setup and even his warm up playlist choices.
If you are a Premier Member you can click the player below to start the Making Up The Numbers Podcast | Part 1.
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If listening to podcasts is not your thing then we’ve painstakingly transcribed the whole shebang for you here.
George: Hello and welcome to the very first Making Up The Numbers podcast. My name’s George Thompson and I write for Singletrack Magazine, covering the UK downhill racing, in the form of the Making Up The Numbers blog. Co-hosting these podcasts with me will be my teammate on the Making Up The Numbers race team, 2016 BDS Grand Veteran Series winner, and the only person I know who swears he goes faster if he has a few glasses of red wine… a few glasses? Whoa, [laughter] a few bottles of red wine the night before a race, Richard Binns.
George: And why are we doing a podcast? Well there’s some really good ones out there already but in the main they’re pretty autobiographical and anyone who has followed the blog on Singletrack will know that what we’re really interested in is the racing. So after each round of the World Cup we’re going to be getting together with one of the riders who was there to find out a little bit more about what went down. And what a race we had this weekend out in Maribor to kick us off. And joining us in the studio tonight is the man who qualified 12th, Wales’ very own Joe Breeden. Not a bad start to the season Joe.
Joe: No, not bad at all. Great qualifier, just shame I messed up in the finals but it’s how it is.
George: You are Welsh yeah?
Joe: Yeah I’m Welsh. Well…
George: You don’t sound very Welsh.
Joe: No I know, that’s what everyone says. So my parents are both English but I class myself as Welsh because I was born in Wales and I speak Welsh.
George: Where were you born?
Joe: I’ve lived in Wales my whole life so I just prefer be Welsh than English to be honest with you.
George: Before we get cracking there’s a reason why you’re our first guest. You know why?
Joe: Not really, no.
George: No? Alright, so this time last year…
Joe: Okay, yeah, yeah, no sorry, I do remember why, yeah.
George: This time last year I went to Revolution and I remember seeing you. Was it before the first World Cup or after?
Joe: No it was before the first World Cup. It was pre-season, around March time it was.
George: And I asked you who you thought would win the World Cup Series and you said:-
Joe: Amuary Pierron.
George: Yeah and I distinctly remember that because I remember travelling home and ringing Binzy and saying “Do you know what, Breeden thinks Amuary Pierron will win the World Cup”.
George: I didn’t even know who he was. [Laughter].
George: How did you see that? Where did you see him?
Joe: So I knew he’d had the pace the last couple of years. I’d seen he had like a first podium at Lourdes and then broke both his arms, so that set him back for a while and then in the pre-season of last year I’d seen, I think it was a Portuguese Cup or something where he went out and crashed and still smoked everyone. And after that, I dunno, you know when you asked me that question who do I think is gonna win the overall, I just thought “well Pierron looks amazing, I think he’s got the ability”. I just thought that last year might have been his year and sure it was. So it was a random one for me to say that because he had never been anywhere near winning an overall before that year, and he was definitely the underdog, but…
George: So first question, who is gonna win this year?
Joe: So yeah, I’d probably say, well not Amuary Pierron, not this year. My money is on Danny Hart to be honest.
Joe: Not quite such an underdog like Pierron last year, but you know, I just for some reason, I think it’s Danny Hart’s year.
George: You’re good at this though aren’t you? Didn’t you pick the Supercross or something as well?
Joe: Yeah, Supercross last year. I will follow that quite heavily and someone asked me who I thought was gonna win that and I said Jason Anderson and sure enough he did. So it’s pretty weird, it freaks me out a little bit. I’m not saying I’m gonna be right this time, I’m not…
George: How are you doing on the fantasy loop?
Joe: Yeah to be honest my first round was terrible, about 555th or something like that.
George: Oh no, we’ll come onto that in a little bit. I’ve got a question about that.
George: Before we get started on the first World Cup of the season, let’s just go back a little bit further. You’re a second year elite now right?
George: But you had a really tough gig in Juniors, both seasons with Matt Walker and Finn Iles…
George: How was that?
Joe: Good and bad, if it wasn’t, well you can’t really say this, but if it wasn’t for Matt Walker I’d be like three times National Champion, I’d be Junior World Champion [laughter]. I’d have won the British Overall, like three times, so in that respect very difficult, but simply because I had to try so hard to try and win any of these races because them boys were just so fast. It’s pushed me on way more for sure.
George: Yeah, yeah.
Joe: I wouldn’t be the same rider today without having to push so hard against them boys.
George: Did Finn do one season completely undefeated or am I making that up?
Joe: No I don’t think so.
Joe: It wasn’t far off and definitely didn’t. I think it was maybe the second year Junior, won every World Cup and then crashed at World Champs. That was the only one and I swooped in instead, yeah.
George: You got the silver medal?
Joe: Yeah, so unfortunately it wasn’t gold, but again it was Matt Walker that [laughter] took that away from me.
George: And look at him now, he’s doing well.
Joe: Yeah, so.
George: Then you smashed yourself up?
Joe: Yeah, so shortly after World Champs as a last year Junior, it was a great season for me, and we literally just went for a team meeting, just to discuss how the year went and how we wanted to progress things into the next year. And literally we went out for a pedal as a team after and I, yeah was messing about and ended up breaking, well I shattered my heel and split my kneecap in two.
George: I’ve seen the video, it didn’t look like ‘a pedal’. Were you showing off?
Joe: Yeah the camera was there and I was after a bit of an Instabanger so…
George: Always the case.
George: What was it? Was it big hook or something?
Joe: No it was basically jump out of a corner, land on a manual, then you hold the manual for about 50 metres or so and then drop it on the lip of a take-off and it was like a 20 ft. jump or something and I was trying to then land that in a manual as well and to be honest I don’t know what was going through my mind. I don’t know why I thought I should even try it.
George: Do you land many jumps to a manual…
George: Sounds like us doesn’t it?
George: Whereabouts was it?
Joe: It was in the Forest of Dean. Yeah, so it’s crazy, did the whole season basically uninjured and I come home to the Forest of Dean where you think [over-speaking]…
George: It’s pretty flat isn’t it really, Forest of Dean?
Joe: Yeah, yeah, but ended up being the biggest injury of my life.
George: I remember like, even by the middle of last season, the muscle wastage, you put a picture on Instagram. It was huge. How did it affect your season last year?
Joe: It was for sure, extremely challenging. My injury happened in I think December or end of November. The off-season leading up to the last year and I think I was off the bike for six months, started racing after seven months and when I returned, my leg was still 35% weaker than my right leg. And I suffered from that quite badly throughout the year. Came back and raced the first National, I’d only been on the bike for, I think, two weeks.
George: But you did really well didn’t you?
Joe: Yeah it went extremely well.
George: I remember that.
George: Yeah, at Fort William.
Joe: Yeah, that’s it.
Joe: Fourth place and you know, a lot of World Cup riders were there getting ready for the World Cup.
George: So what were you thinking after that? “I’m fine with just one leg?”
Joe: Well yeah, I thought that, you know, I’ll be able to handle this, be able to cope with it. More that weekend, I would say, it was just my mentality, I don’t know. I was just really hungry for it for some reason. But after that, unfortunately, from doing that weekend, my leg really suffered and I couldn’t do anything leading up to the World Cup. So I had three weeks of just recovering it, doing nothing because I basically had like a swelling in the back of my knee from it where it was getting a trapped fat pad or something like that, between the joint. So I shouldn’t have raced that early really but I came back and suffered from it after that. And it did affect for me for the whole year really but I still managed to push on towards the end of the year and luckily this winter I’ve had time to fully sort it.
George: That’s what I was going to ask next. So coming into this season you’re back on Intense Racing UK.
George: Good off-season, you’re working with Alan Milway right?
Joe: Yeah, that’s it. Alan Milway is my coach so it’s been a very different off-season to last year. Last year was just trying to get back to where I was. We never even managed that. But this year now I’ve had a little surgery just after the season straight away to take some screws out and just a bit of bone graft to make it all a bit smoother and then since then we’ve been absolutely smashing the rehab and got back…
George: Do you think about that moment? Do you think about crashing again when you…
JB; Yeah a lot of people have said like “Does it not really affect your confidence, you know, thinking that it could happen again?” But to be honest it hasn’t really affected me in a bad way, it’s just made me more aware of how easily things can happen and how quickly things can change. But I’ll still commit the same and maybe just think about it a bit more first.
George: You have to though don’t you?
George: If you want to win?
Joe: Yeah, if you wanna make a career out of it you can’t afford to be out with injuries every year. No one wouldn’t have signed you and it’s not gonna pay off, so no, you have to be clever about it for sure.
George: So is the leg fully fixed now or are you still working on it?
Joe: I can’t say fully fixed. It’s still noticeably smaller but we can put out like left to right powers the same. I struggle mainly with track walk to be honest. On the bike I don’t notice it at all, but on track walk, walking down hills, my knee still suffers and the foot hasn’t got the movement it did. So that like spasms up at night sometimes after riding or track walking, but on the bike it doesn’t affect me. Not at all really.
George: So onto the bike, talk us through the bike you’re racing this season. Intense M29 yeah?
George: But different sponsors to Intense Factory Racing?
Joe: Yeah. So in the last couple of years, prior to this one, we’ve basically replicated the Factory Team, the Intense Factory Team that is. But this year has changed a bit with Gwin moving in and a load of sponsor change around. We’re not running an identical setup to them anymore.
George: So what are you running?
Joe: So they’ve got, I think it’s e*thirteen wheels and stuff and we’ve got obviously still the ENVE and the Chris King hubs, we’ve got Unite chain guides, which was new for this year as well.
George: You had some e*thirteen wheels didn’t you?
Joe : I did yeah.
George: Then you’d have to take them. e*thirteen used to come to all the Nationals didn’t they?
GB: Yeah [over-speaking]…
George: …repair stuff, mainly chain guards, they used to get smashed.
GB: And Binzy took them his wheel once and said “this freehub’s gone” and the guy opened it up and there was like bits of grass in there, you know like wound round and stuff and the guy went “I suggest it’s due to a lack of maintenance” [laughter].
Joe: Did he still replace it?
George: He replaced it.
Joe: Yeah well that’s [over-speaking].
George: Sorry say again, you’re on e*thirteen wheels?
Joe: No we’re not sorry, so…
George: Factory Team?
Joe: The Factory Team are now on e*thirteen. We stick with ENVE which I’m very happy with to be honest.
Joe: Chris King again, which is a bit of a dream set up, wheels wise.
George: Neil would like that. Are you gluing tyres onto ENVE rims or…
Joe: No we’re not. We don’t usually do that, no chance, never planed one off an ENVE in my life. I know of a couple of teams were actually having problems with that at the weekend and they literally had to glue them on to the wheels.
George: Yeah, I saw on a video. Was Danny gluing them? Was it Danny…
Joe: I don’t know if Danny was or not, no.
George: I saw a video of somebody gluing…
Joe: Yeah, who was it? I’ve seen that as well.
Joe: Oh God knows who that was, I can’t remember.
George: Was it Minnaar gluing them?
George: No I don’t think it was Minnaar. Oh no it might have been.
Joe: Yeah I think it was, it was a Syndicate.
George: Yeah it was The Syndicate, yeah you are right, yeah.
Joe: Yeah it was one of The Syndicate boys, not sure who.
George: So what size frame are you on?
Joe: I’m personally running an XL.
George: And you’re what height?
Joe: I’m 6ft 2’, yeah it feels I got the standard cup in it so it’s just normal reach. And it feels, to be honest, amazing. Being 6ft 2’ it can or it used to be quite hard to find a bike that fits right. You’ve got the same problem [over-speaking]. So you know exactly what it’s like and when the M29 XL came out it was perfect for me.
Joe: I know Nico Vouilloz he’s 6ft, so 2 inches shorter than me and he’s running the Extra Large still with a 6mm reach further forward.
Joe: So he’s made it even bigger but to be honest…
George: [Over-speaking] as well isn’t he, and what’s he? He’s only 5ft 10’ isn’t he?
Joe: I think Gwin was playing between a large and an extra-large and with the extra-large frame he was running the headset 6ml back.
Joe: But now I think he’s running, I think he’s setup with the large frame at the weekend with the headset forward. So he’s defiantly been playing around with that a lot and I think he setup with the large now and just reach forward.
George: Cool. And are you on air or coil shock?
Joe: I’m on coil, yeah. Me and both my teammates are on coil. I know Gwin’s on air, but then Nico and Jack Moir are still on coil, so it’s just Gwin on the air shock there. He’s been running them for years…
George: He’s always had air though hasn’t he on all the bikes?
George: And do you know your setup if I say how many volume spaces have you got in what?
George: I know you probably see it, in your forks I mean.
George: Go on then, what’s your forks?
Joe: Okay, so I’ve just made, at Maribor actually, I made some drastic changes really because it’s a bit of a shock coming from the UK. It’s a lot faster, a lot wider, so much rougher. So I run 6 volume spaces in the fork. I was running 78 PSI, went up to 80 at the weekend, just because it was so rough.
George: Can you feel that 2 PSI?
George: Can you?
Joe: Yeah, yeah. [Over-speaking]. Yeah, 49s. Yeah, it’s definitely noticeable.
George: 6 vol, how many are we?
George: I think I’ve got three.
Joe: 4’s standard.
George: I think I’ve got quite a lot in, I think I’ve got 6 in.
Joe: I was running 4 just with a lot of low speed wound on and high speed wound on to make up for it, but that felt so, like it was progressive enough for me. But it was so harsh on my body. My arms and my hands, it was just a really rough ride and when I got to the bigger European tracks I literally couldn’t hold on so I had to make the change.
George: So you know like in the off-season here you’re riding and you’re setting the bike up obviously. Can you set it up for a World Cup or is it when you get there it is another 5% that you just can’t get in the mindset of…
Joe: Yeah, I know exactly what you mean and it is the case, like I haven’t been outside of the UK this winter training and from all the tests I’ve done in the UK, I’ve got the bike feeling amazing but as soon as I went to Maribor it was a different ballgame and I had to change the whole bike setup because I mean there’s just nowhere in the UK where you can replicate what we have to race internationally. I mean Fort William is a good test zone but in the winter we can’t ride there.
Joe: So yeah, it’s a massive change and like as I said, my setup felt great in the UK. It was fast. I felt happy with it but then when I got to you know, as I say, Maribor last weekend, there was just no chance I could run that setup. To start with I couldn’t hold on and things were happening which really shouldn’t have been.
George: So I heard a rumour that you didn’t ride downhill for ages in the off-season because you were on the 650b bike last season and you almost like wanted to… You knew you were gonna be on 29 this season and you almost like, you wanted to forget how it felt. Is that right?
Joe: Yeah, where did you hear that from?
George: I don’t know.
George: He’s got spies.
George: I don’t know. Somebody told me.
Joe: He’s got contacts.
George: Is that right, yeah?
Joe: Yeah, no, that’s true. There were a couple of reasons behind that. At the end of the season I always like a bit of time to just sack the downhill bike off for a bit.
Joe: The other reason was I actually had surgery so I couldn’t ride for a couple of months and also my M29 didn’t come until January. So I wasn’t motivated or didn’t see the benefits of riding my old bike because I wouldn’t be riding that for the season coming.
George: Fair enough.
Joe: I just rode the trail bike and…
George: Is that a 29?
Joe: Yeah, so that’s 29, that’s a 29 inch Carbine so yeah, I just messed around with that until I got the M29.
George: And how are you finding the M29?
Joe: Absolutely amazing yeah. Absolutely loving it. I loved the M16 to be honest. It was always a little too small. I made that as long as I could with the 6ml reach in as well. But the M29 fits perfectly. Obviously the suspension platform is completely different as well but no, I’m just so pleased with the whole thing.
George: More importantly, have you had a go on their new e-bike?
Joe: No I haven’t actually but my Team Manager [over-speaking] he’s got one and he does not shut up about it. He’s like honestly, he does not shut up.
George: They’re amazing.
George: Since Binzy got one, ah, it’s like the only thing he talks about is his e-bike now.
Joe: Yeah exactly.
George: Just amazing.
Joe: I do think it is the future to be honest. I think it’s amazing but no, Olly Morris literally doesn’t shut his mouth, so I’m gagging for one to be honest.
George: So is there anything special on the bike that you’re really picky about?
Joe: It’s not particularly nothing special I’d say but a bite point on the brakes for me is like it has to be as I want it or I’m not confident riding.
Joe: Other than that I mean I haven’t got any strange little phobias or anything like that about any setups really. Yeah…
George: Fair enough.
Joe: …couldn’t mentioned anything really.
George: And are you like privy to anything the Factory Team are doing? Do you know Gwin’s settings and stuff?
Joe: No I think getting hold of Gwin’s settings is probably quite a hard one. Yeah we used to be pretty close with the Factory Team but now it’s become more Gwin’s thing. Yeah they’re still really helpful and great to us but it’s a bit more distant than it used to be. I went over at the weekend actually. I spoke to Nico and Jack and they were both… Gwin wasn’t there at the time so I’m not sure, but they were both really helpful and Jack actually sent me through his shock settings so I could have a look and have a play around with something like that as well.
Joe: So yeah, we do know about pretty much what they’re on but obviously…
George: He’s pretty tall like you, isn’t he?
Joe: Yeah Jack, he must be 6ft 3’…
Joe: …or maybe even more. But again his setup is gonna be very different to most others because he just has the bars like…
George: Really high.
Joe: …yeah, so.
George: He inspires me to keep making the bars higher, yeah.
Joe: He makes it look good anyway, he makes it go fast so it can’t be so bad.
George: [Laughter]. So onto the race then, have you raced Maribor before?
Joe: No never. Before my time, that place.
George: But you went out before and did the IXS the weekend before?
Joe: Oh yeah, so sorry, I raced it the weekend before but before then, never been out there.
George: And how was that? How was the IXS?
George: Was it the same track?
Joe: Pretty much. It starts at the same spot and they finish at the same spot. And I’d probably say it’s about 60% the same.
George: Did it have that rock garden in or?
Joe: Yeah the rock garden was in but we did the top of it and then went straight, whereas at the World Cup you wiggled all the way down the whole thing. So it’s just little changes like that. It’ll be little like different bus stops or a couple of new loamy stations for the World Cup but from top to bottom like it was pretty much, went down the same way and it was some of the same parts.
George: Is there loads of tracks to choose from there or is it Fort William like it is one track really?
Joe: It’s a bit like Fort William really.
Joe: There’s one downhill track that you could race. There’s like a blue and a red but there’s no chance that you would ever race that. It’s more of a…
George: I dreamed that there’d be a race on the blue you know.
Joe: Yeah. I just never understand it enough
George: George’s favourite track is the one in Portugal. I think I raced with you about 2015 was it?
George: The one that follows the fire road…
George: Oh, I can’t remember…
George: The first Portuguese one.
George: No it’s not Pampilhosa.
Joe: Oh the one in the Algarve?
Joe: Yeah, what’s it called?
George: Near Lagos.
George: It’s got like a water jump in it. It’s basically just like a BMX track.
Joe: Yeah, yeah.
George: And it goes all the way round.
Joe: No I remember it, I’ve forgotten what it’s called though. Oh I can’t remember.
George: No I’ve done as well. Do you think it’s like an advantage getting out there, racing the track the weekend before or because I looked at like the people who’d done well this weekend…
George: …and the top 10 at the World Cup, 7 of them had raced the week before…
George: …and 6 of them finished in the top 10 and the only one who didn’t was Gwin who didn’t start.
Joe: Yeah, yeah.
George: So it’s like the ones who didn’t were Loic, Amaury and Laurie.
George: They’re the only ones who ended up in the top 10 this week.
Joe: Yeah, yeah. I personally went out because I thought it was beneficial when I started practice after the World Cup I already knew half the track so I was, you know, pretty fast straight off and I think it was beneficial. But I know I spoke to a few riders and I spoke to Laurie Greenland and he said you know, he wants to get to the World Cup and be really excited for the track and he wants to be fresh with it and not bored of it. So his reason was that he didn’t wanna get bored of it by racing at the weekend before, which I can completely understand. But for me I won’t get bored of it anyway so. It depends who you are and how you go about things really.
George: I did the Hamsterley race a few weeks ago and it was the first time I think I’ve ever known every rock and every route and where I was going at every point on the track.
Joe: Yeah, because it was quite short, was it?
George: Yeah [laughter]. It was like my best ever result.
Joe: Oh yeah?
George: I was sixth, yeah, and I was like this is what I want, I want to know like this.
George: It was also short so there wasn’t that much…
Joe: No I’m very much like that. I wanna know exactly where I’m going and every rock and route I can on the track.
George: So track walk, talk us through the track. I mean to us it looked like it was basically two sections split by a fire road roughly half way, just after a rock garden. Is that how you split it up?
Joe: Yeah pretty much, the halfway point is around the fire road, just after the rock garden. I think it’s just slightly after that or maybe slightly before, something like that. And yeah, you’ve got the top section where you’ve got like that grass turn which was new for the World Cup. Then you go into the woods and it’s a shame they didn’t show the first bit on the live feed actually because when you, well you would have seen, we went into the woods and we disappeared out of shot. But that was one of my favourite sections. There was like, well first jump into the woods and then you did this big natural double round the corner and then there was like a double, or you could triple it into a really fast left and that was one of the fastest like well, gnarliest parts of the track when you hit it at race speed. So it’s a shame they didn’t show that bit on the coverage. So you had that at the top anyway and then basically everything you’ve seen in the live feed from there on.
George: Right okay.
Joe: They covered the rest of the track then.
George: I mean obviously to us, like the rock garden looks really gnarly, but to you as a racer, which bit was the hardest bit?
George: It looked all those compressions after the fire road, that looked…
Joe: Yeah after the fire road we call it compressionarly because it was just like you were just sumping out every 10 seconds and there was no real way around it to be honest. I’d say that the rock garden was definitely the most technical in terms of what was going on and there were so many different lines there that it was crazy to try and choose which one to stick with.
George: What was your line through there?
Joe: I went straight from top to bottom and to be honest I didn’t play with anything else all weekend because I was pretty settled with that. I looked at every option and track walk at the start of practice on day one. But no, I just settled for going flat out through the middle to be honest. The shortest route.
George: Was exit speed, I think they said on the commentary, exit speed was the most important.
Joe: Yeah, you could argue that for sure. Exit speed was vital because after you exited the rock garden you hit that left which you didn’t break into and then after that left it’s got to be probably a 100 metre straight which was pretty much flat. So exit speed was vital. But I felt that I could still carry good exit speed even from the middle.
George: So weirdly, I think they displayed a graphic for the rock garden and it was during Zabjek’s run and at that point I remember the 1, 2, 3, 4 through there, the fastest 4 were also the 1, 2, 3, 4 at the bottom.
Joe: Oh okay.
George: Which meant that the rock garden, it didn’t look like it was the deciding factor kind of but…
Joe: I remember seeing that. I think it was one of the spots on the track where you could make up or lose time on other people because one, because of lines and two, because of how technical it was. It was those who really committed and knew exactly where they were going and had the ability to carry that out, would make time up on the others, whereas some of the other corners or sections, everyone can ride it off the brakes or everyone is on the same lines. There’s not a vast majority of time difference. Whereas the rock garden there could be, for sure.
George: It was dry at this point, your track walk.
George: You knew rain was coming. Was rain forecast for the quali or for the race?
Joe: So it was hard to tell because no one actually knew. At the start of the weekend what I’d seen was dry first practice day and that was pretty certain and then about 50% chance of rain on the Saturday and about 50% chance of rain on the Sunday. So we didn’t know what it was gonna be.
Joe: When we were practicing we had to practice dry and wet lines or at least look for dry and wet lines.
George: That was what I was gonna ask you, when you were there, was it always in the back of your mind that I’ll do this line if it’s wet and this line if it’s dry or do you just go same line but I’ll just go a bit slower?
Joe: I suppose it depends who you are, but for me I was definitely looking for dry and wet lines and if I couldn’t decide between say a technical insider or a flatter outside I’d just choose the flatter outside because I knew that if it rained then that’d be the better option anyway.
Joe: So be honest, for me when it rained, I just stuck to all my lines because I knew they were lines that would be also fine in the wet. If there was something which was way faster that you could ride in the dry then I definitely would’ve hit that but in this case I don’t think there was many lines that were wet or dry. I mean the fastest one was pretty much the same for both really.
George: So practice, did you change anything on the bike or did you leave it how it had been for the IXS?
Joe: Well to be honest, the time I made my drastic suspension changes was after the first IXS. That’s when I come to realise that I can’t hold on.
George: You’ve done quite well in the IXS though didn’t you?
Joe: Yeah, alright. It wasn’t…
George: Was it 6 in the…
Joe: Yeah 6 in the small final but I wasn’t… yeah it was alright, but I wasn’t you know, happy with that to be honest.
Joe: But we learned a lot and how crazy it sounds, like I went and did a couple of days testing the week leading up to the World Cup, so just a few days there.
George: Could you ride the same track in-between the IXS and the…
Joe: No it wasn’t allowed, we had to go and find some other stuff down the same hill…
Joe: …and change the bike completely. I went out from a 450 spring rate on the back to I ended up racing on a 525.
George: Wow, that’s what I’m on, a 525.
Joe: Yeah, we had a different shim stack in the shock and a lot of difference of it with the compression dials on the shock.
Joe: So I ended up racing a completely different setup for the World race and it sounds mental but that’s what it had to be really, I’m afraid.
George: So talk us through practice. Do you know how many runs you got in?
Joe: Yeah, first day I did five I think.
George: Did you do time training?
Joe: No I didn’t have time training because I wasn’t in the top 60 overall from last year so…
George: Ah right. I was wondering because I saw that like there were 60 people with times on there.
Joe: Yeah it’s the only top 60 get it so we have, in a practice we have a three hour slot and then after that there’s like a half hour break I think and then another hour and a half for just time training, which is top 60 men from last year would have been for this round. Top five women or maybe top ten women and top ten juniors. So I wasn’t in there. So I just had the three hours, which is quite tight really.
George: Yeah, it is, yeah.
Joe: But I just spaced it out for five runs, which to be honest I wouldn’t wanna do many more because I’d be physically too tired.
George: And you do them all full tilt don’t you? They are all…
Joe: No, not at all.
George: Do you not?
Joe: No, so…
George: Oh you must do a slow one to begin with, just sort of check it out and…
Joe: Yeah 100%. First one’s like I just dribble down and try and hit all my lines and stop and look for different lines and second round I’ll do a similar thing but trying different lines. And then kind of round the third run I’ll try and hook up with a faster rider or a fast rider. In this case it was Charlie Hatton at the weekend where I just went in behind him and tried a couple of different lines opposite to him to see what worked, what didn’t work and we’d speak about it at the bottom. And then fourth, fifth run I’d break it down into like a top split and a bottom split or sometimes three different spots and I’d just start riding then at more of a race pace. So you build up throughout the day with the intention of getting up to race pace by midday the next day for qualifying.
George: And what tyres were you running?
Joe: Maxxis DHR 2s, back and front for me. 24 PSI in the front and 27 in the back, which I dropped to 23 and 26 when it rained, but that for me, on that track, was pretty perfect.
Joe: Yeah. There was a couple of boys chuck their Shorty out or the equivalent and I don’t think any of them stuck with it to be honest. I think a few boys did for when it rained but I was happy on the DHRs for then as well because it was quite a hard pack and on the routes and stuff the mud wasn’t claggy like I didn’t see a need for a spike or anything like that.
George: Cool. So rain came down, was it just before quali?
Joe: Yeah, so it was pretty just like why does this happen now, it’s crazy? Everyone is practicing the dry.
George: Were you up the hill already or were you…
Joe: No I wasn’t, so Juniors had done their quali in the dry, women had done theirs in the dry. I’m pretty sure it was dry anyway, and then just before the men’s started it started absolutely hailing it down, like flat out rain. It couldn’t have been any heavier.
Joe: So by the time Elite started, everyone had a wet trek.
George: So was it pretty even for everyone or was it that some people had it worse than others?
Joe: Some people had it slightly worse than others, I would say. The track was definitely soaked from the start of when Elites go down but maybe the first few riders maybe took just the top layer of mud off which could’ve been a bit slicker. The other thing to take into account was some riders had to actually race in the rain so they’d have some specks of rain on their goggles and stuff.
Joe: Whereas I think it stopped actually raining towards the end of qualifier.
George: Did Matt Walker crash on that second corner…
Joe: Yeah, yeah.
George: …because Kieron, our teammate Kieran Davies, shout out to Kieran by the way, he crashed there as well I think.
Joe: The same one?
Joe: What happened to him in finals [over-speaking] he didn’t finish, no.
George: No, he flatted I think, he crashed out…
Joe: Oh okay, I see…
George: …and then he flatted as well.
Joe: …I see. Yeah it was kind of a guessing game for everyone because no one had practiced it in the wet.
Joe: It didn’t rain so we couldn’t. So coming into qualifying it was literally guesswork. You had to look fired, analyse what it looked like and make a…
George: Call on the fly.
Joe: Exactly that.
George: You say you changed the tyre pressures…
Joe: Yeah I just went down 1 PSI back and front.
George: 1 PSI [laughter]. Like you would know the difference [laughter]. We need Neil here, he’s the…
George: Our teammate Neil is like really [over-speaking] yeah he’s very picky about it…
Joe: Picky with all that.
George: You know, I ride the same, but if somebody was to mess with my settings after a whole day of riding on those settings, I’d think it was just…
Joe: [Laughter] you wouldn’t notice?
George: No. There’s an immense pressure to qualify now, you know we’re down to just 60…
Joe: Crazy yeah.
George: …riders making it through. What’s your view on that?
Joe: I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a bad thing, nor a good thing. I mean it seems ridiculous that the likes of Greg Minaar didn’t make the final. I think there was probably 10 full-time Factory riders, professional riders, who didn’t. But probably more than that, who didn’t make it into the final. I know Greg Williamson didn’t make it in.
George: I wonder if they’ll look at it now.
Joe: Phil Atwell, Greg Minaar, none of them made it in.
George: If it happens again I wonder if they’ll look at it at the…
Joe: It happened all last year, all last year you could go down the list outside the top 60 and you’d probably be able to pick 10 professional riders who haven’t made it in.
George: Is it to do with the TV though because they would have to, between the women and the men’s races they would have to…
Joe: To be honest I’m not sure exactly what the crack with it is. I think they’re just trying to make it more of an elitist sport. I think they think that viewers only wanna see the top riders, so why should we let anyone else race? Let’s just exclude them out. But what’s happened is the top riders have started to get excluded because you cannot afford to make a mistake, or crash, or you won’t qualify. Whereas you used to be able to, likes of Minaar or any of the top riders would be able to have a crash, a little crash, get back up and still qualify, but now you can’t do that because it’s so tight. And especially with there being more fast riders than ever, I’d say it’s just ridiculously tight.
George: So talk us through your quali.
Joe: Yeah, scary. Obviously when you see the rain come down it is like… I just didn’t freak out but the pressure doubles almost because you know it’s so unpredictable, things can happen so much easier. The likelihood of crashing probably increases like 50%. So I was just trying to, well to be honest I’d planned to ride it like it was dry and deal with it as it comes and for me it worked out but for others they ended up in the bushes and not qualifying. So I took the race, and for me it paid off.
George: Any dodgy moments or?
Joe: Yeah there was a couple. I don’t know if you’ve seen but I posted the other day a video of me in the second corner…
George: No I haven’t seen that.
Joe: …and it was like full speedway. I almost went down the second corner and then I had a bit of a moment down the bottom as well, but other than that it was alright. I think being Welsh, spending the whole winter in the UK, where you kind of have to deal with the rain quite often.
George: Was it just like a wet Wednesday at Revolution?
Joe: Yeah pretty much, exactly. So it was quite familiar to me.
George: Everyone who rides there quite a lot, I noticed, did do quite well in it, you know, Charlie Hatton, Brett and Joe Smith, everybody did okay in quali.
Joe: Yeah that’s really true, that’s really true. I mean it was literally, you just had to guess as you went down. It was weird, there were some bits in the woods were actually dry but you didn’t know until you got there. So you really had to scan ahead and try and see what it was like because some spots were just like ice, so.
George: What was the hardest bit in the wet? Was it the kind of off-camera sections or was it the bits that were out in the open that took the water?
Joe: It was the bits out in the open that didn’t necessarily take the water but the more bike parky bits that were hard pack just went like ice. It just went real greasy. The rock garden, I personally didn’t find too bad. They had like a layer of mud and water on top, but for me I was going straight so I didn’t have to turn on any of it, I just bombed through it. But no, the hard pack stuff in the open was just lethal. There were bits in the woods where it was still dry loam because the rain hadn’t got through.
Joe: But no, yeah, the bits in the open were savage.
George: Was it a shock to you that Mark Wallace won quali?
Joe: Yeah, you could say it was a shock to everyone I think. He’s always there top 10 somewhere which is incredible, but to go and win I think maybe by a decent margin as well, it’s pretty impressive. I mean when it rains it’s so much more unpredictable and yeah, people don’t know how hard they can push anymore so those riders who are so good at pushing the edge and riding at the limit, they don’t know where that is anymore, so it all just starts to get real messy and just mixes things up quite a lot. But no, fair play to him, he’s obviously had a really good run and wasn’t too scared or shitting himself like everyone else [laughter].
George: But you were 12th?
Joe: Yeah 12th place qualifier for me, which I was stoked with, to be honest. It was really good.
George: Best ever, is that…
Joe: Best ever World Cup qualifier by a long way yeah. I think 30th was the best before that, so half the number.
George: I was chuffed when I was watching it because you were… Top 20 isn’t it that live feed?
Joe: Yeah I think it’s gone up to top 30 this year now [over-speaking] yeah.
George: So race day then, did you wake up early? I bet you were bricking it weren’t you?
Joe: I wasn’t too bad. Qualifying day is always the most nerve-wracking for me.
George: Right okay.
Joe: I don’t enjoy qualifying day. It’s just a lot of pressure to qualify and things can so easily go wrong. It’s like cracking open another beer lad.
George: Binzy’s secret drinking.
Joe: Trying to silent it under the table.
George: Just for the record, Joe hasn’t got any beers in front of him.
George: Do you want a water Joe? I’ve got…
Joe: Water would be lovely actually please.
George: Do you want some water?
George: You’ve got a few bottles in front of you George?
Joe: [Laughter]. What’s that, fucking 16 there I see is it? [Laughter]. Shame there’s no camera.
George: Yeah. One day. Race day, how many practice runs did you get in?
Joe: I did two. So it was actually still quite, well we have a bit of a lie in on the race day morning because Juniors practice and race before we even start practice.
Joe: So I think practice started for 11, went up the hill, it’s still a bit greasy in a few spots so I had to learn them and a few lines had changed, a couple of corners had blown out from the Juniors’ race and because it had rained the day before, quite a lot of things had changed. So I just dribbled down first run, looked at a couple of sections, had to change a couple of lines because of the changes throughout that morning and the rain.
Joe: And then second run, you’ve only got an hour so you’ve got time for no more on that. Second ride I just had to try and hit every line that is close, well not race pace but I was just shifting on a good rate. But it was still a bit greasy so I just didn’t wanna push the limit that much because I knew you could go down pretty easily and not even start a finals.
George: So with the tyres, did you go back up a few PSI?
Joe: Yeah I started that day on my dry set and so I went 24, 27 in the tyres.
George: Still on the DHR?
Joe: Still on the DHRs, didn’t change them all weekend, yeah, I was happy with them.
George: Did you adjust anything else or?
Joe: No, I actually that morning, I went up one click higher speed on the shock. I don’t know why but I felt like I was blowing through that morning and I think maybe the holes got a bit bigger or maybe I started riding a bit faster or something like that. But that was it. We kept the fork exactly the same and shock exactly the same apart from that one click on the higher speed.
George: Are we testing on Friday? [Laughter]. We’re riding Anturstiniog on Friday. Remember if the holes are big you go one click, what on the high speed?
Joe: One click more on high speed.
George: Is that [over-speaking] more on or one click more off?
Joe: One click more on, so clockwise…
Joe: …and in compression if the holes are big, remember that.
George: I will, I will. So have you been on the live feed before?
Joe: No, first time. There was a lot of firsts this weekend…
Joe: …last weekend for me. It was a great race to be honest.
George: Yeah. What were you thinking when you were up there? Because you were up there with all the big dogs really aren’t you, you know?
Joe: Yeah it was a really…
George: Who was in front of you? Or behind you?
Joe: God I can’t remember, but I remember warming up, I’ve never been that late in the day warming up and I’ve got Amuary Pierron who has just finished his warm up, heading to the gate and I’ve only just started my warm up at the top. So that’s like oh God, and then I looked to my left and there’s Loic Bruni warming up same time as me. Right I’ve got Finn Iles and Loris was straight in front of me as well and Laurie, Danny, no Danny had already been. There was Laurie, so it was just crazy. I was there with literally all the top dogs.
George: Did it freak you out at all or?
Joe: No, not really. I mean you can’t focus on that, you’ve just got to focus on your process and I didn’t do anything differently. I just got in my zone and did my warm up.
George: You’ve done the hard work by getting there haven’t you, qualifying?
Joe: Yeah exactly.
George: Like you said you can just enjoy it almost.
Joe: Exactly. And the other thing was being on the live Red Bull TV live feed for the first time. There’s God knows how many people watching that but I know it’s the second most highly viewed thing on Red Bull TV after festivals so…
Joe: …obviously a lot of people.
George: They released the stats for the World Championships and it was ridiculous.
Joe: Yeah, it’s crazy, their coverage…
George: It’s millions, you know it’s a lot of millions.
Joe: Amazing. It’s impressive.
George: So iPod on for the warm up, what do you listen to?
Joe: Well I do get very nervous. When I put my music on I can handle the nerves. It’s like a real weird thing for me. Without music I hate life. Leading up to the race, as soon as I put my music in I’m like, I don’t know, I just get this extra confidence that I think I’m the boss and all that.
Joe: So it’s a weird one for me but if I’ve got the right music on then…
George: What’s the right music?
Joe: A mix of everything really. I’ve got some hip hop, some trap and some drum and bases mainly.
George: You big on the trap scene Binzy? [Laughter].
George: I know what hip hop is. I don’t know what the others are.
Joe: No. I’ve actually got a playlist on my Spotify account which is just for racing. So it’s got a mixture of everyone on there. I just put that on shuffle and deal with it.
Part 2 of this podcast continues here
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