Why are GB so good at DH and so bad at XC on the world mtb stage?

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  • Why are GB so good at DH and so bad at XC on the world mtb stage?
  • Tom B
    Member

    ….It’s always struck me as odd, given that the mtbing that we have in this country would hint at us being better at XC due to the lack of real mountains etc. There seems to be more entries overall at a

    At the Worlds Ratboy is probably the favourite for the title, Danny Hart has won it and is a regular podium finisher at the world cups, ditto Gee Atherton and a few years back so was Peaty (is he riding this years worlds?) Matt Simmonds (most underated DHer in the world?!) will be up there and a few other brits wouldn’t look out of place in the top 10. A 1-2 with Manon and Rachel in the womens race wouldn’t be a shock.

    XC wise what do we have, or have we ever had really? Killeen was on the podium at a World Cup years back and was one of the bigger names I guess. David Fletcher? Grant Ferguson is a reasonable bet for an under23 medal. Is Annie Last racing in the senior females maybe….Alice Barnes is an promising under23.

    I suppose some of the talent is lost to the road, but not all of surely?

    Premier Icon scaredypants
    Subscriber

    I suppose some of the talent is lost to the road, but not all of surely?

    Even if only the best few xc mtb riders get nicked I imagine that’s quite a loss, if it’s right from the top end

    hels
    Member

    Give it a couple of years – Isla Short will be old enough to compete in the big World Cups !

    XC is a huge sport in most European nations with a lot more funding and a team structure, so you would expect them to dominate.

    Premier Icon maxtorque
    Subscriber

    I think because it rains a lot, and we have such a range of different riding conditions. Lots of “downhillers” from other countries seem to be fine in the dry, but struggle in the wet. In the UK, if you can’t ride in the wet, er, you don’t ride!

    Our weather, however works against us for XC, where fitness and training are totally key, and that means riding as long and as much as possible. Rain, cold, and dark evenings make training a lot harder compared to someone who lives in a better climate.

    Van Halen
    Member

    Most UK dh courses are short so people build them as gnarly as possible. Plus it’s wet most of the time.

    Also it’s easier to learn speed than gnarly.

    That’s what I recon

    xc-steve
    Member

    National DH races are the most cutting edge in the world you get the worlds best racers coming to them, look at the fort William BDS.

    National XC races the least cutting edge in the world, Sherwood Pines had to have a wooden plank added to it to make it remotely technical.

    British cycling puts all its money into drop handlebars, which attracts kids, DH is just really cool so attracts kids leaving XC to have all the rejects.

    MrSalmon
    Member

    I think because it rains a lot, and we have such a range of different riding conditions. Lots of “downhillers” from other countries seem to be fine in the dry, but struggle in the wet. In the UK, if you can’t ride in the wet, er, you don’t ride!

    Our weather, however works against us for XC, where fitness and training are totally key, and that means riding as long and as much as possible. Rain, cold, and dark evenings make training a lot harder compared to someone who lives in a better climate.

    That’s true for roadies as well though, and we’ve got a few of those doing OK…

    Premier Icon cookeaa
    Subscriber

    Do BC not tend to shepherd any XC talent towards road and/or track? They’re increasingly keen on CX now too, no doubt another tidy route to persuading MTBers into wider forms of drop bared racing…

    Whereas they’re a bit les involved in DH, and DH has sort of grown it’s own commercial/competitive structure with minimal input from the old duffer squad…

    Plus XC lost some of its appeal in the late 90s when it all got a bit bouncy bikes and riser bars…

    Tom B
    Member

    Hmm the bit about courses is an interesting one….I raced a round of the Nationals at Sherwood once-never again! It was little more than a crit! Still, the Elite race was won by Emil Lindgren-a pretty big name in xc racing. I believe that at that time, Dalby was hosting a round of the worlds as well as the nationals, so we at least did have a decent standard course. Does racing still happen there?

    In the UK we ride uphill to ride downhill. In Europe they ride uphill but prefer to roll back down the road than take the singletrack route back down. Weirdos

    I heard this in Andorra last year.

    MSP
    Member

    You also have to look at the guys with the skills to make it into the top at downhill, are more likely to feed into motocross and skiing/snowboarding in north america and the alpine nations.

    Hopk1ns
    Member

    DH is fun and cool. The uk mtb media has always supported it and from around the mid nighties kinda dropped xc abit. Media attention helped lots of riders profiles and built us a number of good uk riders. New, young riders look upto these guys in the media and want to be them. And so on and on generation after generation.

    Tracks are built, young riders learn on them, then make them tougher. The next kids learn on these and make them tougher. Generation after generation get better.

    DH had coverage, coverage brought sponsorship, sponsorship brought high profile uk riders. Youngsters wanted to be them, tracks got better, excellent national series got tougher and some of them uk riders gave back to the sport.

    Steve Peat – Marc Beaumont, Brenbon fairclough, josh b

    Will Longden-Manons team manager

    Chain reactions team manager-nigel page.

    Etc etc

    Both the atherton bros have said in interviews when they were growing up wanting to beat our top riders etc.

    Its just left us with a legacy that I hope continues.

    Where ad in xc it just didnt happen after our heyday years of early nighties when we were world beaters.

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Subscriber

    Hmm the bit about courses is an interesting one….I raced a round of the Nationals at Sherwood once-never again! It was little more than a crit! Still, the Elite race was won by Emil Lindgren-a pretty big name in xc racing. I believe that at that time, Dalby was hosting a round of the worlds as well as the nationals, so we at least did have a decent standard course. Does racing still happen there?

    Yup you can still ride most of it, although the course is essentialy made up of the optional black bits on the normal trail, and some even steeper/rougher bits, and some bits you can’t ride as they cross the main trail.

    I think part of the problem is that XC is percieved as uncool in this country. People would rather be overbiked with a trail/enduro bike for an XC ride, than risk being identified as an XC rider.

    If the national XC series was more like the BDS with near world standard courses then I reckon people would be more inclined to give it a go, the typical world cup XC course looks more technical than a lot of the Enduro tracks!

    bensales
    Member

    Though experiment… what would the result be, if Team Sky decided to run a World Cup XC team?

    Premier Icon beej
    Subscriber

    Is it a money thing? To be fit enough to ride at the top of XC, you’d be fit enough to ride pro road which pays much more.

    tang
    Member

    My friend who used to ride for NZ both DH and XC was asking the Athertons recently why we are so good. Their take on it was that typically UK riders ride short(2 mins max) technical tracks very fast. We are good at speed (isn’t Peaty still often fastest through the traps?). Euro/N American riders have longer runs and often have great stamina. Find some UK nutters with a bit of juice in the legs and presto.
    Could be cobblers…

    wysiwyg
    Member

    Cos you can drink in DH and xc not so much. Who wants to give up drink…

    I do think, xc racing in the UK, has a bit of an image problem.
    It doesn’t get much exposure, and this means kids are less likely to get into it/stick with it.

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    I think it’s because XC is teh gay lol.

    superfli
    Member

    Are xc courses in the UK up to the technical standards of mainland Europe? I was marshaling a summer xc race and was surprised at the lack of tech abilityof the majority of non elite level riders. Roughly a Red grade tail gave a large number of riders problems, even after 3 laps.

    5thElefant
    Member

    You also have to look at the guys with the skills to make it into the top at downhill, are more likely to feed into motocross…

    Not motocross. Kids start racing motocross long before they ride bicycles!

    Edit… Hang in, might of misinterpreted that. Yeah, lots of kids ride motorbikes rather than bicycles but that’s as true in the UK as anywhere else.

    tang
    Member

    XC was cool once, I am thinking the Malvern Classic early days era. Saying that it was one bike for everything pretty much! Euros love road and cross, so I reckon culturally from an early age it’s acceptable to break out the Lycra. Here kids want to hang about the woods or ramps at the rec, smoke weed and do jumps. Either that or become footballers.

    gee
    Member

    UK courses are very varied.

    Some could be technical but seem to miss out the best bits for some reason (Margam) others have one or two techy bits but nothing scary (Redruth) and others are a bit mental when ridden properly fast (Hadleigh).

    My fave was always Dalby but that’s gone now, I think as it was so expensive to run a race there.

    Some though, like Sherwood this year, are just crap.

    GB

    tang
    Member

    We are going to do a tech fest xc race this year, details shortly! Got to get the Feb cx race done first, details very soon!

    elliott-20
    Member

    Fundamentally, learning skill maybe perceived as less of a barrier to gain entry into the sport than gaining fitness.

    Now I’m not saying the DH pros aren’t fit, they most definitely are but DH is skill first fitness later. XC is the opposite. I think that makes DH seems more accessible for those to try the sport than XC riders.

    DH is fast, cool and looks a lot more chilled out than the marathon of xc and so I wonder if that has lead to the imbalance when attracting the next champ.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    We are going to do a tech fest xc race this year, details shortly! Got to get the Feb cx race done first, details very soon!

    What does this mean? An XC race with hard stuff in it?

    what would the result be, if Team Sky decided to run a World Cup XC team?

    I doubt they woudl though. There’s no TV coverage because XC racing, much as I like doing it, is a fundamentally terrible spectator sport!

    Premier Icon kipvr
    Subscriber

    I think as a nation we have more nutters that are good at going downhill fast than calculated über fitness freaks. I like the DH nutters, but it’s a shame XC is so shunned by the youth. It’s all about the uplift these days!

    Premier Icon kipvr
    Subscriber

    I think that there should be camera riders, which can capture footage like the motorbikes do for road races!

    tang
    Member

    Yes mol, An xc race with tough stuff in. Dalby certainly an inspiration and Malvern for the older guys!

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    I’m in. Where is it? And will I be better off on my XC racer or my 5? 🙂

    Premier Icon howsyourdad1
    Subscriber

    Perhaps a part of it, a small theory based on very little evidence other than I have lived ‘in Europe’ for a few years now, is that for example here in Sweden, people are outdoors more often, and for longer than the UK. A great deal of people run, ski, cross country ski , hike, do orienteering and spend time in the forest in general. People here are fitter, from a young age. Endurance sports are more common.

    Downhill, when you start is a kid, is not really endurance, it’s kind if the next step from bezzing round on your Bmx, local woods etc before heading home for tea and Neighbours.

    I don’t think that is really the case in the UK. That’s probably total rubbish but hey ho

    mikey74
    Member

    I’m not saying it’t the answer, but….

    … You don’t need as much space for a DH track as you do for an xc course, so they are more likely to get built. The xc riding that there is is either miles away or full of walkers because everyone has to share a relatively small network of trails. Plus, the access laws in England are crap, although that doesn’t explain the lack of Scots.

    tang
    Member

    Cotswolds, new unridden location. Nothing that can’t be ridden by a half handy rider on a HT who doesn’t mind a bit of climbing and getting their bum on the rear tyre from time to time!

    Premier Icon ratherbeintobago
    Subscriber

    DH is fun and cool

    I hate to break this to you, but MTBing in any form is currently not cool (which should be patently obvious from the fact that that this forum is largely populated by middle-aged chubby blokes, myself included). Road cycling, OTOH…

    markrh
    Member

    Any xc rider who shows promise seems to go over to road racing and i guess thats because you can make good money there…

    Tom B
    Member

    Just seen that I stopped the first paragraph of my OP mid sentence 😳

    I was going to make the point that in terms of participation, there are huge numbers of entries in xc races so getting people involved isn’t the problem.

    I remember back in the early 90’s when the UK was a force in XC – David Baker, Barrie Clarke, Caroline Alexander, etc – and everybody was moaning about the lack of credible DH riders. At this time this was put down to our lack of mountains!

    Jason McRoy proved that it could be done by a kid from Sunderland and his success directly led to our current DH dynasty.

    I think the problem with XC is money, or lack of potential reward. Any teenager showing XC potential can’t help but see what they could earn on the track or the road. British Cycling is complicit with this as funding is biased towards those disciplines where there is a decent Olympic medal prospect. Sadly for XC, success breeds success and right now there is none. DH is not really on British Cycling’s radar and is more healthy for it.

    FunkyDunc
    Member

    Got to be money.

    No one watches XC so no one sponsors therefore you cant make a career of it.

    Plus an XC pro will ride as many road miles as a roadie so why bother getting muddy? When you can do road and get paid more money.

    acehtn
    Member

    Any pics of Caroline Alexander ? she was lovely and fast and i think raced Klein’s

    My old mental image might be a bit rose tinted 🙂

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