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?
  • radoggair
    Member

    We still have some decent names on the xc scene. As said, Isla short just finished 7th ( after a bad crash when she was 30 secs of the lead) should be big ( no pun intended) very shortly. Grant ferguson, kenta gallacher will do well altho kenta maybe go to the enduro scene. Along with other names like Lee Craigie, Annie Last, think we will have some success soon, and majority of it Scottish. The bad thing about xc is the scene ( especially here in Scotland which is ironic since most of the talent coming through is Scottish) is its pretty small. Alot of organising and cash for a short race. The road scene is getting bigger though

    Premier Icon Speeder
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    Steve Peat

    Pretty cool Image

    Uplifts – to get on them you mostly have to race

    Competition breeds competition – we have one of the best race series in the World

    we’re a small country with a great scene. Compared to say USA or France it’s really cheap to do the National series as there’s little travelling involved.

    We ride all year because it doesn’t snow much leading to good mud skills and and advantage over the countries who go skiing all winter. Can also start the season with more real riding done over winter.

    XC has an image problem in comparison

    I don’t think the money thing is it as there are only a handful of riders that get to do it for a living even in DH. Though it may just be a perception thing.

    Did I mention Peaty?

    mtbmatt
    Member

    DH isn’t an Olympic sport, so it doesn’t really matter πŸ˜‰

    shedfull
    Member

    Countries like France have a huge club XC racing scene that the UK doesn’t – British MTB riders seem to prefer riding alone or with a few mates rather than join clubs.

    French riders go out in big packs at the weekend on designated routes and they’re competitive because of it. The clubs are all affiliated to a huge national organisation (the FFC) and there are frequent races with decent prizes.

    Premier Icon cookeaa
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    It’s funny that people mention Peaty and only seem to associate him with DH, of course Peaty started off racing XC, then XC and DH, and then finally when DH was a viable stand alone profession he made that switch.

    Of course the only real answer to XC’s waining popularity has to be Gravity Enduro IMO, depending on your point of view it’s either a sexier version of XC, or DH that requires a bit more stamina and forward planning…

    XCE just isn’t going to capture people’s attention and #Enduro is a better reflection of the kind of day to day riding many of us want to do here in the UK, just like Peatie’s career has followed a few riding trends I think the next couple of generations of MTBers will probably have different interests and aspirations to those that they follow.

    That’s not a bad thing, it’s just progression…

    mikewsmith
    Member

    The club system tells a lot, living here in Oz MTB clubs are the only way to go. Think about what was available to you over the summer.
    We have 5 1hr Wednesday night races over summ
    3 2hr races
    a 4 hr
    a 6 hr
    a 80km Marathon
    a 2 day XC race
    http://www.launcestonmountainbikeclub.com/uploads/3/0/7/2/30724073/calendar2014_15_version5.pdf
    Most of that is ridable from town all is within 2hrs.
    On top of that we have 2x 4 day stage races, one every 2 years the other is one of the riches races in Oz with $16,000 of prizes http://www.hellfirecup.com/prizes/ in it’s first year it attracted a host of world and national XC racers and XCE world champion Paul Van de Plough.
    There is a mirrored programme going on down the road in Hobart for the local stuff. The same all over Australia. Participation is not just easy it’s kind of expected.

    But we struggle to get a DH series running, getting enough people to race, organise and help is tough.

    crosshair
    Member

    As a late comer to competitive riding, I must say xc is (perceived to be by me at least) far more accessible than the road racing scene.
    As regards to the image thing, xc appeals to the roadie in me without having to ride an ugly drop-barred slither of a bike πŸ˜€

    jimster01
    Member

    Without trying to sound like an old fart – BITD there were a few regional series, SAMS,NEMBA, Midlands, Welsh and you could race virtually every weekend of the summer months. Then organiser’s overheads started creeping up,this was passed on to the competitors and field sizes started dwindling – plus the longer races became more popular. XC has made a bit of a comeback, but not like that seen previously.

    Premier Icon bikebouy
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    Thems were da days

    Premier Icon njee20
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    We still have some decent names on the xc scene. As said, Isla short just finished 7th ( after a bad crash when she was 30 secs of the lead) should be big ( no pun intended) very shortly. Grant ferguson, kenta gallacher will do well altho kenta maybe go to the enduro scene. Along with other names like Lee Craigie, Annie Last, think we will have some success soon, and majority of it Scottish

    Isla Short maybe, Kenta’s jacked in XC racing – as you say, perhaps going to Enduro. Grant Ferguson and Annie Last are good, but not quite there, much like Liam Killeen. Lee Craigie’s among the older riders in the field.

    They’re all good, but (Isla perhaps aside) they’re not setting the world stage on fire.

    mtbmatt
    Member

    Isla Short maybe, Kenta’s jacked in XC racing – as you say, perhaps going to Enduro. Grant Ferguson and Annie Last are good, but not quite there, much like Liam Killeen. Lee Craigie’s among the older riders in the field.

    They’re all good, but (Isla perhaps aside) they’re not setting the world stage on fire.

    Lee Cragie has retired I believe. Out on a high after the Commonwealth games.
    Grant is most definitely there. Several podiums at World Cups in U23. This weekend is a very bike weekend for him. I know for a fact that he is being coerced to ride on the road.

    The top brits (Kenda, Grant & Annie) all went to race for a Dutch team as there wasn’t a team with a big enough budget to support professional riders.

    The sport in the UK has no money because there is no TV coverage.
    Other countries it is very different.

    irelanst
    Member

    When I was racing back in the 90’s the fields at XC races were massive, you could easily get 300+ people on the start line of a NEMBA sports race and quite a few of those had ridden the downhill and sometimes the hill-climb the previous day on their rigid bike with 1.5” spesh hardpacks. At that time that was mountain biking.

    Foot and mouth had a massive impact, XC racing was put on hold and most people turned to road racing and realized that it was better regulated, better organized and cheaper so when XC came back it was more difficult to attract competitors back.

    Speeder – Member
    Steve Peat
    Pretty cool Image
    Uplifts – to get on them you mostly have to race

    Huh??? Have to race to get on uplift???

    hels
    Member

    Thinking on this further (I used to be involved in organising XC racing now run Enduros) I think that the type of racing that happens in Europe has evolved up here in Scotland, good technical courses, a club structure like Europe developing in the Tweed Valley.

    However environmental factors if you like, are making it difficult. The SXC is dying (sorry but it has to be said) due to increased costs, the FCS putting their hands out more aggressively each year, the councils getting knickers in a knot about safety after some recent unfortunate and sad events. Scotland is big and doesn’t have a lot of roads, so the costs to do a whole race series in Scotland are getting higher, and the SXC gets less viable each year. Of course, they could do the whole series in the central belt/borders, but nobody listened to me years ago when I said that on the committee so I doubt anybody will now, and anyway, I am the enemy for running succesful and super awesome Enduro events.

    It worked for a while in England with the model of “Make it easy, pack em in” flat grassy field XC racing, but Enduro is just making that even more super-lame than it is. So you have a weird situation where top European riders are lured to race pants courses by a C1 prize fund in the south of England as it is easier to get to and BC put up the cash.

    And I don’t think the answer is as simple as “DH is much cooler, bro” if ony it was that simple. And it isn’t cooler. It is however more of a spectator sport, something UCI are trying to address but has sadly gone very wrong with the XC Eliminator events.

    XC should be stronger, it has so much more going for it, especially for young kids, it is a much safer environment for them than the road or track. Just needs more support.

    Premier Icon slowoldman
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    I think it’s probably due to the drugs we take in the UK.

    Premier Icon Northwind
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    mtbmatt – Member

    The sport in the UK has no money because there is no TV coverage.

    Really? There’s next to no (real) TV coverage for downhill and absolutely none for enduro but those sports overcome that.

    The normal explanation is that XC is expensive to televise and boring to watch but I’m not convinced there’s really such a link between television and participation personally.

    Tom B
    Member

    I’ve never raced in Scotland so can’t comment, ditto Wales although I know that they had loads of problems keeping the Welsh xc series running. My local series seems to keep going from strength to strength though…..7 rounds to the Midlands xc this year, there were 4 back in 2011 when I last raced.

    Premier Icon Yak
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    XC should be stronger, it has so much more going for it, especially for young kids, it is a much safer environment for them than the road or track. Just needs more support.

    This.
    I think its really accessible for young kids right now. Most xc or longer races typically have kids races as well for most ages. We’ve got a new kids skills and racing club just starting locally. (Thanks Hannah at Pedal 2 Pedal), so hopefully we’ll have a decent group of kids wanting to race. My son is really keen and I can’t think of a better and more fun way into the sport than racing xc.

    I hope this kids level grass-roots approach is backed up later as the kids get older, but certainly, get them interested young and it can only help.

    Premier Icon cookeaa
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    I have to agree with hels and NW…

    TV coverage is pretty irrelevant, road cycling is getting some telly time now, mostly because of recent success and the rise of the MAMIL, but I can’t see it going beyond a certain level. MTBing’s popularity used to be driven by magazines, that’s given way to the internet for the most part, but its still the same issue, DH/FR/GE/etc all look sexier in photos and videos than XC…

    Tom B
    Member

    Maybe having all of the kids races impacts on the quality of xc races? What categories are usually raced at a downhill races?

    franki
    Member

    I think there are lots of reasons, but the main one is that XC racing is hard work and there seems to be a slacker-attitude in this country where riding up hill is concerned, then there’s all the XC / 29ers / hardtails are gay nonsense.
    It saddens me as I love watching the XC world cups etc and we don’t have anyone able to compete at that level now, nevermind challenge for a place!
    Maybe there’s more to British Cycling steering promising youngsters towards the road than I thought, as there’s a healthy bunch of up and coming roadies – but then, road racing is enjoying huge popularity now.

    There are some decent young riders coming through though – like Alex Welburn, who’s just taken the Midlands XC series. He’s fast as yer like and has the handling skills to back it up. πŸ™‚
    Lets have some more please!

    tomlevell
    Member

    There were 50+ children from 2 to 16 racing round a daft grass circuit in Scarborough on Saturday and loving it so it is done. (it’s meant to be a gateway to harder racing hence easy courses). Series of 6 to finish with a bit of Singletrack in Dalby at the end of the month.

    All the other Go Ride stuff in the North East tends to start from about 6/7 years of age and be a bigger course (ie the next level). Not knocking it mind but the model Richardsons have done is excellent fun.
    We also have road racing at the local circuit from age of 3/4 although not managed to get along to that yet.

    Scarborough Go Ride
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Scarborough-Go-Ride/569430343067740?fref=ts

    Premier Icon njee20
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    So you have a weird situation where top European riders are lured to race pants courses by a C1 prize fund in the south of England as it is easier to get to and BC put up the cash.

    Scottish chip on your shoulder aside, where does that happen? The first NPS is usually somewhere in the middle of the country because it gets the highest entry numbers. They are a commercial enterprise at the end of day, and whilst the Scots whine and moan year on year, whenever they host a round the entry numbers are down. Sherwood may be shit from a technical perspective, but a) it’s not in the south and b) a lot of people turn up to race it.

    A number of race organisers have also commented that actually whilst a minority of vocal riders will ask for more technical courses, again it actually puts off more riders than it encourages – entry numbers suffer if you make it really tough.

    Chicken and egg situation that one, and I don’t think anyone actually wants to race around a field, luckily I’ve only done that once – in Wales – it was atrocious! But I think we’re getting into a relatively sensible grading system – local races have nothing technical, and encourage a high number of fun/open riders, regional stuff has a few technical features and a shift to more quick riders, national races (certain courses aside) are more technical again and encourage an increasing number of European riders.

    I think BC shepherding anyone quick onto the road is the biggest single reason we don’t have a load of world champions.

    Scottish DH isn’t actually in a great place right now, there was a time when you’d have to enter within 30 seconds of the entries going live to get a place but now they’re barely half filling races. As mentioned above, at one point there wasn’t a great deal of uplifts happening so racing was a way to get a weekends uplift, not the case now and with the rise of ENDURO less people are racing DH in Scotland. This is bound to have an affect on the national series in the long run. It’s difficult to say why we’re better on the world stage though, probably just sheer blind luck more than anything.

    It’d be a mistake to underestimate just how strong the boys are that are competitively racing DH.

    franki
    Member

    A few places are making an effort to boost the difficulty of the courses – more in line with what you might find on the international circuit:

    Premier Icon bigjim
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    We’ll see Isla Short on a world podium soon

    Premier Icon hatter
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    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…

    I have to agree that you’re onto something there, the best UK DHer’s do seem to arise whenever a team manages to somehow combine ‘evidently tapped in the head’ with ‘can be cajoled, poked or bullied into spending several hours a day in the gym’.

    See Josh Bryceland for details.

    Mind you, 10 years ago we were all saying something pretty similar about the flat pedal Aussies (Hill, Rennie, Kovarik etc) they rocked up, and for a while they simply had bigger bollocks than anyone else.

    skydragon
    Member

    Doesn’t the image of XC have a massive affect too?

    Most MTB riders seem to associate themselves with DH/Enduro/Freeride style culture and clothing. Yet XC appears (as an outsider) to be a load of Lycra-wearing roadies on hardtails. It just doesn’t look cool…

    Respect and Kudos to the guys/gals doing XC as the skills and fitness involved are massive, but why is XC so ‘different’ to mainstream MTBing? Wouldn’t XC attract more attention, support and interest from the mainstream, if it adopted a page out of the book of some of the gravity disciplines in terms of style and culture?

    What’s weird is that for many MTBers, XC is possibly the most closely aligned to the actual riding they typically do on a weekend (far more than say DH)…yet it just seems that XC is a different culture and not something the average joe wants to emulate. I don’t see people rushing to watch that latest cool XC video and I don’t think it’s just because of the actual riding…

    franki
    Member

    Respect and Kudos to the guys/gals doing XC as the skills and fitness involved are massive, but why is XC so ‘different’ to mainstream MTBing?

    That’s the odd thing – because to me, that is mainstream MTBing (although I don’t race anymore.) That’s how it was when I started and it’s still what I’m into now.
    I just don’t get the whole DH / Freeride / Enduro thing – it’s as far away from what I like about cycling as BMX and motocross. Just alien to me.

    dragon
    Member

    XC has remained popular pretty much ever where else, so it must be something about the UK mtb culture. Personally I think the likes of the mags (MBUK in particular) moving away from XC and then slagging it had a major effect on the youngsters. And the old timers were looking for something less time consuming and moved onto 24 hour events, which had a spectacular rise in popularity from the late 90s to mid 00’s.

    SXC gets less viable each year. Of course, they could do the whole series in the central belt/borders,

    These type of comments are unhelpful since it is supposed to be National Series, and people do live north or Perth. However, there is something in making sure races are close to centers of population. The National cyclocross race outside Aberdeen was well attended last year, and I expect it to be again this year.

    franki
    Member

    XC has remained popular pretty much ever where else, so it must be something about the UK mtb culture. Personally I think the likes of the mags (MBUK in particular) moving away from XC and then slagging it had a major effect on the youngsters

    Yup.

    Premier Icon njee20
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    What’s weird is that for many MTBers, XC is possibly the most closely aligned to the actual riding they typically do on a weekend (far more than say DH)…yet it just seems that XC is a different culture and not something the average joe wants to emulate. I don’t see people rushing to watch that latest cool XC video and I don’t think it’s just because of the actual riding…

    Agreed – but people seem to differentiate between ‘XC’ and ‘trail’ riding, where XC is about riding through fields and what not, which is weird. I remember Dirt (IIRC) writing an article about riding in the Surrey Hills and calling it “Aggressive trail” or something like that – riding up the hills, and then “attacking the descents” or some such bollocks. Basically what XC riding is, in an area full of hundreds of people riding XC, but deluding themselves with a different marketing term for it.

    In Europe the archetypal XC is more common – rim braked bikes with 120mm stems aren’t unheard of, lycra is ubiquitous etc. In Germany they’re restricted to riding largely on fireroads in a lot of places, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that riding to flatter that sort of terrain has prospered.

    Premier Icon Speeder
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    passtherizla – Member
    Huh??? Have to race to get on uplift???

    not so much any more with FlUp and Pearce and Gawton but there was a time that it was pretty much just Pearce and a few Dragon practice days which were fullo of racers and it kind of rubbed off. . . .

    franki
    Member

    Agreed – but people seem to differentiate between ‘XC’ and ‘trail’ riding

    I find that odd too. XC means cross-country after all… πŸ˜†
    Perhaps most people see XC as just meaning XC Racing – whereas others – like myself, see it as trail riding, where you don’t get off and push up hills or sit around at the top before heading down, or session jumps – as well as just the racing part.

    crosshair
    Member

    So what are ‘we’ going to do about it?
    Is there more scope for using alternative lines during races so you either take the death-defying short route and save time or do an extra hundred yard grassy slalom down an easy bit??

    Can some of the ‘new money’ cyclists be swayed away from their uncomfortable road bikes and on to some of the most versatile bikes in exsistance- a 29″ h/t?? πŸ™‚

    Premier Icon njee20
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    Is there more scope for using alternative lines during races so you either take the death-defying short route and save time or do an extra hundred yard grassy slalom down an easy bit??

    That’s happening more and more. Literally at Hadleigh – the rock garden B-line was a grassy slalom.

    Most Southern XC races have had features with slower b-lines, clearly rewarding the braver/better riders.

    Premier Icon rone
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    It’s an evolving sport and activity.

    I don’t get lots of things about xc racing; the ego, the travelling, the courses that basically traipse around in circles, the relative shortness of events etc.

    So does that sort of attitude limit the amount of people in the first place?

    Perhaps it’s an elitist attitude from the past that has caused the unpopularity. Certainly you ask most riders and they wouldn’t dream of racing XC, a lot do have a go at DH though.

    Go to an XC race and you’ll see full on XC hardtails mainly with the odd full suss thrown in but look at what most people ride out in the hills/trail centres, they’re completely different bikes/riders which gives you an idea why ENDURO has grown but doesn’t explain why XC lost so much popularity.

    Accessibility for me.

    I helped build a DH track this summer. I would never build an XC course.

    People like the excitement of DH so why would they do XC? If you wanted a slog fest on a bike theyd ride road.

    tang
    Member

    I think you have to adopt a B line type course if you want a wider field. Here for instance we’ve been looking at designing courses that can be open to all, even fitting two courses in. We have the space and time but not manpower/kit to spend x amount of days putting it together. It’s something for the future though as the estate I’m working with are willing to invest for use as a venue for xc/cx if the first couple of years go ok.

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