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

  • This topic has 130 replies, 67 voices, and was last updated 5 years ago by  tang.
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  • Why are GB so good at DH and so bad at XC on the world mtb stage?
  • franki
    Member

    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.

    I think it depends on what you’re used to – I’d say exactly the same about DH racing.

    franki
    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.

    That’s another thing – why all the emphasis on “building” a course these days?
    There are plenty of trails around that are suitable without having to construct anything.

    Whenever these kind of threads come up, there are always suggestions for “fixing” xc (does it really need fixing? it seems to work fine in the rest of the world) which essentially boil down to making it more gnar and getting rid of lycra.
    Don’t we already have enduro for that?
    I already find some of the Midlands XC courses pretty technically demanding (I’m looking at you Eastridge!), make it more gnar and where are poor souls like me supposed to go? CX? Road?

    Back to the OP, I’d agree with previous posters – mag’s presenting xc as uncool, and BC funneling riders into road/track are IMHO the reasons why there isn’t a bigger uk xc scene (although ime it seems to be flourishing currently) and hence why there aren’t any top flight UK riders at the moment.

    crosshair
    Member

    Fwiw, I spoke to many more strangers at my first couple of xc races than I did at my first couple of CX ones. I found it very laid back and very inclusive.

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

    Have you ridden an XC race? I’ve been lucky enough to race XC, DH, ENDURO and on the road, each is as exciting as the other, they’re all a real absolute blast!

    MSP
    Member

    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.

    They are only restricted to riding “doubletrack” in Baden Wurttemberg, and to be honest I don’t think the rule is much observed as soon as you get away from any major city, you can certainly obtain more access for organised events.

    German xc races are ace, they tend to be 20+km loops done 1 – 4 times depending on ability. Some can be a bit fireroady, but most put in plenty of technical sections. Germany has much more forest than the UK and access is expected.

    The local towns and villages also really support sporting events in the area, they see it a an opportunity to promote the area and you rarely see the nimbisym that destroys events in the UK. And that may be the crux of the matter, getting access to land and routes for lots of good xc races is much harder in the UK than most of Europe.

    jonnouk
    Member

    :rose tinted spectacles:

    On the subject of xc courses, my last xc race was the grundig back in Newham Park. Of all the other races I did in the SW Newham was probably the best, what with the river crossings & pipeline. Decoy (albeit short & narrow) was pretty good too. How are the xc courses of today in comparison?

    Tom B
    Member

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

    As I’ve said, whenever I’ve done an xc race, there have been a good couple of hundred entries plus across the categories.

    Interesting about the comment of Grant Ferguson being pushed towards the road. I was amazed at how well he did at the Commonwealth road race! Not sure he even finished, but he was in the group when it was down to circa 20 riders, and plenty of WT guys had dropped out.

    tang
    Member

    I think that’s been one of the appeals of enduro; riding together then you against the clock. Again my NZ mate who rode xc/DH at the worlds as a junior/u23 hated the whole straightness of it and jacked it in for a career in climbing, only to come back to early days enduro. He is a pro now and hopes the enduro scene stays friendly.
    A lot of young mtb riders probably perceive them selves as ‘rad’ which can translate into non conforming(see skating/bmx) so joining a club and all that is not that appealing. If you look at pics of our top roadies as kids in Lycra in some car park on a turbo on a drizzly British Sunday morning, as opposed to hanging in the woods in your jeans having fun, I know where I would rather be at 14. Events need a bit of personality to appeal, no easy thing.

    Premier Icon njee20
    Subscriber

    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.

    Not sure I agree there, at local XC races here (Gorrick – who regularly get 500+ riders), and the biggest categories by far are open and fun. You get everything, from the whippet on the XC hardtail, to a whole lot of baggies and 5″ travel bikes. Loads of people are just there to have a go, race their mates and try and improve on 42nd place from last time. Some will get into it, get serious and progress, most won’t, but everyone who comes back enjoys it!

    tang
    Member

    Building means mainly marking out 7 to 10k of track with tape and arrows, done well it’s a job. Usually working a bit on tech features to make them safeish/usable.
    There are loads of other issues around venues like access, safety, water, toilets, parking. All of these logistical bits don’t always meet up with great trails for racing, fields do. If you want to develop a venue it all needs to work.

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Subscriber

    I was about to mention the Gorrick, but I think it maybe ilustrates a different point. In the NE there was very little XC racing, whereas in the SE there’s loads. Conversely there was DH racing in the NE.

    I think that’s down to poulation density as much as topography, I don’t think people will travel to race XC beacuse if there’s no race then they can just go ride with mates to see who’s quickest. With DH you need the race infrastructure to see who’s quickest as it’s not always obvious.

    People will therefore travel from a larger area to race DH at Hamsterley, but I don’t think they’d show upto an XC race there. Whereas in the SE there’s still Aston Hill etc, but XC racing is far more popular than DH because there’s local events so you can turn up to a locla one and race.

    If you include all the non-racers (classifying XC as anyone on a bike <5″ travel, enduro as 5-7″, DH as anything more), then XC is very popular, it’s just not reflected in the races coverage, there’s still more pople racing at their local Gorrick race than at a national Enduro race, whatever the MBUK coverage shows.

    franki
    Member

    The Midlands XC Series has been pretty successful over the past couple of years.
    There are some great videos which give you a flavour of the events:

    MrSalmon
    Member

    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

    Annie Last is in the squad for the road Worlds I think so you might be on to something. Not that she’s following the cash necessarily, but the road scene maybe has more of a framework to pick them up, get them over training year round in Europe etc.

    Njee, some nice regional differences making us both out to be liars there I think!

    Premier Icon njee20
    Subscriber

    Njee, some nice regional differences making us both out to be liars there I think!

    Not the term I’d use, neither of us are lying, just different experiences!

    Missed off my smilie after “liars”, it’s funny, it just highlights how complex the whole argument is.

    Premier Icon njee20
    Subscriber

    And quite possibly self fulfilling. I’m stood around in lycra on a 19lb carbon hardtail, folk say “aah so you race, I’d be quite interested to try an XC race…” etc etc, whilst those more likely to try a DH race will usually completely blank you when you talk to them!

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    njee20 – Member

    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.

    Dirt would be testosteroney about it but I think there’s a difference between what I’d call classic XC- the “whole ride” thing, covering ground quick etc- and the way they’re doing it, climbing purely for the descent, winch up and sprint the drops with a 5 minute breather at each end of the drop to eat haribos and say dude a lot. It’s the same trails but you end up having a pretty different ride.

    Premier Icon Yak
    Subscriber

    5 minute breather at each end of the drop to eat haribos and say dude a lot

    aha – that’s unfit xc (uxc!)

    mogrim
    Member

    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.

    That’s the same in the rest of the world, too. There’s a lot more money in road – my wife could easily name 3 or 4 top road cyclists (the Spanish ones!) but I’d be *very* surprised if she could name a top XC rider.

    mogrim
    Member

    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.

    Didn’t Brant write an article about “power XC”? I could certainly be wrong, though!

    franki
    Member

    XC racing – what’s not to like? 😀

    dragon
    Member

    No what Dirt are re-marketing is just XC. It’s how it’s always been done that ride to the top and bomb down.

    Premier Icon njee20
    Subscriber

    No what Dirt are re-marketing is just XC. It’s how it’s always been done that ride to the top and bomb down.

    Yep, the article I read made a thing about it being a continuous ride, not doing the whole stopping to say “sweet roost brah” every 15 seconds!

    That’s the same in the rest of the world, too. There’s a lot more money in road – my wife could easily name 3 or 4 top road cyclists (the Spanish ones!) but I’d be *very* surprised if she could name a top XC rider.

    I agree with that – ms njee20 ‘follows’ the activity of quite a few road riders – Geraint Thomas, Cav, Froome etc, and could name a number more. Despite the fact she’s been with me to a number of XC national races, and went to the Olympic XC I’d be shocked if she could name you a single rider to have got on the podium this year!

    Tom B
    Member

    You not been troubling the business end of races then this year Nick? 🙂

    ernie
    Member

    It is incredible to observe the power of marketing. I hate the term ‘enduro’. To me, it describes going mtbing. It is what I started doing in 1992/3 and continue to do. Is Enduro mearly a marketing term that a large number of riders can relate to i.e. they hate the climbs but enjoy the descents? Or perhaps it is a dicipline created by the manufacturers specifically for the 5″ bikes which they sell?

    Perhaps the question to ask is ‘what do you percieve to be xc racing?’ Is it racing round a field? If so then you are far from truth. Courses have developed over time, some are massively technical, some hilly, some flat. When you ride off road you ride over a variety of terrains which is what I think is reflected in courses used in xc races. Is it bunch of idiots in lycra? Well, lycra is more comfy. As alluded to already, Gorricks, Southern xcs you get the range: baggies and lycra.

    XC as an elitist sport? Not sure where this has come from. I’ve raced national XC and DH and find XC far more friendly. With one or two exceptions, xc riders are approachable and happy to talk with anyone.

    XC development – there is more money in DH and road for sure. Not sure how this can be tackled, but then its not my job. A few years ago road racing was pretty low key, Wiggins won a big race and now road races are over subscribed, road bike sales have gone through the roof and certainly the competition has gotten tougher. Perhaps if xc generated a one big success, we would see similar?

    Premier Icon njee20
    Subscriber

    You not been troubling the business end of races then this year decade Nick?

    Sadly not!

    From our local XC race:
    A line

    B line

    C line

    b r
    Member

    Gorrick – who regularly get 500+ riders

    I’ve ‘raced’ in a load of Gorricks over few years I lived near to them, really well organised, good courses for all levels and usually well attended.

    But, they really benefitted from having access to quality land near to a large population; ie Swinley plus the MOD land further west and all with an hour of probably +10m people.

    Tom B
    Member

    It doesn’t seem to get any easier….I was mid pack at best in sport but was on a slight upward curve…..sport category in the two years I entered any races was won by Lee Westwood then Jason Boutell. They both won expert the next year and in the case of Jason have gone to the business end of Elites!

    I thought the Brownbacks/Hope XC series was quite tricky, quite a few people binned it on certain techy bits and a few injuries on a number of the wet races i went to over the past few years.

    hels
    Member

    Enduro is a term that has come about to describe a racing discipline with a clear format and set of rules. Much like XC and DH.

    All of which could be described as going mtbing. In fact, I have no idea why people say “I am going for an XC ride for DH ride etc” it is just silly. You are going for a ride on your bike, it may be a flat field, it may be epic-core rad technical trails and jumps, you might even ride up some hills. You may get a lift up to the top of the hill.

    You are only riding XC/DH/Enduro if it is a race. I blame the mags – Dirt magazine especially seems to be a product for those who can’t read from those who can’t write. They have to put everything in boxes so bike companies can target-market shiny things to people. Fools and their money, and all that.

    Premier Icon njee20
    Subscriber

    I noticed he raced at the Meribel world cup in fact. There is a constant stream of riders appearing/maturing from junior for one to stay put. You’d think that they promote x number each year, so you’ll move up, but it never happens!

    I’m not strong enough technically to win sport races as I did a few years ago, I was talking about this to a friend yesterday actually.

    TSC that looks good! Anyone who wouldn’t ride the B-line needs to quit riding though 😉

    Premier Icon paul_m
    Subscriber

    I say give it time and we will be good at XC as well, just look at the youngsters coming through. Great ride yesterday by Isla, Alice Barnes 7th today in her first year as an under 23. Good rides by the Junior boy yesterday as well with young Mr Craig coming through to 25th place and being gridded 70th.

    In xc at a world any level griding is important and it takes a year or two to work your way through to near enough the front of the grid to get a good result, that’s why it was the end of the season before the riders that rode U23 last year started making an impact nearer the front.

    I race locally and regionally and the fields seem to be getting bigger, and at the fun level it seems to be a load of guys who stand around and chat for a while then we race for an hour, then all chat again. So just like a ride with your mates, but slightly quicker.

    As for courses being more technical, yes they are but don’t confuse being able to ride something when pottering around with friends and being able to ride it when you have just been racing for an hour and are breathing through your backside, fatigue and speed make obstacles a whole lot harder.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    I wouldn’t mind it if there were more less technical bits on Gorricks. Passing can be hard on some courses. If passing were easier it’d lead to some closer racing with positions changing, I reckon.

    ryan91
    Member

    I’m trying to convince my 16 (today) year old brother to get a mountainbike and he’s not vaguely interested which is a shame as he’s a weapon on his preferred ‘razor scooter’, but all four of me and my brothers rode either bmx or scooters like many kids do around here.
    A solid bmx which isn’t badly crashed for £600 should easily last a year with regular use and basic maintenance if ridden with finess, skateparks and pump tracks are abundant around here too and a lot cheaper overall as a hobby. You couldn’t do either XC or DH riding that cheaply all year and that’s before the parental commitment to travel around is factored in.
    Road riding however could appeal to more kids as it’s accessible and relatively cheap if you’re handy with tools, so maybe this should be the focus as more competitive bums on seats in this discipline would surely result in more dabbling with MTB disciplines once they get older and are self sufficient funding it ?

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    The club scene is completely different on road than for MTB. That might have something to do with it.

    tomlevell
    Member

    Just looked at the worlds.
    There are 4 competitors in the Junior Womens Downhil.

    FOUR!

    Doesn’t look so healthy from that point of view especially considering it’s in Europe this year where the majority of the dominant nations are.

    dirtyrider
    Member

    thought you could only pick a certain number of riders?

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