|A run down Fort William World Cup track on 2015 opening day.|
My life revolves around riding bikes. Until I was 18 I was heavily involved with competitive football (I played in the Huddersfield Town Football Academy for a period). However it just can't compare to the thrill and adrenaline rush I get from ripping on my bike! I also love to shred on skis or a snowboard and I spent the winter of 2007/08 in Whistler which was incredible. The other major thing in my life is Optometry. I'm currently 26 years old and finished a Masters degree in Optometry at Manchester University in May 2012. I currently work as a self-employed locum Optometrist alongside my racing. For the 2015 season I am delighted to be starting up my own professional UCI registered world cup trade team called One Vision Global Racing. I couldn’t be more excited for the future as I develop this project.
Who are your sponsors?
My sponsors are very important to me, and are certainly partners who share in my successes in the racing calendar. Now I have started a professional team they are also supporting my teammates as the three of us compete around the world. For 2015 our sponsors are Trek, ONeal, Pacenti, Fox, Mojo, Works Components, MRP chain devices, Fusion, Bontrager, Dirt Factory and Ticky Bikes and we can’t thank them all enough for their support. I’d also like to thank my own personal sponsors Schwalbe, DNA Sports Performance, Stones Wood Construction, Mark Davies, and Apollonia House for their great support.
I'll be doing reviews of many of the products my sponsors produce during the season to let you know how I feel they help my racing. See the Sponsors section of my website.
What bikes do you ride?
I’m riding a Trek Session carbon 9.9 and absolutely loving it. Trek really have pulled out all the stops with this bike, it’s an absolute machine I can’t wait to race it! I’m feeling better on a downhill bike than I’ve felt in a long time and can’t wait to get the racing started this year!
You have a Masters degree in Optometry from Manchester University. Why did you choose to study this?
I've always been good academically, when I've put my mind to it anyway, so I decided to go for one of the vocational medical courses. I didn't, and certainly still don't, want to be at uni for longer than 4 years so that immediately ruled out being a doctor, a vet or a dentist. Being an optometrist was the only career left in this arena and now I'm qualified I see (forgive the pun) it being a great option to work with alongside my racing. Great wage, locum work (meaning I work when I want to), stress free (providing you don't set up your own business) and very importantly I do enjoy it. It allows me to race as a full-time athlete throughout the season and means I have the time to train hard during the winter. This means I can start the season fit and ready to go, compared with when I was at Uni and was always on the back foot at the start of the season because of studying and exams until June.
How was the course?
Great but a real challenge while racing the bike around the world! My training included 12 months working as a pre-reg Optometrist. First doing 6 months at Newcastle Eye Hospital finishing at the end of January 2011, and after that 6 months at a great practice in Hereford (BBR Optometry). All this whilst trying to compete at the highest level on the bike. It was a tough balance! I owe so many thanks to all the staff at those two placements who helped me make a success of my time with them. From the start of February 2012, I was back at Manchester University to finish off assessments and thesis etc. This was all completed by the start of June, just in the nick of time to carry on with the 2012 world cup season. I actually walked out of my final masters exam on the Wednesday morning, got in the van and travelled to the Italian world cup overnight, in time for course walk on Thursday! Talk about cutting it fine!
Did you struggle to find a balance between studying and riding/training?
It was very hard at times, especially when the season was in full swing and exams started, but with effort on my part and fantastic help and support from people at the University, who moved things around for me when important races clashed with key things. If you're an elite athlete, then in my opinion Manchester University is a great place to go for that all important support. The sports scholarship team lead by Imogen Williams is fantastic and I wouldn't have managed everything without them. My faculty also provided great support. If I ever consider a PhD Manchester will be where I'll go.
Who helps you with your training and racing?
It's got to be my parents who have made it all possible. Without their support and obviously their willingness to spend vast amounts of money I couldn't have done what I've managed. Dad, who travels everywhere with me, helps with ideas for training and provides essential support at those all important race meetings. As of this year he is also joint team owner and manager of One Vision Global Racing to help me run things. I do lots of strength and conditioning training, which is vital, with my coach Nicholas Jones of DNA Sports Performance. Nick is amazing at what he does and has helped me so much over the last 6 years. I'm looking forward to continue working with him as I chase my dreams in the mountain biking world. I also work with a sports psychologist Adam Wright, whose support is very useful in that all important "head in the right place" arena. I was introduced to both of these guys by Manchester University's Sports Scholarship programme. I have continued to work with them and use their important services after leaving Uni.
Which riders inspired you when you started out and who inspires you now?
I've come into downhill from an XC background. When I was 16 I met Tom Braithwaite (ex world cup DH racer) out on an XC ride in Saddleworth, and he told me about DH racing. I had a look into it, did a few races, got hooked and now here I am. When I started I was really inspired by riders like Sam Hill, a guy who is always completely lit on the toughest of tracks. I used to say that's the type of rider I wanted to be in a few years when I'd found my feet in the World Cup arena – people laughed and said good luck getting to the world cups... Now I'm settling into the top level I have tremendous respect for racer who is consistently 'up there' at every race – the classic all round rider is what I aim to become over the next few years.
Before you started uni you had a gap living in Canada. Was this something you’d always wanted to do?
I spent 11 months in Whistler, skiing and snowboarding throughout the winter then riding the bike all summer. It was the best year of my life so far, and I'm sure I'll struggle to beat it. I'd planned the gap year from when I was a lot younger. My Dad encouraged it from when I was about 12 when we took a family holiday to Whistler. It was something to look forward to while I was hating school and college. It was originally going to be for just the winter and skiing, but after I started DH racing it became a year geared more towards riding bikes and improving.
How often did you get to ride and how much did your riding improve while your were in Canada?
I rode pretty much everyday during the summer of 2008. I'd take the odd day off here and there due to physical exhaustion but that was about it. I knew I was getting faster throughout the summer and I won a couple of BC regional races but I knew the real test would be when I came home. I was back in time for the last national of the season and qualified 5th overall with a crash, only about 4 seconds behind the leading elite. So I knew I'd done the easy bit and got myself silly fast, but when I crashed four times in my race run the next day, I realised the hard bit, making myself a good racer, was still to come.
You live in Saddleworth just outside Manchester now. Why and is that and where are you originally from and where did you first start to ride?
I've wanted to live in Saddleworth for years because the riding is amazing. For the past 10 years or so I've been XC riding here right on the edge of the Peak District, Manchester side. Me and my fiancé Sarah started living here in February 2012, and it's great because we have great riding available, and Manchester is only 30 minutes away. I'm originally from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, and that's where my riding started, encouraged by my parents. I've been riding XC for as long as I can remember, I did the Sea 2 Sea over 5 days when I was 6 years old. As for DH training, Hamsterley Forest was where I developed my racing skills in the winter of 2008/09 with regular weekend trips there with my Dad doing the uplifts. I now find myself visiting the Welsh venues of Llangollen where landowner Martin does an amazing job, and Foel which is more of a hidden gem. I also stray as far as Malaga, Spain, a couple of times each winter to visit the boys at RoostDH for some DH training in the dust and sun.
What is your favourite track in the UK?
There are so many good ones that we have access to on this small island, but if I have to pick a favourite it would be Llangollen, or Bala, or Fort William… there is no way I can narrow it down to one!
What type of tracks do I enjoy riding?
I enjoy riding tracks which have all of the following characteristics: fast, technical, steep, big jumps, trees and long. This is why Val Di Sole in Italy is my favourite track in the world! It doesn’t have many jumps but it has everything else!
What result are you most proud of so far?
Finishing 3rd in the Garbanzo DH and enjoying my Crankworx podium in 2011 has to be the highlight of my racing career so far. I really wanted to win it in 2012 but I crashed and ended up 6th which was still a great result. Qualifying 12th at the Italian World Cup in Val Di Sole at the end of 2011, and then 14th in 2013 were also pretty awesome experiences – I now feel strong enough and experienced enough to convert qualifying results like this into top race results in the 2015 season!
What tracks are you most looking forward to riding?
I can't wait to go back to Val Di Sole for the world cup. I'm also very excited to go back to the Fort William World Cup where the British crowd is unbeatable, and I crashed there at the start of last season in my race run. New World Cup venues are always exciting with Lourdes as round 1 in 2015. After a year doing IXS cup races last year I’m really excited to be back doing the BDS series this year!
Aside from the World Cup circuit what other races will you be taking part in this year?
During 2015 I will compete in a pre-season UCI event in Portugal in March, the BDS races and the National Championships.
Things I've done
'A' levels in Biology, Chemistry and Geography at Greenhead College in Huddersfield. A gap year in Whistler, Canada at the age of 18/19. Seven years competitive mountain bike racing, two of which have involved part time World Cup seasons, and three full world cup seasons in 2012, 2013 and 2014, the latter of which I was injured for most of it. In June 2012 I completed my Masters degree in Optometry which makes me a qualified optometrist with hospital and private practice experience. I’ve now started my own UCI registered professional world cup trade team – One Vision Global Racing. So far I've had lots of fun along the way and hope for a lot more!
My favourite places
Saddleworth (Home), Whistler (Canada), Val Di Sole, Malaga, Fort William and many other places where I can ride bikes!
My favourite things to do
Obviously downhill mountain biking (for pleasure and racing), XC mountain biking, gym training, skiing and snow boarding, I still enjoy kicking a football about with my mates if I ever get the chance. And of course spending time with Sarah is the best.