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Steve Peat

 

Steve Peat and the Syndicate

5月 15 — 2019 | Santa Cruz, CA

In the fast-paced world of downhill mountain bike racing, few have impacted the sport like Steve Peat. From a long and illustrious career between the tape to paving the way for others who, like Steve, dreamed of popping champagne corks and standing on World Cup podiums. With his DH race shoes now tentatively tucked away, Steve remains an ever-present force on the circuit and in the Syndicate pits where his knowledge and expertise remain as relevant today as it was two decades ago.

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Hustle and bustle

For a team that wants to win races and have a good time, it pays to have someone like Peaty in your corner. Joining the Syndicate in 2006, Steve’s inaugural year aboard a V10 would see him win a round of the World Cup and stand on all but one podium that season, setting the scene for the next ten years. While it’s difficult to describe Steve without reeling off a long list of his accomplishments as an athlete, there is so much more to this charismatic and captivating Englishman than results and championships.

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While his activities away from racing have certainly ramped up since retiring from the World Cup in 2016, he’s been in the thick of extracurricular and entrepreneurial hubbub for years. From Royal Racing - Steve’s long-standing apparel sponsor, which he started 19-years ago with designer Nick Baylis, to Peaty’s Products, his latest collaborative business outlet. Away from the nuts and bolts of the bicycle industry, Steve has operated a number of grassroots race programs, the legendary ‘Steel City DH Race’ in his hometown of Sheffield and even has an international race in the works for 2020.

Alongside his various business ventures, Steve remains an ardent member of the Santa Cruz family, supporting dealers and distributors at demo days all over the world. Racing is similarly still a huge part of Steve’s life, participating in events like the NZ Enduro, Trans Cascadia and Ard Rock, the latter of which he won in 2018. While Steve hasn’t slowed down since stepping back from World Cup competition, his passion for what he considers as the “Formula One of our sport” is as strong as ever and no one was surprised to see him back in the Syndicate pits.


From his first world champs at Metabief, France in ‘93, turning pro in ‘95, his first World Cup podium at Panticosa, Spain in ‘96, his first factory contract in ‘97 to his first [World Cup] win at Snoqualmie Pass, Washington in ‘98 - Steve’s career has been filled with notable ‘firsts’. The years that followed would yield another 16 World Cup wins, three overall titles alongside four silver world championships medals and one gold; it’s safe to say Peaty knows how to go fast.

Between rock, root and rut

“The easiest way to explain my role within the Syndicate, is that I’m sort of a ‘line coach’ for the boys,” says Steve. “I don't see it as a coaching job, I'm just there as a mate and it works really well.”  From recording videos of new lines he’s spotted during practice to observing changing track conditions and keeping the guys back in the pits up to speed with what’s happening on the hill, Steve’s eagle-eyed expertise provides the team with a crucial edge in the contested waters of World Cup competition.

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Off the hill and back in the pits, Steve isn’t averse to doing everything and anything to help the boys. “I've been laughed at a few times for doing all kinds of things for them” admits Steve. “Like last year, I was cleaning Greg's shoes, Luca's helmet...whatever they need before they go up for a run”. Steve understands that sometimes it’s the little things like that make a big difference. “If they feel better because Steve Peat's cleaned their shoes, I'm totally happy to do that and I don't mind at all - I’m happy to muck in!”

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Having been in their position many times before, Steve can see opportunities to help where others might not. “I'll do anything, plus, they're all my mates. If I see something that needs doing, I'll get it done - it's just the way I've always been” insists Steve. It’s not just the athletes Steve is ready to assist during a World Cup campaign. At Val di Sole in 2018, with Steve at the wheel, and Luca and Loris along for the ride, they arrived in the team truck two days in advance of the team and instead of chilling, built the pits to alleviate the mechanics workload in lieu of a busy weekend of racing.

Between two puzzlers

Like any professional sports team, athletes come and go and it’s been no different for the Syndicate, yet 2017 marked a significant shift for the team. Steve’s retirement from World Cup competition alongside that of fellow teammate Josh ‘Ratboy’ Bryceland at the end of 2016 would mark the end of an era and open the doors to two of downhill’s most engaging new talents; Loris Vergier and Luca Shaw. Both riders represent elite downhill racing in the modern age, although Steve’s the first to point out the stark differences between the old guard and the new.

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“They’re definitely a bit more serious with how they approach the sport” claims Steve, reflecting upon the differences between the outgoing riders and the new. “They don't seem to have as much fun as we did, but then racing has become more professional - it's also become bigger, better, and faster.” While all three embody the Syndicate’s family ethos, Greg, Loris and Luca are all individuals in their own right, complete with their own quirks and personalities, especially Greg, now entering his eleventh year on the Syndicate.

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“There's no one better than Greg at getting himself into race mode,” says Steve. “Once qualification is done, he’s on this platform calmly moving along, just doing all the right things to get into the right frame of mind”. From retaining the same coach for over ten years and retreating to his native South Africa every off-season, Greg knows what works for him and has the trophy cabinet to prove it works. But there is one element to Greg’s race prep that keeps everyone on their toes, especially Greg.

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“Greg’s puzzling over little bits here and there...that's just his way of dealing with the pressure” insists Steve. While everybody's got their own way of dealing with the stress of competition, Steve’s the first to acknowledge that Greg likes to “mess around with things right until the last minute” and potentially “make other people think that he’s not as dialed as he should be.'' The tactic seems to bear fruit for Greg, but then he’s not the only puzzler on the Syndicate.

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While Loris seems to be following in Greg’s footsteps, Steve emphasizes that “he's always been like that...he's French, they're all like that!” Keeping Loris focussed on the task at hand and not getting too distracted by changing things on his bike because “he feels like he has to” has become another of Steve’s day-to-day jobs. I'll often step in and go, “look Loris, you've done enough now, your bike's feeling really good, just go do some runs and get used to it.”

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Loris secured his first Elite World Cup win on Steve’s watch in 2018, which leaves Luca as the last man to make the leap to the top step - something he came close to, twice, in 2018. But it’s Luca’s more pragmatic approach to race prep that Steve can personally relate to.

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“Luca, for me, is the most level-headed of the three” confirms Steve who can see parallels to himself in the young American. “He gets his bike setup early over a World Cup weekend and just likes to bash the runs out, get used to riding his bike and see how his body feels through the weekend”.


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Showtime

Rolling into the 2019 season, the Syndicate not only retains one of its most potent assets in Steve, but the vision that spurred its creation 15-years ago. The whole ‘work hard, play hard’ mantra might sound cliché but if it ever applied to a World Cup downhill team, it would have to be the Syndicate. “We want to make it look like the Syndicate has always looked,” says Steve. “It's always been fun, and it's always been a good group of people who look out for each other.”

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Sven Martin

From the satisfaction of physically standing on podiums to enabling others to follow and achieve their goals, the thrill of racing is in Steve’s DNA and is as much a part of his life today as it was 20-years ago, perhaps even more so and regardless of what side of the tape he’s on. “Between doing my thing at the World Cups for the Syndicate and racing these big enduros, that's what I like to do” confirms Steve, who’s already committed to the Trans Madeira, Trans Provence and Trans Cascadia. So expect to see Steve everywhere in 2019, much like he’s always been, at the bottom of a trail, in the thick of the action with a beer in his hand. Cheers, Steve!

 

 

 

 

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