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Michael Bonney – Steve Peat Farewell Letter.

Sometimes it just seems fitting to write down the thoughts that enter our minds as they appear. Many of you will know Michael Bonney, but while this letter has been on social media for a little while, it still deserves some column inches here on Descent-World.

Michael was influential in building Orange to the brand it is today. He saw first hand what a marquee rider can do for a company and here is his thankyou letter to Steve, penned at the end of 2005.

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Michael says “Found this while cleaning out a hard disk, it is exactly 10 years ago since I knew Steve Peat would leave Orange and this was the thank you written for the website, never finished and not published – until now. Life has moved on, I’m no longer at Orange but they were four incredible years and I do want to finish this now even if it isn’t published on the Orange website so I’ll share it here.”

Four years, that’s all it is, yet it feels like Steve has always been with Orange… at the same time it seems like only yesterday that we were sat on the bonnet of the Golden Princess outside a seedy off-strip Vegas motel talking about his plans as he knew he was leaving GT. He’d wanted to start his own team, do things his own way outside the corporate bullshit structure and wanted to do it with as much UK-made product as he could. We (at Orange) wanted a rider capable of winning World Cups and the elusive goal of a World Championship gold, a perfect match. 
 It’s been a roller coaster ride, from the highs of his first races on Orange, taking the World Cup title for the first time in his career in 2002, winning the World Cup in 2004 for a second time but then crashing out on the last corner in Les Gets, a season disrupted by injury this year but then his best moment, a British rider, British bike and winning at Fort William, the British round of the World Cup, which rather perversely will be his last race on an Orange. The image of him stood in that arena, bike above head and the noise from the crowd is one I’ll remember forever, a unique moment of mountain biking history and one no amount of corporate big bucks can ever take away and I don’t think any other World Cup will ever mean quite the same as it did to Steve and to everyone here at Orange.

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I’ve got few heroes, whether that’s in mountain biking or anything else but Steve was, and is, the most inspirational rider I’ve ever seen, he’s a truly amazing character equally at home with company directors or fans, an athlete that also lives a rock and roll lifestyle but doesn’t let that detract from his goals. Unlike some who let success alter them Steve never has, he’s still the same person I met 15 years ago at a muddy field in Eston, albeit now the world’s number one DH rider and a global superstar.

He is the ultimate professional mountain biker: in Les Gets after that crash he came back to the trucks, we’d come off the hill, heads down, but had started setting up the bikes again knowing the fans would be down soon and not really expecting Steve to hang around. Steve got down, went into his truck, then five minutes later came out and sat and signed autograph after autograph, any other rider would have got out of there immediately, yet Steve knew those fans wanted to see him, time after time he smiled, asked for a name and signed another poster. this went on until we ran out of posters, we blagged more off Rock Shox and they eventually ran out, a quick calculation said we’d gone through 1000 posters in about 90 minutes, crazy but I’m certain no other rider would have been there under those circumstances. 
 I’m fortunate to have worked with Steve and he’s left me with so many amazing memories , the kid who asked for a hug as he was kitting up before his final run at Ft William this year, a crazy taxi ride through Vegas, me getting up to start work in Vegas as he crashed through the door at 7AM just returning from a night out, Adele calling him back and asking for a kiss just as he was riding to the start of the Worlds final run, small things which mean nothing to anyone but me.

One of the most valuable things I’ve learnt from Steve is how important it is to put something back, his work developing riders under the Royal Racing banner is how we originally started discussing his riding for Orange, its a project I hope we can continue. I look back at the riders Steve’s developed – Stu, Rich, Josh, Brendan, Donny and Mark all fantastic prospects for the future and one of the reasons why the UK leads the DH world.

All the above is why Rob at Santa Cruz wanted Steve so badly, he needs a rider who can win races on the V10 and Steve is that rider but more importantly Steve’s a real larger than life superstar who is a pleasure to work with and the best ambassador for any brand in mountain biking. I know Steve felt the need to move on, he’s got different priorities from four years ago with (his son) Jake and I know it wasn’t an easy decision.

That’s the point at which I stopped typing, unable to work out how to end it which I need to do now.

Steve’s gone on to do amazing things, won his well deserved rainbow stripes, helped Josh develop into one of the world’s best riders and inspired countless kids into mountain biking it would have been great to do that on an Orange but actually it doesn’t matter, it’s not about the bike it’s about the person riding it. Thanks for everything Steve, they were four wonderful years which I will treasure the memories of.

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