After the World Cup at Lourdes, I flew North to Sheffield, England for the week to hang out with Duncan Philpot and Joe Bowman, and their Steel City crew. The city itself is steeped in history, one of the former industrial epicenters of the world; the prowess of its former glory can still be felt in the old brick and mortal buildings and hard-grafting citizens. A place built around steel works is an impressive visual, with enormous mills and endless rows of former factory houses filling every last space in the city, now with modern touches and actual steel-based buildings rising up along side. I had heard a great deal about this Northern giant, all thanks to the fact that it is home to one of the greatest mountain bikers of all time, the living legend, Steve Peat. A real highlight for me, was getting to ride out in the Peaks District with Joe and Craig Evans. In proper fashion, it was overcast, a bit boggy, and an absolute riot. I’m pretty sure the lads showed me literally everything there was to ride on our 5-hour mission! But what a wicked afternoon it was – the exact kind of day you imagine when you say, “Out for a ride with mates”. To be able to experience the real and raw UK riding that I’ve spent a solid decade reading about, was quite a treat.
At the end of the week, the day before I was to leave for Australia, the annual Steel City Downhill was scheduled, and I made my way over with the best Graphic Designer in town, Sam McQueen (no relation to Steve). We hopped in this diesel Skoda pickup and cruised across town, past all the old steel mills and rail yards, and I was given a neat mini history lesson about the invention of stainless steel, knife-making, and the surrounding area. Through town, we made our way South-West, over into the Peaks District where some of the UK’s fastest riders train. The weather had been typically English, so we were expecting mud with more mud, but we weren’t quite expecting the snow shower we arrived in…thankfully that came to pass, and the afternoon actually saw some rare sun. A mile from the venue, and the road suddenly became choked with cars parked on the shoulder of the road, both sides of the street – it was race day, and everyone wanted to see the action: Steve Peat racing his last home-soil event while still racing World Cups.
Trudging into the woods from Farmer Jack’s (now muddy and ruined) field, we slid and stumbled our way to the track, and down into the main arena where the food and beverage venders were gathered, and thus the main bulk of the spectators too. The Santa Cruz Syndicate tent was set up atop the bowl into which the race finished, providing a castle-like view of the event. Within [underneath] the E-Z Up fortress, a literal whose-who of the local celebrities were milling about, drinking tea, and filling in all the passer-bys on 50:01, and what it’s all about. After I procured a beanie from #AllTheLads and a cup of tea from Trainer-To-The-Stars, Adela (from Blue Steel Training), I set about soaking in the excitement and banter, taking a few photos along the way. It was a privilege to be able to join in the fun, and watch Peaty take the win (again) in his last year of full-time racing. It was amazing to witness the impact he has had within the community at large, and continued to have right before my eyes as we waded through the crowd. He said hello to nearly everyone in passing, high-fiving, fit-bumping, and giving out words of encouragement. In what other sport, does one of the G.O.A.T.s casually spend a Saturday racing with his mates in the woods, just being a normal person?
I would like to thank everyone who made the week so much fun, and for welcoming me into the Steel City, it really did feel like home for a week, and I look forward to finding my way back very soon!
The plate eveyone was watching.
Steve Peat was 2nd after the first run to Craig, but not to be out-done at his own event, Sheffield Steal rallied and found the needed time to end up in first at the end of the day.
Winner, winner, frothy dinner.
The two most common sites in the crowd: boots and beer.
"Be vvvveeeewwwwyyy quwiet, I'm hunting..." I'm still not sure what this guy was after.
Honestly, I just though this marshal had the most amazing hair (and she was very nice).
Max and crew came out to heckle and hang with the 50:01 crew.
The local venders were a welcome relief from the chill, and had quality meat on hand to satiate the cold-driven hunger.
Despite the abismal weather the day started with, everyone was smiling.
This guy is like the Mona Lisa of tea drinkers: is he frowning? Is he smiling? What is the hidden meaning here?
Children veritably are often the harbingers of doom, so this seems fitting.
Young Gun Sam Hockenhull is fast becoming a name-of-note in the UK race scene.
Tracey Mosely may be semi-retired, but count on the Steal City race to get her back out against the clock.
Adela from Blue Steel and Hope provided the tea service.
Trainers to the stars, Blue Steel training was on hand keeping the tea fllowing.
Humor with every purchase.
....you probably don't want to know.
50:01 dog prototype.
The conditions were nothing short of typcial Peaks Distric.
The race is an all-ages, family affair, and everyone was getting into it.
General willdman, Josh "Loosedawg" Lewis spent most of the day hocking 50:01 merchandise, and then threw down some hot laps just for good measure.
Heckling for customers. It worked; Loosedawg, on the megaphone.
Get 'em while they're hot!
"Did you guys say 'Loves back wheel'?" Sam Hockenhull checking in...
Everyone was pumped when the sun came out towards the end of the event.
Rocket Man himself, James Swinder had the whole crowd behind him. If you don't know Swinny, look him up.
Living up to the nickname, James hit the after-burners and boosted down the track into 3rd behind the two giants, Craig and Steve.
A wheelie across the line is always the right move; the more you know.
Favored as the man who could dethrone the reigning champ, Craig Evans clearly dealt well with the pressure.
Fast and low, the only way to go. Craig is looking on-form in a big way this year, but he'll have to wait unitl '17 to try and pip Peaty.
Before heading up for his second run, Peaty stopped to watch the next generation of riders and give a quick interview.
The girls with the mic and camera seemed well stoked to getting some words from the big man himself.
Sound bites gathered, footage taken, the interviewing due seemed pleased with their efforts.
He always has the time for people, be it fans, media, or other riders.
Peaty, in for the win. The crowd thundered in approval.