As a (hopefully regular) reader of this column, chances are that you're a mountain-biking enthusiast and that you occasionally watch footage on TV or the internet _ outside office hours, of course! _ of professional riders tearing up the trails, or "shredding" as it's known, in remote mountain areas, purpose-built bike parks or on the World Cup circuits. And perhaps, just like me, you can't help but wonder, "If these guys came to ride with me, would they be faster than me?", or you have asked yourself the much more sensible question, "How much faster would they actually be?". Well, you can find out very soon because a few of them are coming to Thailand this month.
The World Cup racers are joining the 1st Chiang Mai Downhill Challenge, which is taking place on Oct 20-21 at Doi Sam Ngok next to Baan Sahakorn Sam, Mae On district, about 40km east of downtown Chiang Mai.
At this exciting event, organised by X-Biking Chiang Mai, a local bike tour group, Thai competitors and international racers will be joined by none other than Steve Peat, Brook Macdonald and (subject to his complete recovery from injury) Wyn Masters.
Steve "Sheffield Steel" Peat is celebrating his 20th year of World Cup racing and, as the most successful downhill racer to date, has an unrivalled list of achievements: 17 World Cup wins, 52 World Cup podiums, three World Cup Championships, one World Championship and nine times British champion.
He also won the Lisboa Downhill, an urban race in Portugal, an incredible eight times, has a video game named after him, can be seen goofing around in his own six-weekly video documentary This Is Peaty, and gives back to the mountain-biking community via the Steve Peat Syndicate which helps talented young racers with guidance, training and equipment.
Despite all this success and fame, "Peaty" has remained very much a down-to-earth person, so down to earth in fact that he's coming to race with us. He's bringing his video guy with him, so expect to see his Thailand trip featuring prominently in a future episode of This Is Peaty.
Only time will tell if Brook "Bulldog" Macdonald will be able to look back on a similarly long list of titles, but we wouldn't bet against it. On Sept 6, 2009, in Canberra, Brook graced the top step of the podium at the World Championships in the junior category (uncannily, Steve Peat scored a victory later that same day, his only World Championship win to date). Since his transition to the seniors, Brook has gone from strength to strength and the sympathetic New Zealander has quickly become a crowd favourite. After narrowly missing the podium at several races in 2010, he managed to get onto it three times the following year and this year he took his first World Cup win in Val d'Isere, France, which makes him only one of four riders to win a World Cup race in the last two seasons. According to his online biography, Thai food is Brook's favourite, but the race organiser was nonetheless still amazed, and obviously thrilled, when he kindly accepted the invitation to attend the Chiang Mai Downhill Challenge.
Wyn Masters has been racing on the World Cup circuit for a number of years and was New Zealand champion in 2010, but has been blighted this season by a persistent wrist injury. While off the bike recovering from surgery, Wyn took a microphone and camera to the World Cup and other race venues resulting in WynTv, a series of comical behind-the-scenes documentaries featuring interviews with racers and their teams. And if you're one of those 7.4 million people around the world who watched the official iPhone 5 trailer on YouTube, the two downhill mountain-bikers featured in the first half of the video are Wyn Masters and his buddy Brook Macdonald.
Downhill racing is an exhilarating spectator sport and having the world's best come here to hang out and compete is pretty special, not to mention an absolute first for Thailand. Not surprisingly, the promise of so much talent on show has also drawn interest from abroad. Following discussion of the event on social media, a number of racers from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Nepal, etc vowed that they would fly up to Chiang Mai to take part, too. So the two-day event is shaping up to be a vibrant affair that shouldn't be missed.
Local riders who have ventured abroad on some of the world's most renowned mountain-bike trails, and visiting bikers who have ridden here are all in agreement: the trails near Chiang Mai are truly world class. However, it appears that this information has not yet reached very far beyond Thailand's borders, so it is hoped that the downhill challenge will put Chiang Mai firmly on the map as an international mountain-biking destination. And that would really be the icing on the cake.
Well, see you here again next Thursday. Until then, if you have questions, news or biking insights you wish to share, please feel free to send an email to email@example.com or go to the "Freewheel Bangkok" community page on Facebook.
Joris Laperre is a Belgian mountain biker who has fallen in love with the Kingdom's many DH trails and one of its very few female downhillers.
The 1st Chiang Mai Downhill Challenge is organised by X-Biking Chiang Mai (x-bikingchiangmai.com) with support from the local offices of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Sports Authority of Thailand, Flight of the Gibbon, Deuter, GoPro, Toyota and volunteers from the village of Sahakorn Sam, who helped improve the existing DH track on Doi Sam Ngok for the big race.
The following are details of the event:
SATURDAY, OCT 20: practice (morning), registration and seeding run (afternoon).
SUNDAY, OCT 21: practice (morning), final run, trophy ceremony and lucky-prize draw.
The race track at Doi Sam Ngok.
About the author
Writer: Joris Laperre