Awwww YEAH! Its not every week a world champion comes to town, especially of his own free will. It was funny how many people asked “what in the sam hill is Sam Hill doing in Newcastle?”
Truth is, Sam was here to prepare for his world cup season.
Why Newcastle? Well for starters we have a national level downhill at our doorstep, located at the Awaba Mountain Bike Park
, home of the Hunter Mountain Bike Association
Secondly, Sam loves Newcastle. It’s that simple. Familiar people with the Drift family, Goldbergs
one of his favourite restaurants, tracks for miles with far different terrain to his home trails in Perth, WA and above all, the climate. It was awesome riding xc with Sam and hearing him remark about how green everything was and especially how it “WASN’T HOT”
Sadly Sam boarded the plane with a cold and wasn’t well for the first part of the week but his intentions to ride were soon made good with a warm up ride with our Wednesday night Wolf Pack
. It goes to show that you just never know who is going to be there…
By Thursday he was itching to ride and despite the rain and a long list of no show’s we headed to Awaba to smash some runs of the downhill. 6 runs later and Sam’s final time (in the rain) was 3:43, the same time that local champ Graeme Mudd
would lay down at the club race the following weekend. The afternoon however was not without incident, Sam over jumping one of the log sections in his earlier practice runs, corking his left thigh in the process.
Friday was a near wash out thanks to even more rain and things weren’t looking good for the “Ride with Sam Hill day” we had planned for the coming Sunday. Josh and I managed to cut a short lap of Awaba on the XC bikes and shoot a short movie of Sam doing what he does best.
We took the time to catch up with Sam over the course of the ride and he ran us through his training program which differed a little to years gone by. In January alone, on a 650b all mountain bike with flat pedals, Sam racked up 1000km with over 16,000 metres of climbing. And that’s just what’s on STRAVA
! That kind of understanding made it clear as to why we had no chance of keeping up with him on climbs despite Josh and I being clipped in on 11 kilo full carbon 29’ers, and without corked thighs! The guy is an ‘A Grade Animal’ on a bike.
Our regular Saturday Wolf Pack
was cancelled due to heavy rain on the Friday Night, so we took of business as usual at the shop before heading down the freeway to Ourimbah to get a taste of what was to come on Sunday, weather permitting. I think deep down Sam would have preferred to ride Awaba but Ourimbah was a perfect training ground to test his pedalling for the opening round of the World Cup in South Africa, nothing short of a pedalfest!
And who better than to mark himself against but Drift Bikes own Brad Kelly. Brad is the winningest NSW State Downhill rider and the course record holder for the Ourimbah downhill. A small bit of trivia relating to both Brad and Ourimbah is that he managed to beat Fabien Barel at Ourimbah state round in the lead up to the 2009 World Championships in Mt Stromlo. Fabien would later go on to take 4th
place at the champs, so definitely a huge coup for Brad to have beaten a two time world champ in peak fitness!
Sam commented on how much rolling speed had and that laying a fast time down, especially a course record would be hard to do. None the less, by the time the day was at an end, with 6 runs down, Sam had equalled Brads KOM time on Strava. I think Brad was pretty stoked to be equalled by one of the best but no doubt t would have been like a carrot to a donkey had Sam bettered Brad’s time!
Saturday for me was like going back in time, only without the body armour and the bike. I drove the guys up and down the hill all arvo but regardless of not riding, just seeing how pumped everyone was to be riding with Sam made me excited and seeing how much Sam still loves riding his bike. I think deep down that’s what the difference is for a lot of guys that almost make it and the guys that go on to be the best. Yes, you need to want to win, yes you need to work hard, but ultimately you need to love it. And its flat out obvious that Sam does.
It was awesome to talk to Sam about his focus on the upcoming season including his plans to race a 650b Downhill bike at the opening round. He hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol since New Year and plans to wet his whistle once he has his first world cup win in the bag. Committed now chief!
A lot of people, especially industry people critic our decision to still entertain a rider that is sponsored by a big, offshore online store. For Drift Bikes this doesn’t even factor in our reason to support and back a rider like Sam. Drift is about more than stuff on sale. We love having guys like Sam around to show our riders how it can be done and that no matter what bike you ride, you can ride with Drift and Drift can look after your bike!
The weather, despite playing havoc all week simply turned on the charm come Sunday. Traction in spades and sunshine, BOO YA! A cruisy start to the day saw the crowd eventually finish atop of the downhill where Brad Kelly showed how to get a good couple of metres out of your DH rig. From there we went to the top of the course and sessioned the berms for the best part of an hour with Brad and Sam giving continual demonstrations whilst imparting tips and techniques to the riders as they gave it crack after crack.
After this we hit up the gravity enduro course which incorporated the latest berm work at Ourimbah before heading up Jelly Leg Climb and down the roller coaster.
Josh and I split off early to pop the tent, crank the bbq and ice the coke cans before the crew arrived from some additional singletrack led by Brad on his DH rig. (animal no. 2)
A massive thanks go out to Sam for calling Newcastle home for the week and let that be a lesson to anyone out there thinking we’ve got it tough when it comes to trails! All going perfectly to plan we would have hit Killingworth on Saturday morning, Greenpoint
on Tuesday and the wild dogs singletrack at Cooranbong on Monday, but then again, there’s always next time!
Drift Bikes wishes you an awesome season and hopes that first drink in 2014 comes sooner rather than later!
For anyone interested in purchasing Sam’s Nukeproof 26” all mountain bike, check it out here.