Sam Hill, Chain Reaction Cycle’s Australian champion, is currently out of action due to a shoulder injury. Earlier in the week Pinkbike caught up with him for an interview, we’ve got the transcript below.
If you’re not up to date, Sam Hill is a three-time winner of the UCI World Downhill Championships, in 2006 and 2007 for the Iron Horse racing team, and again in 2010 in Mont Saint Anne, with the Monster Energy Specialized team. Today he rides for Chain Reaction Cycles on his signature Nukeproof Pulse.
Talk us through the first half of your 2014 season
Heading into 2014 I had a really good off-season training and was feeling pretty strong and fit. I got a few good results and nearly won at Fort William but Troy [Brosnan] scraped down and got me, and that made me more motivated going into the last half of the season.
Take us through the North American World Cup rounds
We headed to Mont Sainte Anne and Windham, they were back-to-back events. Mont Saint Anne is a place that I’ve always done well at and really liked, so after getting second place at William I was hungry for a win and I just had a really good run and got the win there. It was pretty emotional, it’s been a while since I won a race and I couldn’t have been happier to finally get that monkey off my back really.
Tell us about your ride in Meribel and how you were feeling before your crash at Worlds
Heading into and obviously winning Meribel was awesome and it felt like I had a lot of speed and confidence heading into Norway for Worlds. It’s a track that I haven’t really had the best results on but I was looking forward to it, and yeah, with practice and everything I was feeling really fast and got in the back of my mind that I knew I could win.
The race run felt like it was going really well and just got a little bit offline in the last rock garden unfortunately.
It’s kind of a bit of a blind rock that I went over and I was about six inches too far to the left of where I needed to be, clipped a rock and went over the bars.
That’s the way the World Champs goes, you’ve got to lay it all on the line I think and, yeah, sometimes it pans out and other times you head first into the rocks.
Coming into the 2015 season you had another crash and setback with injury
Yeah, I think after 2014, obviously, winning a few race, I was getting my speed back to where I wanted it to be and [gaining] confidence and stuff like that. I went into the offseason, yeah, confident and hungry and motivated and it’s probably the best off-season I’ve ever had training-wise. But, three days before I was due to fly to the first World Cup (in Lourdes, France) I was just doing some training at home.
My mechanic was over and we were testing a couple of bits on the downhill bike and I just lost the front end on a slippery corner. I must have pulled my arm and shoulder back in an awkward spot and, it was pretty painful, but I didn’t really think anything of it. I thought in a week’s time that at the first World Cup I’d be all right.
But, yeah, as the week went on I wasn’t getting any better and had to sit the race out. I went home and had an MRI and then, found out that I snapped some ligaments and had to get it all sewn back together and sorted out. My shoulder and everything seem to be coming back pretty good and I was keen to race. The doctor gave me the all clear to head back for Round 4, I think, in Lenzerheide in Switzerland.
How do you deal with racing knowing you’re not at 100%?
It’s definitely hard. When I went to Switzerland I knew I didn’t go there for anything other than to be at the races and I missed being at the first few rounds and wanted to be able to be with the team riding. I just went there with the mindset of making sure that I don’t set myself back anywhere and get injured again.
So, yeah, that race the result was far from where I’d like to be but I was just happy to be riding my bike there and move on and build from there. As the season went on I felt like was gaining some momentum and confidence, and then I’d have another little setback and, yeah, the whole year was kind of just fighting to try and get back to where I want to be and get knocked back down again.
It’s definitely a bit of a struggle mentally and trying to stay motivated when you keep getting faced with these issues.
Tell us about Elliot Heap and the rest of your team mates
Yeah, it’s good, I obviously haven’t spent a lot of time with him this year. I think I was injured and then he broke his collarbone right before the Switzerland World Cup when I went back so I actually didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him this year, but from when I’ve been around him he’s a pretty energetic and excited teenager so it’s good to see.
On Joe Smith
Joe won the English National Series this year and he’s always super talented and fast on the bike and, yeah, his results have shown this year at the BDS [British Downhill Series] and hopefully he can bring that speed to the World Cup next year.
On Mike Jones
Yeah, Mike’s awesome. The first time I met him was two or three years ago and, yeah, we got along well and he spent a lot of time at my house during the off-season before this year. He’s like a brother and we kind of feed off of each other and it’s good to have someone like that with you to go riding and push each other on and he gives me a bit of cheeky abuse and I give him some back and it’s all good.
On Nigel Page
I love Nigel, he’s just such an easy person to get along with. He’s a lot of fun and he knuckles down and makes sure you’re doing your job when you need to and have a lot of fun along the way with him.
What are your plans for the next few months?
Since World Champs, which was six or seven weeks ago, I haven’t really done anything on the bike and kind of just been chilling out and having some family time, enjoying doing things with my two little boys and the wife.
So, it’s definitely been hard because I want to go and ride my bike but I know that I need to let my body rest for a bit before I get started back into it. So, it’s been fun having time at home and doing some handyman stuff around the house and, yeah, spending some good time with the family.
Questions from Pinkbike and CRC customers:
When firming up suspension, do you usually go to a firmer spring or change up your compression damping?
When firming I’m pretty particular in the way I have my bike set up and once I get it to where I want it to be it usually stays pretty similar for most tracks. But usually you can, as long as you’re within the right region of your spring you can just change the low speed compression and get your rebound set up where you want it to be. The low speed is the main one that you actually notice.
Would you race on an Ironhorse again if you had the chance?
I wouldn’t because my Nukeproof bike is way better. [laughs]
How do you get focused before a race?
Just the whole week being at a race, kind of. Track walking and you have practice and everything, it gets you in the zone for it and just I’ve done it long enough where you’ve just got to focus on the job and try and visualize yourself of where you want to go on the lines.
What was your best win?
The best win in my mind is probably 2010 World Champs in Mont Sainte Anne. It’s just been a few years since I won World Champs and that was a big race for me.
Where are your secret training locations?
Secret training tracks are a secret location which I’m not giving away!
Will you ever run clip in pedals?
When are you happiest, racing or riding at home?
I’m happy doing both. I love being at races and the competition side of things and I love just chilling in the bush and building fun stuff to ride.
I get the best of both worlds racing for six months of the year and then having six months at home to build.
You’re celebrating a World Cup win in the after part bar when suddenly a fight breaks out with the locals. Pick 4 other racers to help you win the bar brawl.
I’d probably take Pagey [Nigel Page] because he’s a wild man! I’d take Brook Macdonald because he’s massive, Rambo Sambo Dale [Sam Dale] because I heard he doesn’t mind boxing on and probably Majestic [Mike Jones] – just because I want to see what he’s made of.
What sort of training do you do outside of downhill?
Not a lot really, I do some gym work and a bit of running now and again but most of my training is on the bike.
Do you think your neck brace saved your life at last year’s World Champs?
Yeah, I think it definitely helped me out. I had cracks across the back of my neck brace so I’m pretty confident that it saved me from getting further injuries. Yeah, I’ve loved doing some Enduro lately.
The first EWS [Enduro World Series] in New Zealand was just like riding old school downhill tracks and I had a great time doing it. So, yeah, definitely something I’d like to do some more of.
Did you adapt your riding style when you moved to Nukeproof particularly with how the single pivot bike reacts to heavy breaking?
I think the main reason I changed teams was because I felt like the bike handled a lot better and I felt a lot more comfortable on it straight away.
What does it feel like waking up every morning knowing that you’re a legend!?
That’s not really how I wake up, to be honest! Waking up to go and ride your bike feels pretty awesome.