Thank you and good night – For the love of dirt.
Ooosha bugga. Probably not a phase you hear a lot, but a phrase that perfectly sums 2018 for the Descent-World Team. We won a Scottish Championship, smashed the Naughty Northumbrian to bits, made friends, crashed, saw insane progression levels and even managed to smile in between lying flat out on Invernesshire jump lines. It was an experiment that took sail with the help of some wonderful sponsors, amazing friends and very talented riders.
Where to start?
Running a team is a monumental pain in the arse, I’m gonna be honest. Conversely, it’s also amazing craic – never did I think I’d end up seeing so many heinous photos in WhatsApp in one year, but what a way to savour memories, eh. My retinas will be scarred for ever.
Naturally, being a racer head and having formerly consulted for a high profile world cup team , when I wanted a team I had to do it better than what I’d been involved in before , in a way that valued riders more than as a commodity but also had the chance to grow into a little syndicate style team over a longer term time frame. I mean, how rad are the syndicate? They are incredible riders, amazing manager, brand, incredible craic and just generally sick. It just looks like such a good vibe and is something I’ve admired for a long time.
I wanted to invest in riders – not in terms of kit particularly (though this was very important as well) , leaving them as ambassadors to figure it all out by themselves, but drawing down on too many years spent walking tracks all over the world, recovering from injuries, setting of on “3” instead of 1 every time, and use that knowledge to help them on the riding side of things. There were also other areas, that as a rider you probably can’t be arsed with, so I wanted to help them with that stuff too so they could focus on getting bat shit good and being genuinely rad cats.
Might be old school but my belief is skills first, following second. I’d rather see riders who want to be good rather than famous. But don’t neglect either angle, and be nice.
You know what though , the most important thing on top of all of this, is fun. If you aren’t hyped to go ride a bike, then something’s not quite right. Everything else – media, social media etc…is all just fluff that surrounds what should be a completely immersive experience of you + bike + insane smiles.
Video – Racing the British Enduro Champs
Now that word fun means so many different things to so many people. I think pressure is fun. In fact I love high pressure that comes with racing – it’s fully absorbing and meditative to me – but I understand that most people don’t. Some like to smoke a joint. Some like to shag, get pissed, others to read books. It’s whatever floats yer boat really and this is why I love the team.
We’re all totally different – in fact massively different – but we get on like a wee family. I’m not sure the riders liked all the name tags I sewed into their tops before their first race though (didn’t stop them losing things though….) and the 9 pm curfew imposed on them (sarcasm….)
Old school values.
Picking the riders was not easy. I’ve been around a long time now, and competed at every level, so I’m not easily impressed by much. Bit too candid? I have to be honest though and a team shouldn’t be for average riders or average people.
The riders had to have potential to be world class. There’s enough mid pack riders out there clogging up the internet, and it reminds of the early 00’s when you’d have MBUK favourites who were superstars for 2 years, then gone, as they never really had any talent, just a penchant for a schmoooze. We’re kinda there again at the minute, just the medium has changed. For me it was just kinda stale, and there’s so much talent out there not getting rewarded because we base everything we think we know around 1 app and algorithm, instead of getting out there and learning more. Possibly a bit cynical but what I’m saying is that skill is hard earnt, crashes, progression and more that often isn’t seen, and deserves to be rewarded with support. It means taking a risk in developing talent but I think it offers big rewards.
Video – Progression sessions.
We’ve uncovered and nurtured that talent, riders that brands wouldn’t have considered, or in some cases they hadn’t even heard of the riders before hand, and now those same brands are fighting over some of them. Pretty cool.
So why did we end up with who we had?
James Purvis. He was young and a liability if left alone near any vegan cake, but I liked him a lot. I could see that with a push to Enduro he certainly could be world class. We bickered a canny bit, like a married couple from everything from carbon sequestration to what makes a good ale, but that’s kinda cool too as without that he’d just be a pushover, lose his hunger (for winning, not cake) and we always made up over an ale and a giggle.
His pace is raw speed – always has been – his diet clean and he is a top bloke who, if he wants to, still has plenty of time to make a career out of this sport. He’s now in Whistler getting up to whatever the heck he likes and it’s exciting to see where he’ll be at when , or if, he returns.
Louise Ferguson Progression personified. I’d seen her riding a few times through the year in 2017 , spoke to her at some events, but took my time before approaching her and figuring out what she was about. I’m a bit old school and quite dry. In June no one had heard of her outside of Scotland. But she soaks up mentoring like a sponge and once she figured things out, she was off. She learns stuff so quickly, and it’s been incredible to see her start getting into the flow now.
She can win races, jump, ride most disciplines well and has a secret fire within her that I like. She keeps it hidden very well but don’t be fooled. There’s a steely determination to go somewhere, and she’s onto that path now.
Video – Introducing Louise
Skinny Man Ft Stylee C . If I make it till tomorrow. Check it out.
Video – Fastest mechanic in the West
As for Mick Easton, well we inherited Mick from Bergamont actually. I’ll be honest, at 32 years old, and more of a local legend than national or world class rider he probably didn’t fit my idea or vision to begin with. But I’m so glad we did inherit him. The man who gets chilled most nights on his sofa watching Earthed videos then fixes bikes to precision (he’s a solid and brilliant mechanic) on Westgate Hill all day can certainly handle a bike in a old school, run what you brung kinda way with a flowy style.
In fact, skills wise he’s much better than most but he doesn’t really give a flying a bacon bap about media or anything like that and as for racing, well let’s just say I wasn’t even going to attempt anything other than leaving him be . He is legit and refreshing, though I’ve never seen anyone consume as much sugar as he does. I always said he needed sweetening up.
With all that sorted, Phil from Bergamont taking a total gamble on an unproven concept, with Vittoria giving us enough tyres to build a serious viking pyre of rubber, we weren’t badly armed for a season ahead. Funn came up trumps with killer components, Royal helped us with clothing and Scott gave us goggles. Kingud kept the bikes running as sweet as Mick’s tea and Alfred and the Hand Invested some serious morale boosting love as well.
Video – an artist at work.
I knew the team was going to take up an obnoxious amount of my time, but when you have a vision and a passion it’s hard to let it go. In fact, I’ve slept so badly this year, constantly waking up at 3.48 AM (weird how habits get formed eh) thinking about how I could improve the team, that I’ve been off since December to try and get some RandR. But that’s what passion is and it’s what drives us forward.
Each time we went filming, riding or shooting photos we had such a craic that I stopped thinking about it as work and more as just hanging out with a bunch of slightly odd, mildly eccentric mates with an eclectic mix of accents and assorted volume controls. And you have to remember my situation – every time, like every time this year I’d rather be riding than filming.
It’s different if you’re filming something you could never do, but my brain is still in a place it was five years ago before my injury and it can be frustrating filming things you could easily do yourself. So to enjoy it was liberating and seeing the riders progress, go for things, push themselves and more reignited my stoke for biking and made me fucking proud of them.
And really we are mates all in all – though I’m still not down with my falafel being claimed as someone else’s or being called Vincent Van Gogh.
We travelled to Rheola in the Valleys to Inverness in the North and Colorado in the West, tasted dirt in all four corners of Britain and managed to somehow share a tent on multiple occasions with no one snoring all night long and letting of any coma inducing smells. The hand was a near permanent fixture, gaining a cult notoriety from Westgate Hill to being recognised while digging trails in the Cheviots. Not that he was happy about that mind you.
There were lots of laughs through whole season; Finding Purvis, at 4 am in the morning, hiding behind the coffee stall at the Naughty Northumbrian, with both hands full of cake, stuffing it into his mouth and then spitting it out in a snowstorm fluster when asked what he was doing. Or maybe Wor Jackie’s introduction came close, despite his penchant for new monkey music and going mad any time I took him somewhere he thought the jumps looked too big. Mick’s list of excuses at the DH races were worth a chuckle too.
On the flip side to all that old school infantile drunken moments, there isn’t much better than summating a mountain for sunrise either, riding new trails and meeting new and old faces after a long sojourn – and those are the memories that never fade and make us keep coming back for more on the bike.
You can do both you know.
Video – British Champs and Road Tripping
All in all, what started as a humble project quickly turned into something much bigger and I think the team became more like a family and we’ll probably be mates for a long time as long as they don’t bore me to death with endless selfies of them stood next to their bikes.
But, and there is a but, I’ve chosen not to run it again next year.
I’ve had loads of messages saying that people are a bit gutted, and to all the riders (and mechanics!) who approached me and asked to be a part of the team , I really appreciated that and it was very humbling to see the Elite riders and WC team riders placed a value in what they saw us doing. It was a team that was meant for riders, educate the less experienced ones on how to create a value for themselves, give them guidance and a pressure free environment to develop as riders and ultimately be something that brought a big toothy, cheesy grin to all their cherub like faces.
Ultimately we all have to look at what’s right for us in our own life, and running the team, my business and with the Naughty Northumbrian going up to 1500 riders – although all were intrinsically linked into my vision for building up the North East scene – was simply too much to do under the circumstances and without the budget to bring anyone else in to help it’s just too much. I kinda want to ride my own bike too and I hate half arsed jobs – You have to feel good about what you’re doing.
But 2018 was such a good time, it kinda got me stoked on biking again after feeling the scene had become too “nice” and a bit soft and engaged in a race to the bottom, part of which I myself was guilty of at times. This was more than just an Instagram team. This bunch were RAD and the journey was sick.
We might do it again in 2020, but who knows, eh.
I’d like to thank all the sponsors and people who helped support the team – From the brilliant people at Bergamont who became like a family and Vittoria as title partners , through to Funn and then Royal, 7 Protection and Kingud – some of the best cleaning product on the market and Eco Friendly .
It was one heck of a year, and I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of the riders we helped uncover as time goes on, and hopefully you’ll be seeing some of them on a global stage….
B Roll Goodness