- Bike Checks
Team Chain Reaction Cycles/Nukeproof was in the spotlight coming into 2013, after picking up legendary racer, Sam Hill, during the off-season in a much talked-about move from Specialized Racing. Already well-respected and successful on the World Cup tour, the addition of Sam and the launch of a new bike further intensified the buzz surrounding the CRC team. We're now two races into the 2013 World Cup season, so let's take a closer look at these racer boys and their new toys.
Sam Hill - @Chain__Reaction for Twitter updates // Sam Hill on Facebook
Sam Hill. The name alone resonates with anybody with even the slightest interest in mountain biking. In terms of number of races won and titles collected, there have been more successful riders over the years, but very few who have had such a profound effect on downhill racing. After winning the first of his two Junior World Champion titles in 2002Sam quickly became an Elite category World Cup contender, recording his first Elite podium finish with a 5th place at the opening World Cup race of 2003 in Fort William. A year later, Sam was oh-so-close to that elusive first win with a second place finish at the Mont Sainte Anne World Cup. By then, the writing was clearly on the wall.
Fast forward to 2005 and the third World Cup of the season in Schladming, Austria. On the steep and rooty track, Sam threw down an extra-ordinary run to take the win by over 8 seconds, ahead of fellow Australian destructors, Chris Kovarik and Nathan Rennie. The flat-pedal thunder had well and truly stuck, and the world would soon be getting used to seeing Sam dominate races in similarly outrageous fashion.
Incredibly committed on rough tracks and with a keen eye for seemingly impossible sniper lines, Sam's win-or-lose style was always very exciting to watch, and earned him legions of fans. Sam also elevated the Iron Horse Sunday to near-cult status with numerous World Cup wins over the following seasons. Although the brand has all but disappeared today, the Sunday earned its place in the pantheon of mountain bike racing under Sam Hill.
A holder of three Senior World Champion titles to his name (so far), there are two other *threes* that help define Sam's career. His run at the 2007 Champery World Cup in absolutely awful conditions was simply legendary. A monsoon opened up after about half the field had ridden the treacherously steep track in the dry. Riders in the rain struggled to even finish the course in one piece while Sam came down the hill as if there wasn't a drop of water on the track. Earning a third place that day, it was truly a run for the ages. To this day, many riders are still wondering how he managed to ride down the steepest DH mudbath in the world faster than they did in the dry. He famously stated afterwards that he never practices in the wet in Australia during the off-season, because "his bike gets muddy." A true testament to his raw talent.
Val di Sole, Italy, for the 2008 World Championships, Sam was on the run of a lifetime, literally tearing the track and the field apart. Up by what was probably close to 8-10 seconds towards the end of the run, after holding it wide open through some of the roughest sections on the track the world watched in agony as his front wheel slid out underneath him in the second-to-last turn of the track. Even after scrambling to get back on his bike which was stuck in too high a gear, he rolled across the finish line just half a second back - he would end up third. Another legendary moment, another three.
Three times Senior World Champ and twice the winner of the World Cup Overall (2007 and 2009), there is nothing left for the Thunder from Down Under to prove. However, injuries in the last three years have left Sam (and maybe the world) feeling like he's not had his final say yet. His last win came at the 2010 World Championships in Mont Sainte Anne (incredibly, as he missed 3 rounds of the World Cup that year due to injury), but he was just that little bit off pace in 2011 and 2012. The technical brilliance was still there, but not the sheer dominance (OK, 5th overall in the 2012 World Cup campaign is still awesome by most people's standards, with a couple of podiums and a couple more top-10s along the way). After 2 rounds of the 2013 season, it's a different story. Although he's not had the results to show for it, it's definitely looking like the Sam Hill of old is almost back. Second fastest of the day up to the pedally motorway section in Fort William (he'd finish 6th), and again second fastest at the first split before crashing in Val di Sole, we can feel the old excitement starting to build when Sam's in the the start hut. We'd love nothing more than to see him on the top step of the podium again real soon.
Matt Simmonds - @mattsimmondsdh on Twitter // Matt Simmonds on Facebook
Matt Simmonds is entering his 6th year on the Chain Reaction Cycles team, which makes him the team veteran. Matt started racing in 2001, and worked his way up through the junior ranks with a UK National Championship title to his name in 2005 (the same year he also finished 5th in the Junior World Championships in Livigno, Italy). His first full World Cup season came in 2007 racing for the Ancillotti UK team, and the following year he joined Team CRC. He broke into the World Cup top-10 finisher club for the first time in Leogang in 2010, a feat he would repeat in Fort William in 2012.
For 2013, Matt will be looking to make his presence felt in the top-10 more often, and to improve on his 15th place in the 2012 overall World Cup standings. With a big team, a new bike, and Sam Hill-derived extra inspiration, we see no reason why Matt shouldn't be able to achieve those goals.
Joe Smith - @joesmithdh on Twitter // JoeSmithMTB on Facebook
Joe Smith started racing in 2003, and represented the UK at the World Championships as a Junior in 2007 and 2008 (with an 8th place as his best result). After a stint with Tomac Racing, he joined Kona in 2008 where we would stay for 3 seasons - racking up his second-best ever World Cup finish at the time with an 8th place at the 1st race of the 2010 season in Maribor, Slovenia. He landed his big ride with CRC/Nukeproof in 2011, and 2012 saw him finish a career-best 7th at the Fort William World Cup race. At just 23 years of age, Joe will be looking to build from here.
There is little doubt that Joe has the raw talent and the experience to contend for more top-10 finishes in 2013 - and he will certainly have the backing and the inspiration around him to enable him to make the most of it. He won't be satisfied with his results so far (13th in Fort William and 40th in Val di Sole), so look for Joe to push hard as of the next round in Andorra.
Nukeproof is a relatively young brand, but their early models (the original Mega All Mountain and the Scalp DH bike) were very well received. For 2013, the company has introduced an evolution of its DH platform called the Pulse - built around the same single-pivot linkage driven design with updated angles and geometry, it certainly seems as though Sam Hill feels good on the new bike.
Built around the Pulse frame, the team bike uses RockShox Boxxer World Cup forks, a RockShox Vivid RC2 rear shock, SRAM X0 shifting, E*thirteen chain guide, Mavic Deemax Ultimate wheels rolling on Schwalbe tyres, Avid Code brakes and Nukeproof components for seatpost, saddle, handlebar, stem, headset and grips. Sam Hill’s race bike will be equipped with SRAM BlackBox components for the races, and there is also a Sam Hill signature version of several of the Nukeproof components.