Eliot Jackson Retires from World Cup Downhill Racing 28

It's true and we're bummed. Eliot Jackson, one of the most naturally-talented downhill riders on the World Cup circuit the past couple years is hanging up his number plate due to health conditions that made competing at 100% impossible. Known for his otherworldly scrubs and motowhips, Eliot used his childhood motocross and BMX skills to reach the World Cup after only a few short years on a mountain bike. We sat down with Eliot a couple days ago to discuss his absence from the World Cup in 2013. You can listen to the interview or read it below as you ponder how he can whip and gap the bike like he does. See you at Sea Otter on your beach cruiser, Eliot, you'll be missed on the World Cup!

Photographs by Sven Martin and gordo

Eliot Jackson Retires from World Cup Downhill Racing

Full Audio Interview with Eliot Jackson



Why are you hanging up your World Cup career after two short years?

Eliot: The main reason, well the only reason I guess, is because I have asthma and I can't race with it. I've always had it and in 2011 it was kind of bad, but I didn't really train that hard, so it didn't flare up. I didn't really take an off-season in 2011, I just trained and so it was pretty bad there. Then all throughout the race season [2012] it was crazy. Mitch [Ropelato] can tell you. He was over my house and he saw stuff that was going on. Like after every race, I'm stuck in bed, I have to have anti-biotics. So if there's a race back-to-back over two weeks, the second one, I'm just done for.

It's crazy. If I come down from a race run I just cough. I can't stop coughing and I have to go and lay down, it's just crazy. Even if I were to keep going, it's just frustrating because I'll never be able to train hard enough to do good, like I just can't train physically as hard as those guys, like Gee and Aaron. And then racing is just frustrating, ya know, having to deal with that, coming into a race run knowing that you're going to be super sick afterward.

Double, double? Why not just quad it? Eliot likes to think outside the box when it comes to Whistler. You'll see video proof in the near future.

Have you kept your asthma kind of quiet or have people known?

Eliot: All the people I'm close with like Mitch and my team and stuff know, but I don't really talk about it that much. It's like an excuse, I guess.

Will you come to Crankworx to hang out?

(Mitch Ropelato interjects, "Oh he'll be there, with his whips, ready!")

Eliot: Yeah for sure. I think I'm going to go to Sea Otter and just hang out up there. I want to try to race a beach cruiser [in downhill], you might see me on something like that. Then I'll for sure come to Crankworx. Definitely those two, I don't about anything else though.

So what about the option of picking and choosing races?

Eliot: I've talked to a few people and they said, "if you want to just go to the races and hangout or whatever, that's fine," but I think I'm too competitive. Like even this year, at the front of the year when I was sick from the off-season still, having good runs and getting 30th and 40th, I was just like, "I'm going to quit," because it's just too frustrating. Even the races where I do good, I'll get like a top ten split, then by the end of the track I'm in 30th or whatever.

Eliot winning the Whip Off World Champs Scrub category with this nastiness in 2011. Parkins ain't scared, either.

Have you had bad asthma your whole life? You used to race moto, how did that work?

Eliot: Yeah, I've had it, but the cardio is what does it. Even now, riding here [Vital MTB Motocross Day at Cahuilla], like I'll kind of cough, but it's not super cardio-y.

So even on really gravity-fed tracks, you can't put it together?

Eliot: Val di Sole wasn't too bad and Windham wasn't. I don't know, I don't know what it is. I think it's just because you're working the [downhill] bike so much that you get out of breath. Even when you do a long moto, you're not coming off the track out of breath, you know what I mean? And even when you come down the track at Windham or Val di Sole, you're like, "Oh my God, I'm out of breath!"

Eliot and Mitch, the day of the interview.

What will you miss most about racing the World Cups?

Eliot: I think hanging out with my friends! I'm going to miss all my friends and all the Monday-Sunday stuff.

Like the off-day hijinx?

Eliot: Yeah!

Bernard [Kerr] and Mitch [Ropelato] can't pull together some sort of deal to rope you in as a training buddy, a whip buddy for Thursday and Friday practice?

Eliot: I thought about it, but I would just be traveling around to hang out with my friends. As cool as that would be, I think I'd be like, "Do I really want to get on a plane just to go hang out with Mitch?" (Laughter, then Mitch interjects, "oh yeah, Mitch isn't that cool.")

Well, we'll miss seeing your steeze out there.

Eliot: I'll still be out there every now and then.

EJcutthecoursein2012. Stay tuned for video evidence.

 Eliot's New Kid on the Block feature from 2010 showcasing footage from Whistler and National Champs.

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28 comments
  • Leppah

    1/10/2013 3:29 PM

    I've had asthma since 5th grade, that would make it 26 years now. I can totally relate to you Elliot. Props to you for going out and racing as much as you have and doing as well as you have, even with your hinderance. Some people just don't realize how hard it is on you and how much it'll affect your mindset at times. I almost quit biking because my allergies and asthma got so bad about 8 years ago. I was having asthma attacks at the beginning of XC rides. Not fun. My doctor hooked me up with a nebulizer and inhalers. He said to hit up the inhalers about 15 minutes before I ride. That helped a ton. But as a person who's struggled with it for many years, I totally understand your choice and I totally relate to how it makes you feel after pushing.
    Sometimes it feels like you seriously only have 1 lung.
    Props to you for what you've done and what you've accomplished. Keep it up and ride hard!

  • Pininator

    1/9/2013 10:08 PM

    Hey...Science. Yes, you...we're looking at you. A breakthrough would be awesome right about now. Not to be greedy, but cancer and a few other conditions wouldn't suck, either.

    Like the rest of us and likely yourself, I'm absolutely gutted to hear the announcement. I'm sure great things lie in your future, whatever route you choose. Glad to hear you're feeling 100%...keep rippin'!!

  • LeichtHouse photography

    1/9/2013 10:02 PM

    Was there today shooting my buddy, it would have been cool to see you there and grab some shots!

  • David_Johnson

    1/9/2013 9:17 PM

    Super bummed to hear this. Eliot is one of those guys that you just can't not watch. Hope to see him doing filming or something. Like an Ian Morrison-type of rider.

  • maximumradness

    1/9/2013 1:28 PM

    atheletic asthma is my bitch. she still smacks me down from time to time. sneaky little whore that she is!
    good luck elliot. keep it real!

  • trailpimp33

    1/9/2013 7:39 AM

    As someone that has witnessed Eliot from a privateer to his signing at Yeti, I will be bummed to see him not at the races. He was always one of the few to personally thank you for helping out, and seemed to always have smile on his face. I'm sure you will still pop up here and there, and stop by and say hi. If you need some hoops EJ, come by and I will fix you up!

  • 970Shredder

    1/9/2013 12:39 AM

    The only thing in this world that gives orders is balls. Balls. - tony Montana . Respect

  • rouliplanchiste

    1/8/2013 11:38 PM

    Sorry to read that. That''ll be one hell of cool dude less on the WC circuit. Farewell Eliot

  • EliotJackson

    1/8/2013 10:57 PM

    Hey everyone, I know asthma is a pretty common illness that can be treated but as far as I know it can't be cured and what I had was a little different. Believe me, my family and I tried every avenue possible to be able to get this fixed, not racing was the last thing I wanted to do.

    From the end of 2010 I went the the best doctors in the country(some of the leading pulmonary doctors in the world), I took every kind of test you can think of( blood, vo2 max, etc) I was on the strongest medicine that the UCI would allow, I took extra time off before and after the races to help calm it down, my team manager and my mechanic were at the bottom and the top of the track with inhalers, I tried vegan, non-dairy, glutten free, and a few other diets I cant remember haha, unfortunately a lot of the breathing techniques go out the window when you're at 190 heart rate but yes I did try a few of those also. I worked with my trainer to find things for my warm up and my off season training that didn't effect me as bad, etc etc etc.

    Even after all of that, nothing seemed to help, not even a little. There are a lot of remedies that work for regular asthmatics that don't work for people with exercise induced asthma, like me, and even less that work for "world class" athletes that are training 6-7 days a week. At some point it wasnt worth it for me to come down the hill, cough until I couldnt breath anymore, throw up, and then lay in bed for a week haha. I don't have unlimited funds to keep trying to figure out what is wrong with me and even if I did what would they say? Ya know. If i'm not racing I'm 100% healthy.

    I don't mean this to sound sad or anything, just want to let you guys know I'm not just quitting because I'm too lazy to try to fix it haha. I love racing the world cups and meeting new people around the world. It's been my life for 3 years and it makes me happier than anything else. You'll still see me riding with my friends and at crankworx and sea otter hanging out and doing the events for fun. I don't have any plans to do any freeride or big mountain stuff but you never know!

  • zipeldiablo

    1/9/2013 10:44 PM

    Asthma is a bitch! Had the same all my childhood so i know how u feel :/
    Maybe someday u'll find something though, that's so damn bad cause u got a hell of a style men and there arent many black riders in the world cup :/
    Take care buddy

  • SpokeApparel

    1/11/2013 9:46 PM

    Fully support the decision. Health comes first. Can't enjoy life with that aspect out of balance. You're a champion for roughing it out as long as you have. I too have asthma, even hospitalized for it twice. It's no joke.

  • Shop Mechanic

    1/8/2013 8:47 PM

    It only makes sense that EJ and Mitch would be buddies, no one has more style than those two. Maybe there is a future in freeride for EJ?

  • sailor_74

    1/8/2013 1:27 PM

    @Msloan420 I've been reading a lot about raw vegan (including 80/10/10), there are so many top endurance athletes on this diet.
    I can sympathise here, I have a lung condition which has put me in a similar position of feeling handicapped and knowing I cant go 100%, its for this reason I dont compete either, even though it would only be at local level.
    Not much consolation at the moment but I still feel lucky that I am able to ride.

  • Viv_Bone

    1/8/2013 12:41 PM

    In a different way to the guy below, I cured myself of asthma a long time ago using a special breathing technique. Elliot should look at ways to deal with his asthma so he can keep slaying it. That quad is rad.

  • Frank_Rizzo

    1/8/2013 12:40 PM

    Course Cut = Sick!

  • ERNSTEVERYTHING.COM

    1/8/2013 11:26 AM

    Dirt Merchant pic : making berms into a double.. NIce..!

  • Msloan420

    1/8/2013 10:49 AM

    This is a shame.. Somebody put me in contact with Eliot.. I have heard of athletes reversing asthma if not 100% curing it through a low fat raw vegan lifestyle... before you hate, read 80/10/10 by Dr. Douglas Graham,or Thrive by brendan brazier .... switching to a whole foods plant based diet has done miracles for me and I know it can help everyone that does it right.. BTW i am not just pulling this out of my ass, I am a dh racer and Crossfit athlete so it works for me everyday! Good Luck Eliot look forward too seeing you back on the race track

  • syngltrkmnd

    1/8/2013 12:33 PM

    This sounds intriguing. After reading the interview I am surprised to see his condition seems so untreatable. I sure love his style and his enthusiasm!

  • stephbikes

    1/8/2013 12:37 PM

    Thanks, I sent it to him... I've followed the Thrive stuff before, I like it a lot. Although I never went fully vegan it was helpful while I was training a lot.

  • MattPatt

    1/8/2013 10:21 AM

    If DH was decided on style Elliot, you'd be the champ. Ride on!

  • g1701gst

    1/8/2013 10:18 AM

    I was thinking the altitude might explain why DH is harder than MX for Eliot. Going to miss watching himrace on Yeti for sure. Not that the 303 needed any help looking sexy but seeing it piloted sideways by Eliot was awesome.

  • sideshow

    1/8/2013 9:38 AM

    Wicked bummer news, but can't argue with the reason(s). Hope to see him around and involved somehow.

  • NoahColorado

    1/8/2013 9:24 AM

    Best of luck Eliot! You put on quite the show over the last few seasons.

  • Krispy

    1/8/2013 9:15 AM

    Good luck with whatever you pursue in life, we'll miss you!

    As a rider who has struggled with asthma my whole life, while not as bad as yours, i feel your out of breath pain!