Eliot Jackson Retires from World Cup Downhill Racing
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
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  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.
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.
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!"
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?
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.