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There was nothing the entire mountain bike community wanted more than for Steve Peat to win a World Championship. With a long list of 2nd place World Championship finishes, Steve Peat, who was one of the oldest racers in the start gate, finally earned his own rainbow stripes in 2009 at the short-but-grueling downhill course in Canberra, Australia.

Steve Peat, UCI World Championships, Canberra, Australia 2009. Photo by Sven MartinPreparation
Was winning World Championships a specific goal for you the year you won?
It was just like any other year, I trained to win races. I would say that I focused on it in the off-season a little bit more than usual, but I had an injury problem a month before Worlds and kind of forgot about it as my goal.

Did you approach your winning race differently than other World Cup races that year?
Yes, it was a weird one for me in Canberra. Everything I did seemed to play into my hands, my confidence built but no one knew it.

Discuss your bike setup compared to what some of the competition was running at Canberra.
I decided to stick with my usual World Cup-winning Santa Cruz V10. Everybody and their dogs were changing things, going for short travel bikes, getting crazy with set-ups, but myself and Greg (Minnaar) just stuck to what we knew worked. We did go for lighter parts, smaller discs, and I used a slick rear tyre, but we didn't mess with geometries or get so involved that it messed our heads up.

What is one piece of your preparation that you feel is unique to you and no one else?
I think the way that I felt coming into the race was unique for me...I felt terrible. I had a round of golf with my sports physiologist and told him I felt like I was just going to make up the number because I had been carrying the injury and couldn't train right. He was cool about it and just gave me an email when I got out to Canberra that helped me build the confidence back up.

Did you work closely with your National team and coaches when you won?
I worked well with Will Longden. He was working for the British federation and he played a big part in me reaching the split times of all the other guys after seeding run times were established. I went slow on purpose so know one knew or even expected anything from me.

How important was your preparation in securing a victory the year you won?
It was huge, like any race, but my prep was not ideal. I did the work in the off-season but couldn't fine tune it before the big day because of my injury.
Seems like Peaty wasn't the only person stoked on his World Champs win. Photo by Sven MartinYour Victory
As a World Champion, I imagine you think about your winning run often.  Let's break down the experience a bit...How did you feel the night before your race run?
I felt quietly confident. I knew I was on everyone's pace from all the splits and I knew I was faster than everyone on the top of the track.

How did you feel riding up the lift?
More confident. I was just ticking off the things that help me prepare. I was in a good mood, laughing and joking with the lift guys, my mechanic and probably pissing off the riders who were trying to be more serious than me.

What was it like rolling into the start gate?
To be honest, I was just going through the motions. I have been in that position plenty of times and this one was no different. I dealt with the pressure by just going through the track in my head, ticking off each corner, jump, and pedalling section...just going through the motions.

Recount your run in detail.
I knew I was fast on the top so I went for it from the gate. I hit my lines perfectly and carried more speed out of the top rocks than I had all week in practice. When this happens you get a boost and the earlier it happens on a race run the better. From there on everything just flowed. I was getting backsides perfectly and popping out of turns in the perfect gears to get on the gas instantly. The only bit I was disappointed with was my last, long pedal section. I knew I was off with the lack of training from the month before, but I dug deep and tried to give my all.

When did you realize you had the winning run?
Not until the last guy crossed the line. I don't like to count my chickens before they hatch, so I tried to play it cool. I wasn't worried about Sam or Gee for some reason, but I knew Greg was strong on this track, especially the finish straight. I was surprised how much time I had put into everyone in the top section so that gave me a great feeling and hope that I could do it.

What do you remember most about the day?
The overwhelming feel of relief when I finally knew I had the title. I just wanted to be by myself for a moment but everyone was jumping on me and going crazy!!
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The Payoff
Did winning a World Championship effect how raced after the victory?
It certainly effected my training in the off-season after the win. I wouldn't say I gave out firing for the following season!

How did your victory effect your career and your future with mountain biking?
Too much happened to me that day to put down on this page. Mountain biking has been great to me and I am just happy I could win this damned race and give something back to the sport I love.

World Champs in General
Which World Championship that you didn't win is most memorable to you?
Les Gets, France. Long story, but I came back from a broken collarbone 4 weeks before the race and qualified first. I was last man down and up by 2 seconds until the last turn. I came in too hot and wadded it up. I cried at that race and the only other time I have cried from racing was in Canberra.

Earthed 2 section of Les Gets, 2004...the drama starts to unfold around the 4 minute mark...but watch it all. This may be one of mountain biking's greatest race video sections. (the audio is a little off).
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As downhill mountain biking racing grows, do you think the World Championships will always be the ultimate title?
I still have a huge soft spot in my body for the overall World Cup. It means consistency and all-around goodness! The World Champs title means so much to everyone else. People who don't know our sport just ask who is World Champ?

Revisit the day with this candid interview of Steve Peat by Sven Martin

Steve Peat, just moments after realizing he finally earned the rainbow stripes. Photo by Damian Breach
The King will be reading this, so leave your comments about his incredible career!

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sspomer sspomer 11/9/2011 8:47 AM

6 comments newest first

May sound kinda gay, but I still get goosebumps thinking about that race and seeing the pic of Steve smiling in the back of the truck. What a moment, what a champion!

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The first name that comes to my mind when I hear the word "legend" is Steve Peat. He could have not won that title and it would still ring the same. Hell, Chuck Norris looks up to him!

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One of the greatest moments ever. I was one of the first to lead the track invasion as Gee crossed the line having not knocked off peaty.
A true champion and just so deserving. Peaty is an inspiration for all us older blokes!

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Steve's story of finally clinching the Title is definitely the best story of all the world champs. Seeing the Earthed clip from les Gets makes it even more satisfying.

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I cried tears of joy when Peaty won. To watch a man chase an elusive title for so long and win at an age when everyone thought it not possible. Magic.

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