Was it just assumed that once Sam Hill went to racing enduro full time that he'd hang up his downhill bike for good? We definitely made that assumption. There was sadness to think that the quiet, powerful Aussie wouldn't be dangling his foot out through nasty downhill turns on a bike with a double crown fork and head angle in the low 60's. Then in 2017, he dropped in to the World Cup DH at Fort William with a strategy of qualifying for World Champs in Cairns, Australia. His Fort William result was 18th...completely respectable and a career-highlight for many riders, but Sam was 17 seconds off the winning pace. The hopes of a stealthy, secret comeback seemed unlikely to us as fans, but he earned points and was selected for the World Champs team and we salivated at seeing Sam on the big bike again.
- word by gordo, audio interview by Sven Martin, cover photo by @maddogboris
Later that season, Mr. Hill showed up to the controversial Cairns World Champs DH course on his...enduro bike. Sigh. Now, it totally made sense that he'd run the bike he's been using the entire season, especially on at a track that wasn't steep, wasn't too tech and had a ton of pedaling on it, but it's just not a DH race without the aforementioned dual-crowned, slacked-out steed beneath the rider. There was plenty of discussion about advantages or disadvantages of running a "little bike" and the anticipation was high, just as it is any time Sam is at a race.
Sam dropped in fairly early for his World Champs run and smoked it. He held the hot seat long enough that there was plenty of reason to think he may take this thing or at least win a medal. By the time the fastest of the fast full-time downhillers crossed the line, Sam ended up 6th. Incredible for not racing DH, but the result had that asterisk next to it because of bike choice and debate about how "real" the track was. The crux, however, was that this was all taking place during the 2017 EWS season that Sam ended up winning. Impressive to say the least.
When I made the switch to Enduro I never said I wasn't going to race downhill again. -Sam Hill
Fast forward to five days ago and Sam clinches another Enduro World Series overall victory in Finale Ligure. The Aussie is on fire, racing aggressively but with calculation and experience on his side. During his post-race interview, Sven Martin asks Sam if he plans on racing any more downhill races. Sam says, "when I made the switch to Enduro I never said I wasn't going to race downhill again." Music to our freaking ears! Sam continues to hint at showing up to a World Cup or three and trying for World Champs over the next couple years. Even more music to our ears. Sam Hill at Mont-Sainte-Anne (site of the 2019 World Champs) would be all-time, regardless of result.
Hear it straight from Sam himself
Does Sam have what it takes to challenge for a World Cup win. We honestly don't care about a result as long as he's racing, but we're secretly hoping and believing he can do it. What do you think?
View replies to: Could Sam Hill Still Win at Downhill?