2014: The Year British Mountain Bikers Showed the World Who's Boss

Champions Manon Carpenter and Josh Bryceland were just the tip of the iceberg...

Manon Carpenter shows off her trophy in Meribel. Photo: Laurence Crossman-Ems
Manon Carpenter shows off her trophy in Meribel. Photo: Laurence Crossman-Ems

What a season it’s been for British downhill mountain biking.

Manchester lad Josh ‘Ratboy’ Bryceland and Welsh warrior Manon Carpenter took home the World Cup overall titles, and a total of 10 UK riders finished in the top 25 in the men’s elite in Meribel. Those stats are quite something.

The new guard are rising. Both the 21 year old Manon and 24 year old Ratboy only won their first World Cup races this year. And now that both titles are in British hands that don’t belong to the Athertons, things are getting very interesting indeed.

“I didn’t really change up anything massively from the year before but I’ve tried to just make every little thing that I’ve been doing better.”

“I had a few goals at the start of the season,” said Manon, sipping on a celebratory beer after securing her title win. “I wanted to win in South Africa and at Fort William, and I wanted to be consistent, but I hadn’t thought about the overall.”

The women’s champion is one of the stunning success stories of the year. Having won the overall as a junior in 2011, she went on take her first podium place in 2012 and run top three races at all but one of the six stops on the 2013 world tour.

Back then though, she struggling to surpass Rachel Atherton and Emmeline Ragot to turn those podium performances into wins.

Manon Carpenter launches into one of Meribel's technical rock sections. Photo: Tristan
Manon Carpenter launches into one of Meribel’s technical rock sections. Photo: Tristan

This year she went head to head with this experienced duo once more, and this time came out slamming – returning from a stern training regime off-season to win in South Africa on the first stop of the tour.

She told Mpora: “South Africa was one of my goals because I knew I can do well on that track, so, yeah, it started off well and it’s been good to carry on from that.

“I didn’t really change up anything massively from the year before but I’ve tried to just make every little thing that I’ve been doing better.

“It’s really, really sweet to have won. Loads of people have been asking about how it would feel to win, but I’ve just not been thinking about it.

A stunning showing from Matt Simmonds in Meribel saw the rider qualify in first in the men’s elite ranks and eventually finish in second.

“I said at the start of the year that I just wanted it to be close between everyone and keep it exciting. We’ve all had a few wins and there have been some really close races, so it’s been a really good year of racing.”

Rachel Atherton and Manon Carpenter may be rivals, but they're also mates. Photo: Laurence Crossman-Ems
Rachel Atherton and Manon Carpenter may be rivals, but they’re also mates. Photo: Laurence Crossman-Ems

Certainly, fending off Rachel Atherton and Emmeline Ragot was no easy task this term, and with the former taking the win in the final race of the season, it’s clear that she isn’t ready to hand over her crown for good just yet.

Manon stomped it this season though. And with London born Tahnee Seagrave, who was the junior world champ last year, finishing in fifth place overall as well, the future is undoubtedly looking bright for the Brits.

Carpenter isn’t the only UK born rider on the Madison Saracen downhill team who had a lot of fun in France either.

Matt Simmonds on his way to a barnstorming finish in Meribel. Photo: Laurence Crossman-Ems
Matt Simmonds on his way to a barnstorming finish in Meribel. Photo: Laurence Crossman-Ems

A stunning showing from Matt Simmonds in Meribel saw the rider qualify in first in the men’s elite ranks and eventually finish in second. A sick sign for the strong 27 year old who has been pushing to progress from top 10 finishes for the past few years.

“I’ve been building for a while,” he said. “I’ve been getting closer each week and I had just come from a good few days riding down in Morzine, doing some technical stuff out there. To come from that to this – which is a technical track – was good.

“I wasn’t expecting to do so well, so it does give me quite a lot of confidence. I can ride the techy stuff now just as well as the best in the world. I’m not just a big powerhouse!

“I can ride the techy stuff now just as well as the best in the world. I’m not just a big powerhouse!”

“We’ve got world champs coming up now so my confidence is high for that. I like the track and I did well last year, so let’s hope I can keep the ball rolling.”

Indeed, Simmonds was the top Brit at the World Championships last year, but with Josh Bryceland now on top, and Gee Atherton, Danny Hart and Greg Williamson all in the top 10 in Meribel, it will be no simple task to emulate that feat again next week.

Even if things do not pan out in Norway though, Matt Simmonds now knows he can compete with the best, and he’s got all the inspiration he needs to get going in the off-season.

It’s hugely encouraging for British mountain biking as whole. Bryceland and Carpenter may be the best of the Brits for now, and it surely won’t be easy to topple either of them.

But one thing’s for sure – there’ll be no lack of fierce British competitors trying to do just that in future.

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