Last September, mountain biking legend Steve Peat outlined his expectations for Santa Cruz Syndicate teammate Josh Bryceland in fairly uncompromising terms:
“In five years time, that little fucker better have won the World Championship.”
The man known to the world as ‘Ratboy’ may not have fulfilled that prophecy just yet, but he’ll be the favourite to take the title in Norway next week after securing the overall World Cup win this season.
It’s been a steep rise to success for the Mancunian since starting his downhill riding career at 10 years old and signing on to ride for Peaty four years later.
“In five years time, that little fucker better have won the World Championship”
In 2007, Josh claimed the World Cup series win as a junior, then went on to join Steve on the Syndicate team before turning 18.
In 2011, he would bag his first podium place in the elite ranks in Canada, and finish 10th in the World Cup rankings. That turned into eighth in 2012, and while set backs led to struggles last year, his natural talent was obvious.
This year started well and got better as it went along. A second place qualification run in Pietermaritzburg showcased his intent. He followed this up with a first World Cup win in Austria and a second in the States.
Finally, this weekend, he kept his cool to ride through the nerves in Meribal and claim the overall title.
Did he expect such success at the start of the season? “No. Far from it,” he told Mpora, with a massive grin on his face.
“I can’t believe it. I remember when I was in the gym after Australia [where he finished second], and my trainer said ‘this season could be yours’. I remember thinking ‘yeah, right’, but yeah – here I am.”
It’s a huge result for Josh, but it wasn’t just him who was stoked about the win either. His fun-loving nature (brilliantly captured in Steve Peat’s web-series ‘This Is Peaty’) and his outspoken personality has made him a firm fan’s favourite on the downhill circuit.
This popularity was very much in evidence in Meribel, where he got louder cheers than anyone except the local boy Loic Bruni.
Of course there’s one supporter who’s had a bigger influence than most. None of this would have been possible without the support of Steve. Bryceland doesn’t hold back in his praise for the man who has been much more than just a teammate throughout his career.
“He’s been so supportive this year – it’s been unreal. The guy can’t do enough to help me.”
“He’s been so supportive this year – it’s been unreal. The guy can’t do enough to help me and the year has just been so good.
“Steve was just buzzing after I won.”
For Peaty, Ratboy’s results this season have come with thanks to hard training and the progression of potential that has always been there.
“It’s been a huge season for Josh,” he said. “He’s got more consistent as the season went on, got himself plenty of points and just been riding really well.
“He’s definitely always had it in him. He won the junior championships and he’s had podiums over the last few years as well.
“[Josh] has been training a lot harder too and he’s got good people behind him – Santa Cruz, a good trainer back home and a good family around him.
“He’s on a roll at the moment and having fun with all the guys in Syndicate. A happy rat is a fast rat – so we’ll keep him happy. Now is his time!”
For Peaty, the results from Ratboy this season have been with thanks to hard training and the potential that has always been there.
It’s been the laughter more than the rad riding that has drawn the bulk of Ratboy’s support over the years though And despite his recent success, this is certainly one rider who won’t be changing any time soon.
At the award ceremony following his first World Cup win in Leogang in June, Josh belted out as much of the national anthem as he knew. But only managed to nail a couple of lyrics in the chorus before declaring: “that’s about the lot really!”
As he waited to go on stage to accept his prize for the overall series win in Meribel, we couldn’t resist asking him the question on everyone’s lips.
“Do you know the national anthem yet Josh?”
“No,” he laughed. “Do I fuck!”
“A happy rat is a fast rat – so we’ll keep him happy!”
He proceeded to climb the podium and have a fair go of it anyway, laughing his way through the bits he didn’t know.
But watching him, we couldn’t help thinking that with this season signalling “the rise of the rat”, he’s going to have to become a whole lot more accustomed to ‘God Save The Queen’ in the not too distant future.