CW’s top 30 British riders of 2009: No. 6

No. 6: Steve Peat
Last year’s position: 44th

The day Steve Peat thought might never come finally arrived in September. After several near misses, and a long career during which he has frequently been regarded as one of the finest the sport has ever known, the rider from Sheffield was finally world downhill mountain bike champion.

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After losing out to fellow British rider Gee Atherton in Val di Sole last year – his fourth silver medal – he could have been forgiven for thinking the dream would never come true.

But in Canberra, Australia, the 35-year-old finally did it. Now an already gliterring career also boasts a rainbow jersey no one in the world could argue he doesn’t deserve.

“I had definitely started to think it was destined never to happen,” Peat told CW. “Every year in the run-up to the Worlds I get a lot of messages from people wishing me luck and saying that this year will be my year. I thought ‘here we go again’, not in a bad way because that support is fantastic, but in the past I have put pressure on myself because I don’t want to let people down, my fans and sponsors.

“I wouldn’t say the World Championships had become a mental block but I definitely made an effort to go there in a relaxed state. I’d had a couple of weeks off with a bad back and then a couple of weeks when I wasn’t at my best so I wasn’t expecting anything, so that definitely helped.”

Dr Robert Copeland, a sports psychologist from Sheffield Hallam University, sent Peat a series of emails while he was in Australia, and the motivational messages helped too, said Peat.

“In practice I just hit all my lines and I knew I was going quicker than everyone else at the top of the track. The key was the bottom part, where it levelled out a bit and you had to pedal because I knew others were better prepared for it than me,” Peat said.

Fourth from last to ride, Peat set the best time, which was the most important part of the job done. Then he had to wait as Sam Hill of Australia missed it. Greg Minaar got within 0.05 of a second of Peat’s time – less than the blink of an eye. Reigning champion Atherton was sixth, and the world title was Peat’s.

“I just felt elation, relief, it was pretty crazy really, and it took a month to sink in, partly because I’d been trying to do it so long. It’s definitely worth the wait. Now I get to be world champion for a year.”

2000 – Sierra Nevada
Second to American Myles Rockwell

2001 – Vail
Second to French rider Nicolas Vouilloz

2002 – Kaprun
Second again to Vouilloz

2008 – Val di Sole
Has to settle for silver behind compatriot Gee Atherton

1st – World Downhill Mountain Bike Championships, Canberra
1st – World Cup Downhill round at La Bresse, France
1st – Word Cup Downhill round at Vallnord, Andorra
1st – Lisboa Downtown, Lisbon, Portugal

Steve Peat