We need Sheffield’s finest to take control now.

Column by Geoff Waugh.


Illustration by chriswatson.cc

As I write this the UK is in turmoil. The Internet is in meltdown as ordinary people vent their spleens, arguing about who should be our new leader. Gangs of angry and frustrated youths roam the woods and forests searching for a likely-looking leave campaigner to berate. There’s a placard-wielding mob outside a house near Sheffield chanting ‘remain, remain’. And, all because Steve Peat is quitting this year.

It hardly seems true, does it? Peaty, our Peaty, is stepping down to make way for younger racers and to pursue other goals. There are those that want the affable Yorkshireman to remain in the game, but his decision is made. There will be no referendum; Steve is to leave. Well, leave top-flight racing at least.

Deep in our hearts we know the feel of dirt beneath our wheels is too much of an addiction to quit. Going cold turkey is impossible.

Whatever Steve chooses to do post-racing I’m sure he will remain a mountain biker. Perhaps to continue finding and nurturing young UK talent, and bringing them onto the world stage to mimic some of his successes. Look at what the Syndicate did for the likes of Mark Beaumont, Neil Donoghue and Josh Bryceland.

Peaty has been an institution in UK mountain biking, probably for as long as you can remember. He has exported our unique brand of style (and mayhem, thanks to mates such as Rob Warner and Shaun Palmer) to the four corners of the globe, if the globe were square-shaped. You only have to be at a World Cup race to see the fans queuing for autographs to appreciate how big a name he is. And Peaty the brand will continue.

I don’t remember the first time I saw Steve race, but I do recall watching the collective jaws drop when he came down to Penhurst, in Kent. The course went straight down the fall-line of a small hill, and Peaty rode it on his rigid Kona with bar ends, pedalling where everyone else coasted and hung on for grim death. It became the talking point of the weekend. Indeed the tiny plot of dirt in the Garden of England held enough big draw events to attract Peaty and his merry band of men to plunder the prize pot. And when the podiums ended, the carnage began, even if his leg was in a full plaster cast! It was Jackass before Johnny Knoxville was out of nappies.

Next time was at Margam Park, the classic XC course in South Wales. Steve was riding for Saracen by then and was ‘racing’ cross-country. I say racing, because I clearly saw him chatting into his mobile phone on a climb.

Through the domestic ranks it was clear he was a talent and had a drive to win. In the pre-Internet days we had to wait for results to come in from whatever source possible, and that usually meant at least a day or more wait. Riding for global brand GT, Steve got serious. Racing against all the big names really laid the foundations for modern day downhill racing, people like Nico Vouilloz, Francois Gachet, Mickael Pascal, Myles Rockwell, the Misser brothers and the Balauds. Steve turned the wick up until he reaped the reward with his first World Cup win in America. The news filtered across the pond, and bunting was hung on every trail from Greno Woods to Nantmwar Quarry.

As the England soccerball team are humiliated by Iceland in the Euro 2016 finals, it is clear that the former plumbing apprentice could have put some backbone and national pride into that lily-livered side; a stalwart centre-half rallying his troops.

And as the UK searches for a new political leader amid the biggest upheaval it has witnessed for decades, I have decided to start a campaign of my own. It’s called ‘Peaty for PM’.

Are you in or out?