Interview | Shaun Palmer
Find out what Palmer is doing back at Intense
Shaun Palmer re-signs with Intense Cycles
Just as the kettle boiled the phone rang, it's 7:45AM and for some reason I'm in the office. Even after a few emails in the last few days I wasn't expecting Shaun Palmer to be on the other end of the phone, it's 11:45PM in the US and Shaun is here to talk racing.
It's 18 years since Shaun Palmer missed out on the World Championships in Cairns by 15 hundredths of a second to Nico Vouilloz, that was in his first year on the downhill scene and he didn't land with a bang, more of an eruption. That day Palmer changed the face of mountain biking his moto style and attitude was heaved into focus and downhill would never be the same.
The world stood up, shit themselves, then tried to work out what the hell to do.
If Palmer had taken to euro style skin suits and bullet lids then he could well have won that race but in every way it's a good job he didn't. Turning up in MX gear wearing Vans he showed the rest of the riders what was up, no one was expecting Shaun Palmer to race like he did and he then went on to take on the world's best for the next three race seasons. At Big Bear in '99 he won beating his mate Steve Peat by 0.12s and that speed set him up for the World's that never was. Åre, Sweden in '99 marked a pause in his downhill career that lasted 10 years, crashing just before the line Palmer was done, for then at least. Palm came back in 2009 and raced in the US as well as the Mont Sainte Anne and Bromont World Cups, after that season he decided to quit bike racing and turned his mind and hand to other things.
Palm has had a colourful history both on and off his bikes, skis and boards. He's been to the top and way down to the bottom, everything in between has been riding towards something new, right now he's aiming for a peak with Intense. Jeff Steber and Shaun Palmer will be working together to form a new Intense Factory race team for 2015, aboard new bikes we found out what the deal is.
Although we all wish he was, Palmer isn't racing this time round but what he is doing is going back to his roots at with the hand crafted bikes from Temecula. After talking to him this morning Shaun is genuinely excited about working with Jeff Steber again, working towards World Cup domination, just from a different angle.
Dirt: So what have you been doing for the last few years and how did the deal with Intense come about?
Palmer: Pretty much I've not been doing much ya know, I gotta keep my mind and hands busy. We called each other up (Palmer and Steber) got talking bikes and it just kinda happened. It all just fell into place and we just needed to get back together and restart what I did in '96.
Dirt: What's the plan with Intense?
Palmer: Going back home and build up some kids, kinda like Ratboy. Kids in different areas, we're not just looking for US riders. The plan is to build up a kid in slope style and try to build a World Cup team. Just find groms and kids that rip, the kids that have the style that Intense needs.
Dirt: Are you looking just at young riders?
It depends on what we can afford at Intense, young riders or top World Cup riders, right now we're just trying to spread it all around, I love working with kids that rip. I'm just trying to build a team and then I'll be riding a bunch and shit, I'll turn up at a few races myself just because I'll be back on a bike and I've not been on one much in the last ten years.
Dirt: Are you going to be racing again?
Palmer: I'll definitely be riding but I don't know about dropping into a World Cup downhill track, I mean it could happen but it's not my plan right now.
Dirt: Are you going to be a mentor for the riders on the team and if so do you think your experience in other sports will help that?
Palmer: Definitely both, I get to know them then we'll sign them and definitely I'm going to be a mentor. I have a mindset for the top of the race, I've made a bunch of different people in 5 different sports win races because I've been in the their heads when they drop in. I'm good like that and I know what it takes to win, for any kid that needs a bit of support if they're nervous I can help that confidence build in the five minutes before they drop in.
You have to put a perfect run together, it's like a puzzle in your head for that four minutes. It's a big deal, there's fast riders who can win World Cups but never will because upstairs they can't put that together.
Dirt: Who would be on your team if you could pick one now?
Palmer: (laughs) Hmmm, f**k I have to think about that one. (long pause) OK I got it. Kirt Vories, Steve Peat and Rob Warner and we'd need a coach to carry our walking frames 'cos we're all so f**cking old! But yeah there are riders but I can't say names, I got my feelers out there and when I snag them I'll let you know.
Dirt: You have been off the race circuit for a while now, what stands out for you now?
Palmer: I think it's unbelievable that Sam Hill came back with people talking so much shit about him saying it's probably over. If you remember Sam Hill and how fast he was in the day and then you count him out you have to be stupid. Sam Hill's a bad mother f**ker and it's great to see him win again, I love that and he's on flat pedals!
Dirt: Is the plan with Intense to go across more disciplines or just focus on downhill?
Palmer: For sure I'm looking for the kids that grow up to be Zink and Strait but my main goal is definitely to build a factory team for World Cup and be there, that's my goal. It might take a while and it costs money but that's my dream, if that happens, that's bitchin'.
Dirt: Do you think the times you have lost out will have an impact on how you work with riders?
Palmer: That's massive, I could take all my mistakes and explain to a younger rider that this can happen and explain how to win without making those mistakes. I just have to give my input, it's about lines not thinking about a chick or whatever. In that five minutes you have to focus so hard I think I could help a lot of young riders like that.
Dirt: So what bikes are you going to be riding?
Palmer: We are working on something new, I can't say too much at the moment but the team are going to be riding a new bike.
Dirt: What are you looking forward to the most?
Palmer: Just excited to back in the downhill arena, having a a couple of beers with my old buddy Peaty and working towards the World Cup team.
So there you have it, Shaun Palmer is back in downhill. It's one thing being on a team in the World Cup but surely landing a ride with Intense knowing someone like Palmer is there as a mentor could make a big difference. We'll get the lowdown on the team as it develops and give you any updates we hear.
Intense have released a video announcing Palmer's return to the race scene and you can check that out right here.
Want more about Napalm? Hit these links: