To retire at 24 is unusual. To retire mid-way through a season at 24 when you’re fourth in the world and still winning nationals is unheard of.
That was the difficult decision Manon Carpenter had to make in August this year. She had long been a young star of British downhill with a World Cup overall and World Championship under her belt. While she would never re-mine that rich vein of form from 2014, she also never seemed stretched to deliver the consistent podiums of the past three years. Energy drink sponsors, an new team courting her and mainstream media recognition, it seemed Carpenter had it all but suddenly, shockingly she turned her back.
The worm was first implanted in her head after her race run crash in Val Di Sole last year. Clattering through the braking bumps on a rough, open corner, she crumpled into her bars and then over them. It was a huge knock to her confidence, and one she would never fully recover from. Less than a year later, she would turn her back on racing at the highest level.
Now the season has finished, we were able to talk candidly with Carpenter about her decision and what the future might hold for her.
At the start of this year, you got your BDS win and three World Cup podiums so you must have been feeling good coming into the season?
After the crash at World Champs, I enjoyed working towards getting back to full health and preparing for the season to come. I felt good at Lourdes and had a pretty good qualifying. I think the first sign of things was before finals when loads of wind picked up. All the pits were blowing around as we went up for our runs and I think that spooked me a bit – I had it in my head that I didn’t want to crash first race.
In the start hut, they told us to be careful of the step down at the end of the track, but it’s racing and you have to do it. There wasn’t really an option really not to jump it you just have to go for it. That was probably the first thing that spooked me a bit that year.