Mick Hannah - fresh starts
Sick Mick on why he's as motivated as ever as he heads into 2017
The launch of the Polygon Square One saw Mick Hannah a relieved man. He refuses to even comment on the Collosus enduro bike it replaces, safe to say he wasn't a fan.
Photos: Dennis Yuroshek
The new bike is a different matter though. For the first time he's genuinely excited about having a tool to use at the EWS. Sure, a cynic would have to think he's paid to say things like this but he's a plain spoken Aussie - you can't help but feel it's genuine.
The EWS is often (falsely) touted as a graveyard for retiring downhillers and if Mick does go that way, it certainly won't be because he's done with World Cups. Downhill remains his passion and he's still right at the top sixteen years after his first Elite World Cup.
This year he has a bigger motivation than ever - a home World Champs. Except, when we say "home", we don't mean the same country, or even the same state, but the track Mick grew up riding. Hungry simply just doesn't do this man's motivation justice.
We caught up with Mick at the launch of the Polygon Square One to discuss the new season, new sponsors, new team mates and, now, a new bike.
How much had you ridden the Square One before today?
Hardly any actually. I rode it for about 20 minutes, on a recovery spin after one of the days of training at Crankworx. I probably wasn’t supposed to have it out in public but I wanted to at least have ridden it before I come to a press camp. It’s really fresh for me.
How was your first ride?
I was really impressed. I climbed maybe 4,000 feet - you forget that you’re on such a long travel bike. It’s heavier than an XC bike for sure but it’s just so efficient, so easy to ride. The one thing I noticed is that it maintains your position so you’re not really sagging in the rear as your weight goes back.
Once I pointed it downhill it felt like a downhill bike, not weight wise, you still know that you’re on a light bike, but in terms of the handling, the traction, the control under braking and the confidence that you have quite early on.
On super tight corners it still felt like kind of a big bike, it certainly didn’t feel as big as my downhill bike but it was really just the tight hairpin switch backs it felt a bit awkward - but then any bike would I guess. Once the corners open up, just a little bit, then I felt a lot of confidence, a lot of traction.
How have you set it up?
Darrell (Voss designer) just said to open up all the dampening so I did and then I finished out the press camp without thinking about the suspension set up at all.
Would this encourage you to race it in the Enduro World Series?
That’s a definite thing that changed for me. Having a tool like this made me really interested in the EWS. I’ve done a couple of events in the past and being on the bike that long is super uncomfortable and I just haven’t really been that interested in it. I like riding my bike but my passion’s downhill.
On the Square One I got home and I was tired and hungry after I’d been out for three or four hours but I already couldn’t wait to go riding again. I’ve been really spoiled and overstimulated with the best bikes you can get for the last 15 years so to have that feeling again is really cool.
Let's move on to the downhill. World Champs must be a big goal for your season this year. How are you preparing for it?
World Champs in Cairns - it's just amazing. The track has obviously changed a lot but there's small parts to it that were in the first ever downhill race I did in my life.
It's certainly a special opportunity to have been on the circuit this long and still be competitive and hopefully race World Champs at home. Australia has quite a competitive team so you're not guaranteed to be on it but I'm working a lot on my training and set up to hopefully get the best result possible in Cairns.
Can we expect to see some interesting bikes at Cairns?
The thing with Cairns is there's a perception that it's kind of more mellow and pedally. There is a bit of a pedal at the end for fifteen seconds but there are sections on there that you need to have the right amount of suspension for - it's a really high speed course.
I'm not sure what people are going to do or what people are going to come up with, we're obviously working on our own plan and trying to work out the fastest way down the hill. But it just depends. Development takes time, having an idea and having a wish doesn't always come to pass. We'll do our best to make that happen before World Champs but we'll see, you'll just have to watch.
What other tracks stand out for you this year?
I always love Fort William but it's a brutal place. Fort William and I have quite a fierce battle going on in my career - I've been there thirteen times and I've been injured six so I think I'm winning technically. 7:6. The ratio's not great.
How are you feeling coming into Lourdes?
Yeah my body's all good now. I've had a lot of time on my bike than in the past couple of years. I'm enjoying my bike, I'm enjoying travelling, I'm enjoying training just living the dream! Being in that headspace normally means it's going to be a good year.
Kenta Gallagher credits you for getting him on the UR Team, what's your side of the story?
I didn’t know Kenta that well but I met him at a race in Scotland in Glencoe and just briefly and then I hung out with him in Cairns last year and then I've seen him on the circuit from time to time. I always try to say "hi" to the new guys because it takes a little bit to get to know everyone.
Basically, we just had a meeting at the end of the year and Cous Cous said if it didn’t work out with Andrew (Neethling) who would I choose. Kenta was my first choice so I was really stoked that it worked out.
Now we’ve spent the first month together at team camp, I've seen him interact with the whole team and also had him around for a "bit of banter", as he says, it’s been a lot of fun.
It's a shame for him that he has a bit of an injury but as you know, I've had a couple and they come and go. It's the beginning of a two year contract for Kenta so he has plenty of time. He works hard, he has a good attitude and it's really not going to be a problem, he'll forget about it by the end of the year I reckon.
How are you getting on with the new Suntour suspension?
The Suntour's really impressive. I was a bit hesitant when it first started coming up in conversation, Suntour doesn't have the highest level reputation. We tested the fork right out of the box without doing any sort of set up. I only did maybe two or three runs in Whistler last year but I was already really impressed and felt just as confident on my bike.
Bos is really good for stability and generating speed on the course but you sacrifice a lot of comfort. With the Suntour you still have that stability and that confidence but it was way more comfortable on my hands. That was the first thing I noticed.
Obviously over time and over the winter we've been testing and I've learned a lot more about it and it's certainly opened my mind a lot. It was a dream of mine to work with Bos since I was a kid so I was really thankful for that opportunity but with Suntour I'm really impressed with the product. We're working together on different ideas and always looking for ways to improve the experience on the bike and shorten the time on the track.
Is there an advantage to being the only major team on Suntour?
It's always a bonus to have that kind of focus if you are the biggest team that's supporting a company like Suntour. It's a similar sort of thing with Polygon, over the last five years we've developed their reputation and shown that we are a big team, we get great results and Polygon is a serious brand. Suntour is also a serious brand and they can compete. They're not just an OEM brand, they can produce product that can win races.
Any last words?
Thanks to my sponsors including Bell, Polygon, Suntour, Kenda, Alpinestars, E13, VP, Spank, ODI, Box, Reverse, KMC, Direttissima and Galfer.
Go ride your bike!