British Matt Simmonds and Japanese Kazuki Shimizu move to the Madison Saracen Factory Race Team for the 2014 Downhill World Cup season.
Following an impressive end to the 2013 season it should come as no surprise that Matt Simmonds is hot property on the team-shuffling front, and today’s announcement of his move from CRC/Nukeproof to Madison Saracen, where he will be joining existing members Manon Carpenter and Sam Dale along with Japanese rider Kazuki Shimizu, could perhaps be seen as a logical move. That’s three young British riders brought up on a diet of Dragon Downhill races, modesty and hard graft (we’re not so familiar with Kazuki but we’ll trust team manager Will Longden’s judgement). It’s going to make for a great team.
I’ve known Matt for years – as has anyone who’s been a regular on the UK DH race scene – and have been fortunate enough to see his rise from quiet, hard grafting teen to where he is now: ranked 13th in the 2013 World Cup at close of play and one of the top British riders on the circuit.
Watching Matt put in such a phenomenal performance at the 2013 World Championships in South Africa (where he finished fifth, under four seconds behind winner Greg Minnaar) and then going on to put in some of his best ever World Cup performances soon afterwards (eighth in Norway and 17th in Austria) was just amazing and served as just desserts for a humble rider who is, and has been ever since I’ve known him, the absolute definition of consummate professional.
Short story: Back in the day racing on the youth/junior UK scene I knew Matt for his results and modest nature, as did so many others. However, it was his approach to racing that was striking and will always stick in my memory. Where I thought it extravagant to change tyres, Matt would be completely taking his bike to pieces with his dad in the evening after practice to clean every small working part and ensure its absolute perfect working order. There was no form of parental pampering or motorhome on show either. That’s the sort of attention to detail that makes the basis of a champion and I’m sure Matt will go on to achieve even better things with his new team and fellow members Dale and Carpenter, the three sharing similarities and differences that I’m certain will help each member to continue to improve no end.
I’m really excited to join the Madison Saracen Factory Team for 2014. After riding the Saracen Myst and seeing the support that some great sponsors and team manager Will Longden can offer me, I’m really looking forward to the start of the season and focusing on the racing.
– Matt Simmonds
As for Kazuki Shimizu, the Japanese rider comes from a scene little-reported but with a strong CV including National Champion titles in both the junior and senior ranks at home and also a second-place finish at the 2013 Asian Championship. In his own words, “the riding level in Japan is not as high as in other parts of the world,” however you can bet that the young Japanese rider is ready to do battle and with the faith of such a team behind him he is ready to “show that a Japanese rider can fight at World Cup level”.
Will Longden had this to say on the new signings:
I’ve known Matt for quite a few years and have always been impressed with his attitude towards racing and the potential he has. When I knew he was available I jumped at the chance to invite him onto the team. He is a great addition to the new line up and I’m confident the different personalities we have will complement each other well. Along with Sam, Manon and Kazuki it’s going to be an exciting year for sure! We are all looking forward to the upcoming training camps and first few races of the season.
We at Dirt look forward to seeing the season unfold and are excited to see what this new elite Saracen team (remember there is now also a Development Race Team) can cook up in the form of results. The way in which the existing team worked as a group to win our Run to the Hills competition was impressive (they were buzzing when they arrived at Dirt HQ) and with a little of that spirit we can only expect great things.
Final word: Where does this leave the CRC/Nukeproof team? An up-and-coming British rider, along with an experienced mechanic who worked alongside a certain American racer in 2013, will join Sam Hill and Joe Smith. Stay tuned for the full lowdown.
Photos by Laurence Crossman Emms.