Deep in discussion, Brendan Fairclough and Olly Wilkins talk Peaty.
The back of a ‘rattle-can’ black Mercedes estate was how I found myself in Sheffield on Saturday night. It was from this position that I first witnessed a theme to be repeated in each and every conversation I had during what ended up being a very long night. Steve Peat is a legend.
Two riders, Brendan Fairclough and Olly Wilkins occupied the front seats and were heading north for different reasons. Brendan has a history with Steve having raced with him on Orange back in the day. Bren said when he thinks of Steve and racing the image is of Peaty on a yellow 224, imprinted if not burned into Fairclough’s memory. Olly was there for different reasons and the conversation went something like this:
Brendan – “I get why you want to see it but I’m surprised about just how much you wanted to drive all this way to see it”
Olly – “But it’s Steve Peat ‘dog’, I grew up with him and he is just a legend”
Lawlor and Porter letting off some steam at the party.
Clay Porter and John Lawlor not only took on a huge logistical task in the production of Won’t Back Down but they also picked up a massive responsibility to tell Steve Peat’s story to the world. I don’t want to detail the film turn by turn but I can give an idea of what it’s like and how many people including myself felt on Saturday night.
Steve’s life has been truly amazing, from honest roots in Chapeltown grew one of the giants of our sport and the sense of unity in the Pennine theatre from those there to see his story was honestly palpable. The film documents Steve’s life but not necessarily from his point of view, Clay and John have talked to a lot of people to get this film together and they perfectly crafted the questions asked to bring to life the history of the big man.
Peaty and Olly. Only a few beers, honest.
There are names that stand out in Peaty’s career, Nico Vouilloz his nemesis, Shaun Palmer, the man that brought attitude and money to the sport and Sam Hill who shocked riders into realising how fast downhill tracks could be ridden. That list names a small number but no one stands out more than Jason McRoy who remains a hero of mine and many other riders. The images and words that explain his importance to both Steve and his comrades was both detailed and moving. Back in the 90’s they were a solid band of brothers and when Jason died a huge character and amazing rider left the bike world. As the old footage and interviews played out on screen mine were not the only tears being shed.
Signed photo in the silent auction at the Won’t Back Down premiere.
Emotion and commitment are two themes that run deep through downhill history and Peaty embodies both of them. When we relived the moment he washed out on that left hand turn at Worlds in Les Gets, 2004, the reaction of the audience was as if no one had seen it before. We were in, drawn into the life, the tension and mesmerised by unending commitment.
Peaty is downhill racing, he has been there since the very start and it shows. From watching him pinning it at Penshurst way back when to his triumphant win in Canberra where the trophy that had eluded him for so long found it’s way to a mantle piece in Sheffield. Everything has progressed so much and that is evident throughout the film. From the days of hard tails and cantilever brakes to the carbon V10 he rides today, seeing how racing has changed and how Steve has adapted is something of an education every mountain biker in the world needs to see.
Party fuel, Won’t Back Down ale.
Won’t Back Down is not just a film about a rider but a documentary of our sport, the focus on Steve only serves to illustrate how important he has been in the short history of downhill racing. The film took me through every conceivable emotion that can be experienced through a lifetime, the elation of winning and the agony of losing are both injected repeatedly into the sequences that form this masterpiece. The World Championship title resurfaces throughout and it is the one thing that Peaty has been so close to on so many occasions, 17 years chasing a dream just shows the commitment Peaty has to racing his bike. He loves racing and the joy it gives him is shown in an interview shot from the backseat of a car after that very race, Peaty is in tears on route back to his family, the last piece of the jigsaw is slotted into place.
A well deserved standing ovation as the film finishes.
Rousing applause filled the theatre at a few points throughout the one hour and fifty minute epic but the most amazing sight was the standing ovation as the film finished, it went on, and on. Steve is deservedly loved by his fans, fellow racers and sponsors, Won’t Back Down will show you why, go and watch it when the opportunity presents itself and be prepared to laugh, cry and shout at the screen as you witness the greatest career mountain biking has ever seen.
(iPhone) Photos – John Lawlor, Dave Jaquin and Steve Jones