If there's one thing that can be said about the British, it's that we know how to race. Steve Peat, Gee Atherton and Josh Bryceland have all cemented their names amongst the World Elite and paved an illustrious history within Downhill; consistently overachieving against our counterparts in the Alps and the Rockies.
That being said, British domination tailed off somewhat last season. The 2017 race season was the first in well over a decade where a British male did not finish within the top 5 overall. What's more, 2017 marked the first year since 1996 where a British male failed to finish in the top 10 at the World Champs. Thankfully, Tahnee Seagrave was on hand to ensure that the Union Jack remained a podium staple with her 2nd place overall in the Women's.
With the 2018 World Cup race season beginning this week, we take a look at the best that Britain has to offer.
As British mountain biking undergoes a changing of the guard, Danny finds himself as the man with the weight of a nation on his shoulders. Undoubtably the best prospect for an overall, last season was a strange one for Danny. Coming off the back of a sensational string of 4 wins at the tail end of the 2016 season, including taking the World Champs in Val di Sole, many expected more from him in 2017. Bad luck in Rounds 1 and 2 set the tone for a frustrating season, Danny managed to wrestle the season round mid way through with 3 consecutive podiums but the damage was done and a poor result in Val di Sole condemned any hopes of a podium overall. There has long been a feeling that Danny is on the precipice of greatness. Having secured a high-profile move to Madison Saracen during the off-season it feels like now is the time for the Redcar Rocket to crack on if he is ever going to secure the overall.
If Finn Iles is a prodigy, Matt Walker is a strong prospect. The most genuine threat to Finn last season, Matt finished third overall in the Juniors before taking home the World Champs in Cairns ahead of compatriot Joe Breeden. Even more encouragingly, he looks to have effortlessly made the step up to elites, securing the win in a stacked first National Series race of the year, ahead of new team mate Danny Hart. With Danny stepping in as the talisman of Madison Saracen, Matt will be pushing hard to stake his claim as top dog on the team and will be hoping to usurp Danny as the dominant male in British riding.
Laurie Greenland is one of the fastest bike riders in the World, simple as. Overall Junior World Cup Champion in 2015, Greenland shone as a first year elite, securing Silver at the World Champs in Val di Sole with a run that thrust him onto the World Stage. He managed to crack the top 10 last year, taking ninth place overall and snagging a podium in Vallnord. Fresh off his first Elite win at the IXS in Maribor, Greenland looks set for big things in 2018, could this be the year that he takes his first World Cup win?
Brendan Fairclough cut a frustrated figure last season. Unfavourable tracks? Bad luck? Deathgrip distractions? Regardless of the reason, 35th place overall is not what we expect from a man with his level of racing pedigree and talent on a bike. Brendan will be looking for a marked improvement this season.
Scott have delivered on their side; a brand new bike has been put through the ringer during the off-season and is expected to make its official debut in Losinj for Round 1. As ever though, with a new bike come a whole host of issues, and it may take time for Bren to get to grips with the new rig. Regardless, top 20 is surely a minimum requirement for 2018, especially if Bren has World Champs ambitions.
There is no other woman on the race circuit who rides a bike quite like Tahnee Seagrave does; aggressive, stylish, pinned. Rhetoric aside, it is Tahnee's performances that have attracted attention, after a stellar run of results in 2017 that saw her finish second overall by a margin of just 91 points, there is a level of expectation from sponsors and fans alike surrounding her this season. Her main threat for 2018 will no doubt be wearing a Red Bull helmet of her own and drew first blood at Cwmcarn.
Rachel Atherton did not win the World Cup overall in 2017. Rachel Atherton did not win the World Champs in 2017. Such is the anomaly of Rachel Atherton having a medal-less season that we didn't quite know how to react. Of course injuries played their part, but some were suggesting we were witnessing the de-throning of the Queen? Rachel quelled such speculation with the first race of 2018, smoking Tahnee by 3 seconds. She has to be the favourite coming into the season.
Kade had a stunning season last year. The first year Junior secured podiums at all but 2 rounds of the series and took 5th overall. With the likes of Finn Iles, Matt Walker and Kaos Seagrave all having moved up to Elites, expect Kade to be pushing for the Junior overall title. After a tough off season marked by a series of niggling injuries, Kade is fully up to speed and a win at the first Nationals Round in Cwmcarn showed that the pace is there.
Referring to Gee as a wildcard would be a reductionist summary of his past two seasons. Coming into the World Cup injury free, Gee will be looking to right a number of wrongs and podiums will be the expectation.
Phil Atwill - We know the pace is there, but an off-season knee injury and lack of time on the bike may stunt Atwill's progress this season.
Mike Jones - Perennially unlucky, Jones has made the move to MS Mondraker for 2018. A 6th place finish in Mont Sainte Anne last year showed what he is capable of.