11 October 2019

With eight world championship titles to his name, Sam Hill is a true two wheel WA legend and fresh from his third consecutive title in the Enduro World Series (EWS), he is home to celebrate by riding the equally iconic ‘Western Australian’, the four day MTB stage race Cape to Cape (16-20 October)

In 2018, Sam cruised to victory winning four of the six EWS rounds and never looked troubled but his latest title was never so clear cut, and despite being off balanced from the first round he managed to pull off the impossible.

“Last year was a dream year really and everything seemed to go right, but this year was pretty tough. There were a lot of times where mentally I just wanted to give up because I seemed to be going one step forward and two steps backward, and things were getting out of reach. But I never really let it get in the way. I kept focus on the end result and I think that is what got me through the season.”

“It was a pretty crazy year really. I started off pretty sick in the first couple of rounds and then sort of got healthy after that and had a mechanical issue at one round, missed a liaison start time and got a time penalty. It never really seemed like it was going to pan out the way I wanted the year to but coming into the last round I was somehow within striking distance of getting the title. I just did everything I could to make it happen. It was by far the hardest one of the three EWS titles to win and lock down.”

After a tough year overseas there is nothing better for Sam than getting back home to the beauty of Western Australia. And there is no better way of seeing WA than on a MTB with your family and friends pedalling for four days at Cape to Cape through the stunning South West.

“I did Cape to Cape for the first time three years ago. I had heard a lot about it every year and John Waddell was telling I should come and do it, so eventually I gave it a go and I absolutely loved it. The following year I couldn’t make it, but last year I talked some friends who had never ridden MTB into signing up. For me it is more relaxed. Obviously it is not a world round or a world title, but it is a new challenge compared to what I regularly do. It is a fun, social great event. You can push it as fast as you want and try and race the top guys, or you can ride along with your mates and enjoy it that way.”

“This year I have talked a few more friends, who have never really done MTB stuff before, into doing it. They have been training for it and my wife is going to do it for the first time ever. Plus my brother, his wife and my dad are doing it, so I am really looking forward to it.”

“Being a four day stage race it is a different sort of fitness definitely, sometimes we have a two day EWS round and those are pretty tough but four days in a row…by the third day you know about it and by the fourth you don’t want to even look at your seat. But when you do finish Cape to Cape it is like a big sense of accomplishment.”

For as long as Sam can remember he has been riding bikes, starting of racing motocross when he was young, then BMX and ultimately MTB.

“I have an older brother and he and his friends started getting into mountain biking and I went to a local dual slalom as a spectator and the next chance I had to do a mountain bike race I was there. I started off doing downhill and cross country in all the state rounds but my main passion was the downhill, so I took it from there.”

“I always set myself goals, even from the early age with my mountain biking. I wanted to be a State champion and I achieved that. Mum and Dad took me and my older brother over to Nationals and I was still under 17 and my goal was to try and win but realistically having never been over east, and coming from WA, it is such a big thing to go over there. But I actually did go over there and won it. The following year I did the National season and I had some good results and won the National series and that was the first year I got selected to race for Australia as a junior at the World Championship in 2001.”

“At the time Scott Sharples, an ex pro racer who grew up in Perth, was the Australian downhill coach and he took me under his wing and mentored me for a good few years and helped me get to the next level and overseas. You definitely need someone to give you that push, it hard to go with focus and to have that right frame of mind and know where you want to go with it and not get distracted by other things.”

In 2002, as a 17 year old, Sam won the Junior World Champion Downhill, Kaprun, Austria cleaning up the following year with another stunning win in Lugano Switzerland. In the senior ranks he was equally impressive winning the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships 2006, Downhill in Rotorua, New Zealand, repeating the feat in 2007 at Fort William, Scotland and again in 2010 at Mont Sainte Anne, Canada. Sam’s switch to the high pressure, high intensity Enduro World Series has been equally remarkable and three consecutive world titles puts him in very rare company.

Sam is looking forward to enjoying the off season and Cape to Cape is just the thing to be sharing with, family, friends and wife Bridget making her MTB race debut.

“I definitely think Bridget will make it through the four days. There will be some dark times at certain points of the days but I am super proud of her. She has never even been interested in MTB until earlier this year when she set the goal. Obviously when I am away it is a bit harder for her to get out and ride, so when I have been home she has been trying to get and ride as much as she can. I think she will enjoy it and make it through, which is the main thing.”

“After Cape to Cape I will take a little bit of time off the bike and spend it with the family and just have a break and reset. Then focus on training for next year. I love being home especially with a young family, it is hard to be away racing. This year I am making having a break from the bike a priority. That down time is important.”

While the GIANT team of Johnston and Odams will be setting a frantic pace at the front, Sam said he and Tim Bennett are no threat in the pairs competition.

“I don’t think them boys have anything to worry about with me. I would love to get up there and race with those guys but I would need to do some serious Cape to Cape style training to be up there. Tim is a great rider and he has been putting in a few hours getting ready for it, so I have to try and keep some of my form until we get there. I have no idea how we will go but we will having a crack and enjoying ourselves,” he laughed.