February 27, 2024
Reece Wilson: Downhill World Champion says he loves life 'on the limit'

Reece Wilson: Downhill World Champion says he loves life ‘on the limit’

“I like to compare it to rugby,” Wilson tells CNN Sport. “If you replace all the people in a rugby field with metal poles or trees and asked everybody to run as fast as they could, I think not many people would want to do it.”

But being on the same course doesn’t make any difference to the 25-year-old.

“You have to turn off and treat it like a new track and start afresh,” he says.

“For me, it’s a new year. It’s a new start. We have a new bike. There’s a lot of new things going on. So a completely new mindset, and you just start again from where you are this year.”

In addition to Leogang, there are four other global stops on the circuit, including Les Gets, France, which features a new, never-ridden-before track.
Throughout these five events, each rider will try to collect as many points as possible to be crowned the Overall downhill world cup winner.
Beside downhill, the Mountain Bike World Cup also has other disciplines, including cross country and four-cross.
The World Cup season also features a World Championships event, a one-off race which this year will take place in Val del Sole, Italy.

Motocross at six

Wilson has been addicted to adrenaline for as long as he can remember.

He started motocross (off-road motorcycle racing) at the age of six and has always loved “going that fast and being so close to the ground and so close to danger.”

But when he started seeing all his friends leaving school early and going to compete at the European level, he started doubting that motocross was the right sport for him.

Seven years ago, a friend introduced him to downhill mountain biking, and just two years later, he became the British downhill champion.

“After that, I kind of thought, wow!” says Wilson. “This is maybe what I was meant to do. So I again just jumped both feet into that … I just put my head down and absolutely attacked riding mountain bikes.”

Within three years, Wilson says he went from never having ridden a downhill bike to being one of the top 25 riders in the world.

Wilson performing at UCI DH World Championships in Leogang on October 11, 2020.

Seeing rainbows

Heading into 2020, Wilson had only placed in the top ten once, but on the final day of the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, he jumped straight to the top of the podium, conquering the Leogang track in just three minutes and 51 seconds — three seconds faster than second place.

“Going from that sort of place to winning status was like a bit of a shock for me,” he admits. “And I think everybody in the industry was a bit of a like, ‘Well, where did Reece come from?'”

However, Wilson says he didn’t feel too much pressure from wearing the rainbow jersey — indicating a reigning UCI world champion: “At the end of the day, it’s just the jersey for a race where I’ve done well last year. It doesn’t really hold any water on where I am at the moment and where I should technically be, just based on what my jersey colors are.”

Mindset is key to success

In mountain biking, emotional training is perhaps more important than physical training, according to Wilson.

“You can be as big and as strong as you want if you don’t have it together mentally to stick around, it’s not going to work for you,” he says.

“I think I calculated a few years ago that our time spent actually competing and racing in an entire year was only 32 minutes,” Wilson continues.

“So, when your whole career is relying on 32 minutes of performance and you can’t take into account punctures or crashes — and quite often for us, the risk is so unbelievably high — you need to get yourself in a mindset to focus on what you’re doing and not make a single mistake for only 32 minutes of the year.”

The hours, days and weeks spent training for the World Cup are perilous at times, not least the omnipresent danger of hitting a tree at speeds of up to 50 kph (31 mph).

In his career, Wilson has had both knee and shoulder reconstructions and has also dislocated his hip.

“I’d like to think I’ve learned from those mistakes,” he explains. “After that, I always give myself a lot of time to stay in the gym, stay really strong. And if I do pick up an injury, take the time to rehab and make sure you’re strong when you come back.”

The future of downhill

While downhill mountain biking is not recognized by the International Olympic Committee, cross country mountain biking has been an Olympic sport since 1996. Wilson believes that his discipline doesn’t get the recognition it deserves and thinks that it should be at the Games as well.

“I think it [being at the Olympics] would make our sport prestigious just like the rest,” he says.

“It seems to be a bit in the background, but the mental capacity and how much training we do and what’s required to perform at this level, in my opinion, is just as high, if not higher, than any other form of cycling. So it definitely deserves to be up there.”

Wilson also wants to be a role model in inspiring kids and their families to keep supporting their children’s dreams “as this life’s all about passion.”

“My parents have helped me so much and my two sisters as well,” he continues.

“Whatever we’d like to do in the world, if they can sacrifice to get us to be able to do that, they will do it. Whatever my parents have done, I would love other parents to do around the world, and I think that would be fantastic.

“I would advise everybody to follow their dreams. If you dream at night that you could do it, go ahead because chances are you can.”

Wilson celebrates his world downhill title last October.
The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup starts on Friday June 11 and it is broadcast live and globally on Red Bull TV.