Luke Webber talks to Britain's most seasoned World Championship racer; Scott Beaumont, and discovers what it is going to take to win at the Worlds, along with some survival techniques when it comes to getting out of the Freecaster commentary box alive.
Racing; it's in Scott Beaumont's blood. On the day he was born his dad was away racing grasstrack in Germany, just five years later Scott himself was racing on the European BMX circuit and when he tells me that the World Championships are a part of what has become his annual schedule, I can only agree. Because when you have been racing World Championships for 24 years, the facts are the facts.
Those first World Championships however were not in mountain bike, but BMX - a sport which dominated the first half of Scott's racing career. With European Championships selection at just five years old and the Worlds callup following two years later it is easy to see why he describes racing on two wheels as the only way of life he knows.
On the local trails at Wolverley
Over two decades on and Scott is still living that dream lifestyle - I hesitate to say searching for the peak of his career because there have been too many highlights already. Riding at the highest level when many kids were still on stabilisers is one of those - another would be winning the 1995/6 World BMX Championships back-to-back, on the second occasion in front of a home crowd in Brighton. Alongside some sixteen National titles to his name, Beaumont had the raceday success many could only dream of; and all when BMX racing was at its peak.
At the same time however, mountain bike racing was starting to mature and with the introduction of downhill and dual, experienced BMX racers such as Mike King, Dave Cullinan and Brian Lopes were in demand. Scott was another of these riders offered a deal too good to be true to switch to big wheels and by year two racing both gravity disciplines on the World Cup circuit for Kona became the norm.
Ten years later and Scott has refined his racing focus once more, now dedicated to fourcross with the Rocky Mountain team. And while those two years of searching for a World Cup win has gone unrewarded, it can't be down to a lack of talent, skill or dedication. Success in fourcross is harder to come by than any other mountain bike discipline, because when you put four hungry guys on the start gate with only one ideal line to race on, someone is going to pull a crazy move.
Number One: The only digit Scott knows when it comes to UK fourcross
Domestically Scott's gate and riding ability has seen him stay clear of the carnage in 2009, winning every qualifier, moto and final on British soil. But at World Cup level, the racing is a lot less predictable.
The 2008 season was a great example of this, as rookie Rafa Alvarez dominated the scene, taking the World Cup overall and World Championships. That year all the luck seemed to be running his way, along with a good dose of form, but in 2009 Alvarez has made just two finals from seven races.
Even when you're not making finals, there's always a bigger story to tell when demolition-derby racing makes a comeback - and that's been the case for Scott this year. After a solid start to the season (seventh in South Africa) a string of less than favourable results followed before the Canadian rounds. Scott calmly assesses the situation for me.
"I'd say that this year I have felt good, but the results could have been better, and at times a lot better. The World Cups in Houffalize and Andorra I had crashes while in good positions, at Fort William I got a puncture and in Maribor I unclipped over one of the lumpy turns."
But it is for Bromont - the most recent World Cup - that Beaumont reserves his most harsh criticism.
"Somehow in that race I was gating good, I was on for a spot in the final, and was leading into turn one. From there I threw it all away - I let Dan Atherton through, got mixed up in all the crashes through the rocks and was suddenly out of the picture. The top priority is always to make the final, because from there you can make things happen, but missing out in Bromont, I felt like I robbed myself!"
However, Scott wasn't the only rider to miss out in Bromont. Jared Graves, the World Cup overall winner and favourite for the World Championships went out in round one, crashing while clearly in the lead and under no pressure. And it is this kind of unpredictability that makes fourcross so exciting to watch, and while there are favourites for the Worlds race, only a fool would bet on the top four qualifiers making it to the final.
With this in mind Scott tells me that his preparations are focussed only on his own performance.
"I am a fan of racing and I live for these moments. All my training so far is absolutely to plan; my strength is good and I've been working hard on the gate, all I have to do is stay injury free now. The track is a lot like the ones we have here in Britain, but compared to the 2008 Canberra World Cup only one jump remains the same."
For the racer, not knowing your direct competition is a worst case scenario, but in fourcross it's a given. The biggest power that any rider will have come Friday night will be lane choice, determined by the Thursday qualifiers. And because of that it's important to focus on your own races and progression through the competition and not what other riders, in other - totally unrelated races - are doing. And when it comes to handling these distractions Scott is an expert.
"I think you have to stay calm at all times. The start is so important - if you have lane choice and the holeshot it makes your race a lot easier. But you can't forget that a slip is the difference between going out and going through. That and shutting out the distractions that the Worlds bring - you can really sense it is a bigger occasion than a World Cup what with the TV helicopters and general circus going on."
And as for the favourites?
"Graves is sick of the question already. The door is open for us to have a go. Something crazy will happen, I can't remember when it has all gone to plan with the top four qualifiers in the final. Graves and Joost Wichman have had a great year winning all the World Cups between them but at the same time I believe 15 guys can win the race. All I know is as soon as I step on the plane with British Cycling, everything will be taken care of. At the moment we are world renowned for our cycling team, every other team aspires to be like us. It's the envy of all the other countries and that makes my job as easy as it can be."
As the race finishes though Scott's weekend won't be over as he'll step into the Freecaster commentary box to call the downhill Worlds alongside Rob Warner. Apparently this makes racing seem simple, because when Rob's in the box anything can - and will - happen! Being that calming influence is a big task but one that Scott has stepped up to, but should the rainbow jersey come his way on Friday that schedule could fly out the window.
There's only one way to be sure of what's going to happen - keep it tuned to British Cycling Online for all the live action, reports, photographs and interviews and be sure to check out Scott's Rider Diary!