Down Hill All The Way
With Tunbridge Wells’ Harry Molloy, UCI World Cup DH Mountain Bike Racer...
Think of a sport at which Great Britain has been a world leader of for the last decade and cycling, rowing, sailing – or perhaps football or rugby – probably spring to mind. Think again! We Brits have been dominating races year on year, all over the world, in the extreme sport of Downhill Mountain Biking, a sport based on skill, bravery, passion and a little bit of madness!
This is mountain biking but not as you know it. The aim of the game is to get from the top of the hill to the bottom as fast as possible, while staying within a marked course. The rider has to compose the fastest line by finding the shortest possible route but also one that can be ridden at the highest speed.
The top level of competition takes place on the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup circuit, which comprises venues all over the world. This year there are seven while an additional final venue at the end of the season hosts the World Championships – another title for the riders to vie for and the one that earns them the honour of wearing the coveted rainbow jersey.
Tunbridge Wells local and FS Funn Factory Racing Team owner and racer, Harry Molloy, 27, has been racing the world over for the last 14 years and is one of the top British talents thrashing it out on the toughest tracks for that big win. We caught up with Harry during a break in competing.
How did you get into the sport?
I got into mountain biking when I was around five or six through PORC (Penshurst Off-Road Cycling), the most local bike park to me. My dad started me off on two wheels. We also did the Bewl Water route and Bedgebury Forest trails. I quickly got into dirt jumping, and then followed a natural progression into racing, mostly on the 4x and the short downhill tracks they had at PORC [now known as Penshurst Bike Park].
What do you love most about the sport?
This sounds silly but just riding bikes and the lifestyle that comes with it. Mountain biking gives me an amazing opportunity to see the world – I love travelling, experiencing new cultures, seeing new countries. Riding gives the most amazing freedom, it brings me right back to feeling like a kid. Going fast down a super technical track gives me the most amazing adrenaline rush. More specifically with racing, I feel like it’s piecing together a puzzle and the satisfaction when it all comes together for the perfect race run really is such a fulfilling feeling. I like to push my limits.
What’s the biggest challenge racing the World Cup circuit?
To go fast! If you concentrate on the race itself, you’ve got one single run to put a week’s worth of practise in to play. To put it all down to two-and-a-half minutes, it’s a lot of pressure to put it all together. There are many different ways which people deal with pressure, from being super focused to tricking yourself you are just riding with your mates. For me, I try not to think about it until I get into the race gate and I hear the beeps of the 10-second countdown. After that point the red mist descends and I get into my zone.
What’s the best way of getting into the sport?
It’s for everyone to get into – it gives you a great feeling and people all across the sport are so nice, mainly because it is not a team sport and everyone has to make the individual effort. You can learn a lot of skills on a bike and there are so many great trails available. Locally there are all sorts of places to ride for all abilities – Penshurst Bike Park, Bedgebury Forest, the Bull Track, as well as all sorts of forestry commission areas that encourage cycling. Then further afield you have Surrey Hills and Swinley Forest.
Looking ahead, what does the future hold?
I’ve been in cycling and the bike industry my whole life really and, in all honesty, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I see a gap in the clothing market at the moment so I have started my own clothing line called Flow Style. At the end of the day whatever I end up doing I could never be without riding on two wheels!
• If you would like to watch Harry compete with the best riders in the world, the UCI World Cup is streamed live on RedBull TV, free to air at www.redbull.tv/channel/bike. Check out the website for upcoming race dates.
• Mountain biking is an accessible sport and there are some great local trail centres to suit all abilities. Check out: Penshurst Bike Park (intermediate to advanced); The Bull Track, Crowborough (intermediate to advanced); Bedgebury (beginner); Swinley Forest (beginner to intermediate); Surrey Hills (beginner to advanced).
• Visit www.britishcycling.org.uk/mtb
Images: Dan Griffiths – Moonhead Media