WTR-supported rider Hayden Stead recently jetted over to Europe for a taste of world cup racing, after winning the Oceania DH championships earlier in the year and a run of great results down in the VIC DH series.
We recently sat down with Hayden for a quick chinwag to see how his trip went and what went down:
WTR: Firstly, for those who don't know you, where are you from? Where's your local race scene and what do you love about MTB in Australia?
Hayden: Kiwi born and raised then did a lot of my growing up in Maffra (Gippsland, Victoria) and now live in the big smoke of Melbourne. My local scene would be back home in Gippsland at a place called Mt Moornappa, the boys and I do a lot of riding/digging out there. For racing the Victorian Downhill Series is my go-to, awesome people behind it and always guaranteed a good weekend of racing. For me, the best part about MTB is going out and riding trails for the first time, always exciting and keeps your skills improving. I also love that all my close mates ride so when we’re all out on the bikes it’s always a good time full of smiles and good banter!
WTR: Awesome and you recently returned home, how was the Europe trip?
Hayden: The trip was awesome, a real eye-opener for sure but loved being over there experiencing it all. The level of competition in the racing is mind-blowing, I always knew the pros were insanely quick but the depth of the field is crazy. My first race was an IXS cup/ Austrian National Champs and the number of people there going super fast was awesome, no one in the 130-strong elite field was just making up numbers or riding for fun everyone was there to race and that’s a really cool environment to be in.
WTR: Let's wind it back quickly, You've had a massive year tell us about your achievements so far and what has led you to your latest world cup racing...
Hayden: It certainly has been a busy year! This time last year after everything with COVID I just wanted to be at as many Australia local races as possible and keep progressing within Aus. For a bit there I did 7 races in 8 weekends, pretty full on! After some promising results in Vic and the win for Oceania Champs, I decided to go race in Europe, and as you can imagine there’s a lot of preparation that goes into international riding/racing. It was all going very well I rode at some sweet places then raced and qualified for my first World Cup at Leogang!
WTR: For anyone who hasn't followed your journey, what did you get up to in Europe?
Hayden: The trip for me was supposed to be a bit of an entree to overseas racing so initially was just 3 races in Austria (IXS Cup, Crankworx, and a World Cup) but after spending some time over here I decided to stay for another 2 world cups in Switzerland and Andorra. So far I have only been in Austria but have ridden lots of sick tracks and met heaps of cool people.
WTR: How did you take to the euro tracks, is it a totally different experience learning the course, and also in a different culture/language is it easy enough to get up to pace?
Hayden: The euro tracks I have ridden are proper awesome tracks! I think in AUS we have cool stuff but here the mountains are soo much bigger here so you can ride techy, steep fast trails for like 10 minutes straight! The hardest part is hanging on the bars for that long. The riding style changes slightly I think because tracks in AUS don’t have as much fall so you’re working the bike a lot harder to generate speed whereas in Europe I feel you have the speed and it becomes more about managing it through effective braking etc. The top guys seem to be able to do both really well.
Culture wise most people here speak a little English which is great but it’s definitely a little tricky getting around with the language barrier. Hand signs and facial expressions are universal so even when there’s no language cross over you should be able to lock down a feed by pointing at the goods! There are also good apps out there to translate menus and things for you!
WTR: Where is the place to go for bike park laps in Europe?
Hayden: My favorite location has to be Schladming, a big old hill, with gondola uplifts, and sweet tracks.
WTR: Have world cups always been on your radar?
Hayden: When I was young, yes but as I got older I realised how hard it is to race world cups financially and how fast you have to be going so honestly thought it would take a while longer for me to get there. Luckily I’ve got some great support from sponsors and have some awesome people in my corner that make things a lot easier. If all goes to plan I should be doing more and more world cups every season!
WTR: For any other Aussies looking to get over to the ride some World Cup races, what would you say has been your best experience so far and anything you would do differently?
Hayden: Do what you can to get over for sure! The riding, the quality of races the different cultures it’s all awesome to experience and there’s only good to come from it. Win or learn I say, you won’t be the fastest straight away but you’ll learn a lot about yourself as a rider and be able to build on that every race. The best experience for me has to be qualifying for my first World Cup, it was the goal coming into the trip so to do that was awesome. To top it off I got to have a few beers afterward and meet some of my childhood idols!
What I would do differently would be fully committing to the trip and heading over for as long as possible. The trip is what you make it, some people rent cars and stay in accom, some take trains and sleep in tents, Me personally I loved the hire vans. It’s not the most legit thing but you can just park up and sleep wherever. If you’re going for a few weeks this is great but if you’re going for longer I’d look into even buying a clapped-out van that you can sell at the end of your trip, depends on your budget!
Unfortunately shortly after I qualified for my first world cup at Leogang I had a big one in Morzine France and broke my collarbone in four places leaving me with no choice but come home and rest up. I’ll be back stronger and faster soon!
WTR: Thanks for the chat Hayden, we hope you heal up quickly and are back in the saddle soon, are there any special mentions you'd like to give before signing off?
Hayden: A special thanks to all my friends and family for always backing me in and my sponsors for doing what they can to help me progress. Thanks to Commencal for giving me the fasted bikes, DT for providing the strongest wheels, MTB Suspension Works for keeping the rig dialled at all times, Fox for the plush squishy bits and of course We The Riders for the so silky smooth kits! I also owe a big shout to my employer Damien at Neverstop Group, he’s always supported my racing. Cheers everyone!