Life is hard for first-year junior World Cup downhill racers. Not only are they having to adapt to the racer's way of life but they're also grappling with courses that are probably harder, longer and more physical than any they've ridden before, allwhile under the close gaze of some of the world's best riders.
Most juniors take a least a year to find their feet in this tough environment but not Ethan Craik. He emerged from the COVID disrupted season as World Cup champion with a win and a further two podiums securing him enough points to leapfrog Oisin O'Callaghan in the last race run of his year. We caught up with the young ripper to find out a bit more about him and get some of his plans for the year ahead.
Where are you from?
Right down the South of England, near Portsmouth.
How did you get into riding?
I was a BMX racer from 4 years old to 15 years old, mostly using mountain biking as training for BMX. But slowly I spent more time riding my DH bike than my BMX bike and started to realise what I really wanted to do.
How did you get into racing
My Dad took me to our local BMX track for a little club race and I was hooked on trying to beat everyone else. From there it turned into attending national races, then World Championships. At age 15 is when I competed at my first downhill national, I loved it and the next season it was a full DH focus with my brother too.
Who do you ride for?
I ride for GT factory racing with some other personal sponsors which are Oakley, MTB Beds, MudHugger, Fit4racing, DC cycles and Stance.
What bikes are you riding at the moment?
I am riding a GT Fury (29/27.5), GT Force (29/27.5) and loving the GT E-Force too.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day consists of waking up early and heading to the gym right away, getting back just in time for 4/5 hours of college work and then my evenings are fairly empty. I slot a few Zwift rides in a week too. Maybe 1 day riding in the weekdays then a full weekend of riding.
Do you have a job outside of mountain biking?
I don’t have a proper job as I’m a student and it would limit my training but I still complete a paper round monthly just to get some money in.
What were you expecting from your first World Cup season?
I honestly wasn’t expecting anything as such but after World Champs I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be consistent in the top 5 and always fighting for the top step.
How did Covid disrupt your season preparations?
The only limitation in preparation for me was not being able to access training facilities and doing all my training from home. But the biggest thing that hindered my preparation was my broken ankle in April.
How did it feel to win the overall at the last race?
I honestly didn’t know it was even possible to win the overall going up for my last run which probably helped me. At the bottom I was told and couldn’t quite believe it. It felt surreal and incredible to achieve that dream of winning a World Cup overall.
What was your highlight of 2020?
My highlight was definitely winning my first World Cup. When you're on the hot seat and your name is on the top spot after everyone comes down is a feeling I’ll never forget. I also proved to myself I could actually do it.
What are your strengths?
I’d say my strength is probably not letting the nerves get to me much, I think of it as another run but as fast as possible, then I get excited and motivated to just go that little bit faster.
What are your weaknesses?
Probably training too much sometimes, last year I kept training through lockdown and got a bit burnt out. The injury allowed me to chill for a couple weeks and then I took a smarter approach to training for the season.
What has been your worst crash over the years?
My worst crash was quite a small one but with big consequences. My rear just swapped out on a take off and my body flew straight into a tree at quite a speed. It was scary as I collapsed my lung with 5 broken ribs too.
Where’s your favourite place to ride?
So far it has to be Morzine. Pleney steeps and black run laps all day long. You never get bored, it’s just too good.
What’s your favourite non-bike website?
Probably a good old YouTube watch, some riders do some crazy stuff but it’s not all biking on there too so it’s a good break.
What’s your favourite motto or saying?
“Don’t be afraid of failure. This is the way to succeed.” - LeBron James
What makes you happy?
Just sessioning a sick section of a track with all my mates. The laughs, crashes and just chatting rubbish is all time.
How do you want to be remembered?
I really want to be a future Elite World Cup winner and World Champion and to get to that point will take an incredible amount of hard work. I’d love to be remembered as someone who just gave their everything in every race and always fought for the win.
What does the future hold for Ethan Craik?
Hopefully, many more years racing in downhill fighting for wins and eventually staying in the industry whether it be something to do with the business side, riding, content creating etc.