There aren't many riders competing in the downhill World Cup series who can say that they've won a World Cup in another discipline, especially not in cross country. But there is one. DH racer and flying Scotsman, Kenta Gallagher, won the XC Eliminator race at the World Cup in Nove Mesto, in the Czech Republic back in 2013. But after a string of good results in the world of professional XC and cyclocross, Kenta followed his heart and made the switch to downhill competition in 2015. Stepping back from a professional XC program to race DH as a privateer was an easy decision for Kenta, "I've always had a massive soft spot for the downhill... XC never quite hit the spot and I was never that excited to race. I'd always looked up to the downhill boys and I always said just to go with enjoyment and not money. So when I stopped enjoying what I did in XC, I left instead of living with something that wasn't making me happy" says Kenta.
And with the 2016 season in the history books, Kenta resides as the highest ranked privateer in the overall standings. Now this is no mean feat, especially when you consider how hard it is to even qualify for a World Cup, let alone get results in the top twenty like Kenta and do so without any substantial support. When you're taking care of every aspect of your racing, from booking flights and transport, to sourcing parts and support to working on your own bike, Kenta's achievements start to ring some bells, not least because three years ago he was dressed head to toe in lycra. His gravity shredding peers may have a head start on him, but Kenta's passion and hunger for downhill racing, coupled with the skills and fitness gained in XC, has certainly turned heads making Kenta Gallagher a name to remember for next season and beyond... Who is Kenta Gallagher?
I'm an ex-professional cross-country/ eliminator racer who's trying to give downhill racing a bash! Where are you from and where do you live?
I'm originally from Sheffield in the UK but I was raised in Inverness, Scotland. My mother is Japanese, that’s why my name is pretty unusual... Who do you ride for?
I ride for a tiny club in Inverness called 777 Racing. Where are you happiest?
At home when I'm not working and can ride, or in the Swiss Alps... I love them! What’s been your favourite race venue?
Lenzerheide, Switzerland. It's got to be the best venue for the scenery and stuff to do, then probably Fort William because the crowd is mint!! And it's at home too! Where are your favourite trails?
I don’t mind anything really, but I'm not a massive fan of all the bike park stuff but I'll still ride it if it's there... I love my local tracks as well up in Inverness. What are your strengths?
In downhill I guess I'm pretty fit considering the background I have, but I used to think my downhill skills were my strengths back when I raced XC haha! What are your weaknesses?
I'd have to say bike mechanics probably... I'm pretty useless, although I am getting better since I'm on the privateer race scheme. You gotta just get on with it haha! What’s been your worst crash over the years?
I've been pretty lucky so far (touch wood) but you get bashed around a hell of a lot in the downhill game... What’s been your luckiest escape?
Haha, well I've no idea as I've had way too many to name if I'm being honest! Which bike from over the years, conjures up the best memories?
The one I'm on now maybe? It’s a downhill bike and I love riding it! What bikes are you riding right now?
A Trek Session, Trek Remedy, Trek Slash and a Scott Foil road bike! Not all at once of course, but I like to take each of them out for a spin! Who’s your favourite rider?
Greg Minnaar probably... He's so calculated and has a bloody good time on and off his bike. Peaty to since he's such a legend and he's from the mighty Sheffield haha! Who or what inspires you?
Anyone who does well but shows that they enjoy it and doesn't do it just for the money or the fame but purely for the love of the sport. I always look up to people like that really. What do you enjoy doing away from bikes?
If you asked me this back when I was racing XC, it would be downhilling or trail riding or anything but XC and if I'm honest, it’s the same now, I just love riding bikes or hanging out with mates or the family. What are you listening to right now?
Nothing right now haha! It's silent, but I do like BBC Radio 1 on a Friday night! What’s your favourite movie?
Four Lions, its classic and if you haven’t seen it you should! What’s your favourite non-bike website?
Does Facebook count? As sad as it is haha, it's a good way to keep in contact with people. What’s your favourite motto or saying?
Enjoy yourself. My dad used to tell me talent is not enough, so I like that one. What grinds your gears?
People taking things for granted. I used to be one of them but since I stopped being full-time and began to really chase something it annoys me lots when people moan when their job is to ride a bike. What makes you happy?
Racing or riding my bikes. If you weren’t a pro mountain biker, what would you be doing?
I'm not anymore haha... I'm a professional coffee maker these days! It sucks but pays the way! If you were in charge of the sport, what changes would you make?
I think it works well now, but perhaps allow more riders to race World Cups or let the jersey numbers (federation supported riders) back to six rather than just three to give people starting out a shot. When you hang up your racing shoes, how do you want to be remembered?
As someone who worked hard but enjoyed themselves and also as the XC racer who switched to downhill but made it... What does the future hold for Kenta Gallagner?
I have no idea, but I'd like it to hold being a full-time downhill racer, but perhaps that’s more wishful thinking? Never the less, I'll keep working for it as nothing good comes easy.